I hate to be that guy, but don’t judge this book by its cover. The art is lovely enough, so I mean no offense to the artist when I say that this, like so many sci-fi covers, looks like it’s gonna be capital S serious. Red alerts in deep space and stoic men and nary a woman in sight. If you’ve read any Scalzi, you know it won’t be, but if I were a new reader, this would not be a book I’d pick up immediately.
This book picks up slightly east of where we left off in Old Man’s War – our protagonist John Perry is off doing other things, while the Colonial Defense Force and side character from book one, Jane Sagan, are ferreting out a traitor with our new hero, Jared Dirac. And he is NEW new, having been born (admittedly advanced) specifically to house the consciousness of said traitor; we follow him from day one. I’m not selling the whole “it’s sci-fi, but it’s not the worst parts of sci-fi” deal, but if Scalzi can write a book without his trademark irreverence I’ve yet to read it. It’s as if Data from next gen got inserted into My Sister’s Keeper, only he’s been bred to house a consciousness, not bone marrow.
The plot’s great, but what makes this such a great book is that it’s obvious Scalzi learned from his first book. The characters are more distinct and not just John Scalzi in space (I liked John Perry, but I know a self insert character when I see one), and he acknowledges the Eurocentric worldview of the world he’s created.
I’m sure there’s better out there, but of the six I’ve read so far, this is my favorite Scalzi yet.