My lovely wife bought me a Kindle for Christmas. It has rarely left my side since I opened the box. Within the first six days of owning this most beloved Kindle, I finished three full books: Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony by John Scalzi. I have just begun the fourth installment, Zoe’s Tale.
And just like that, I shortlisted a new author as a favorite. If you have not read anything by John Scalzi before, I’m here to convince you to fix that.
I’ve been reading Scalzi’s blog, Whatever, for a while. It’s neat, and I find out some quirky and useful information about the publishing industry and new books and authors I should check out.
Whatever is how I found Scott Westerfeld and his incredibly interesting Leviathan that my parents got me for Christmas. When I finished reading The Last Colony, I got on Twitter and commented about having a conundrum in whether to read Zoe’s Tale or if I should get cracking into that Leviathan. John Scalzi actually replied to my tweet and said that I should take a break with his books and read Westerfeld “because it is awesome.”
When an author takes the time to tweet with fans and tell them to actually stop reading his own work for someone else’s, I can’t help but respect the guy. So I took his advice and read Leviathan, which was a pretty fun, alternate history, steampunk romp through World War I. So thanks for the recommendation, Mr. Scalzi.
I had never really read any of Scalzi’s books despite how much I had heard about them.
Except that I had. And I loved it.
It turns out that I had listened to METAtropolis, an audiobook he collaborated on and edited. At the time, I didn’t know he was even involved (because I did not quite know who he was), but I was impressed by the book. (It’s now available in hardcover for those of you not down with audiobooks.)
When I finally sat down with Old Man’s War, I was blown away. Longasc highly recommended the series and told me not to stop until I was done. I took his advice, for I now see what a wise, wise man he is.
I haven’t been this impressed by books in years.
The only reason (beside’s the author telling me to) that I read Leviathan between The Last Colony and Zoe’s Tale is because Zoe is a retelling of Colony’s narrative from a different perspective, and I wanted to clear my head and not read the same story twice in a row.
From what I’ve seen, Scalzi has everything going for him that I look for in an author. His writing is straightforward and easy to read, but there’s a lot of very carefully worded passages that hold some pretty significant meaning. He’s graphic and/or vulgar when it befits the narrative, but only then. And he tells a good story that has some commentary in it without the commentary being overbearing so that it detracts from the story being told.
And what has really impressed me in these novels is how he hearkens back to other SF works. Old Man’s War is very much a companion piece to of Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. Scalzi’s novel is antithetical to Heinlein’s, but it never feels trite or stale or that I’ve heard it all before. It never even feels antagonistic. He has a few points, he makes them, and moves on, while respecting the contributions of the authors who made his work possible.
I respect that.
And because it’s not just mindless explosions and bric-a-brac aliens, these novels do seem to go a little past genre fiction and into perhaps being considered literature. Expect a full series review once I finish all the books and get to think about them as a coherent whole.
So if you’re shopping around for some newer SF books that are actually pretty damn good, give Old Man’s War a shot (or the first chapter of his newest book, The God Engines). I’m almost certain you’ll be like me and read the whole series make note of the rest of Scalzi’s novels to pick up at some point later.
Note: the book links in this post are Amazon affiliate links.