The progression of the Old Man’s War series has been pretty clever. On its face, the series is a story about humans in space fighting against the aliens who want to kill us. From the beginning, we suspected it couldn’t possibly be so simple, but while the first two books were tasked with introducing readers to the expanded universe, including the political and military branches that oversee and enforce human space activity, they only included speculation on the other races’ intentions toward humanity.
Finally, in The Last Colony, familiar face John Perry, while in service as a human colony leader, gets to have one-on-one meaningful interactions with the leader of an alien alliance called the Conclave, and so gets to hear him in his own words, not filtered through Colonial Union propaganda. The Conclave, which had been treated like an enemy party from the human military perspective, was thought to be an unenforceable power grab by a few of the more advanced alien species and had apparently tended toward mass annihilation when its terms weren’t met. Without getting into the specifics of what Perry does learn, including the inauspicious role of his colony as a political pawn, what finally emerges is the missing “other side”: that yeah, like we as humans already know about ourselves, we can be quite the arrogant, uncompromising bunch, and that sometimes we paint a a diverse, multi-faceted group as an “enemy” just because we don’t like being told what to do. Sound familiar?
This is the end of the series in the traditional sense, as the next few volumes were apparently published serially and have a slightly different structure. I’m looking forward to them, even if that means I’ve seen the last of John Perry and his wife, Jane.