Weather people need to understand that when they use words like “blizzard” some of us get really giddy. Some of us envision tunneling through a wall of snow to walk the lumpy bulldog we don’t have. Epic runs. Snow forts. Steamy baths with the window open and lights off so it almost feels like being in a hot tub on a mountain top at night if you catch a window of silence between the sirens, honking and drilling next door. Receiving about 4 inches of snow is a bit of a let down, Winter.
Getting a snow day was already in my head, so I brewed some lavender tea, tugged up my cabin socks and took one anyway. How do you get over being stood up by a blizzard? Paperbacks. The Last Colony is the third book in the Old Man’s War series, which the Syfy channel is apparently adapting. It follows Ghost Brigades and puts us back in touch with Old Man’s War hero John Perry.
John Perry and his wife Jane Sagan are living the normal lives they earned after years of active duty fighting for and defending planets colonized by humans. Now they’re back in non-modified human bodies farming on a relatively new planet with their adopted daughter. They’re a non-traditional family – a 90-year-old man with a teenage daughter and a wife who’s one year old – but it works for them.
Things are great until they’re approached to lead the colonization of a newly acquired planet. Normally new planets are colonized with humans from Earth, but this time the first wave of 250 colonists are to be drawn from ten different other planets. Clearly nothing about this mission is as it seems. Plus, ominously enough, the planet is named Roanoke after America’s lost colony. You know, the one mysteriously abandoned with no trace of the colonists.
I’m not going any further into what happens once John arrives on Roanoke with his family and ship full of colonists. Where Old Man’s War and Ghost Brigades both had a lot of action with similar pacing, this one’s a little different. For the most part, they’re stuck on this planet they know absolutely nothing about, including the wild life, the climate and what food will grow. It’s man versus nature, but it’s also man versus powerful alien races. As Perry realizes how much of the little information the Colonial Defense Forces (CFD) disclosed to him is false, the story morphs into man versus man. It’s a little bit of all three without feeling clunky.
There’s lots to like here. The characters are entertaining and intergalactic politics aren’t boring because these other races are highly intelligent and possibly super evil. Perry and Jane are forced to think on their feet as they try to keep straying colonists safe. The strategics get a little muddled the more issues they have to juggle, but that doesn’t effect the flow of the story too much.
For me, reading this book was like watching a chess game as both sides try to out clever each other even though everybody already knows who wins. I do wish more time was spent developing Roanoke so it felt like a real planet. As much as I like a tight story, this one could have been longer. The ending felt squished together and some of the major plot points didn’t resonate. Since the CDF was so cryptic about the mission, the high stakes weren’t clearly established so the action, while amusing, often felt inconsequential. It keeps you guessing and at some point this started distracting me.
This is still a fantastic series. I was disappointed with this book when I thought it was supposed to conclude the trilogy, but that’s not exactly the case. Zoe’s Tale is labeled as book 4 in the series, The Human Division is book 5 and The End of All Things book 6 is coming up this year. We still have at least half the series to go!