How I Shortlisted John Scalzi as a New Favorite Author

John Scalzi 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.

metatropolis 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.

Old Man's War 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.

By B.J. Keeton

B.J. KEETON is a writer, teacher, and runner. When he isn't trying to think of a way to trick Fox into putting Firefly back on the air, he is either writing science fiction, watching an obscene amount of genre television, or looking for new ways to integrate fitness into his geektastic lifestyle. He is also the author of BIRTHRIGHT and co-author of NIMBUS. Both books are available for Amazon Kindle.


  1. *drools* I am glad you liked the series. I think Scalzi is the most enjoyable SciFi author at the moment. His novels often have surprising depth while having this really special and very enjoyable kind of Scalzi humor. I cannot say the same about Charles Stross and Peter F. Hamilton, unfortunately. Scott Westerfeld is an amazing author, too. He wrote another SciFi novel in a very interesting universe, people mourned that he did not continue to write in it: “The Risen Empire”. He instead wrote young adult novels (The “Uglies” trilogy, which got brilliant reviews, too). I did not read them, but I am glad he wrote “Leviathan”. I read many good reviews, and if even Scalzi recommends it, who could disagree.

    But I am afraid the winter holidays are over… oh well, then I will just take my time reading all these novels. But I will read them for sure.

    1. I’m lucky: my winter holiday doesn’t end until the 13th. I have a couple of night classes between now and then, but I don’t have to start doing full days for a while yet. So that gives me lots of reading and writing time still.

      I do hope you enjoy Leviathan. It’s a fun little romp. It was a good introduction to steampunk, I think, since I hadn’t read any before. I need to look up Uglies sometime, too. I don’t know anything about it.

  2. So jealous you have Kindle 😉 OK, let me rephrase that… so jealous you live in a country that actually lets you get the books you want and doesn’t withhold releasing stuff out of spite 😉
    .-= We Fly Spitfires´s last blog ..MMO Win, RPG Fail =-.

    1. I don’t know how long that will last, though, Gordon. I read a few days ago that two publishing houses (I can’t remember which ones) said they were delaying ebook releases by up to 4 months after hardcovers in order to keep people buying the physical books. They said there wasn’t a market for ebooks immediately and that it was a good spot between hardcover and paperback.

      I think that’s ludicrous. And it feels like they’re withholding out of spite a little. Just because the nature of the industry is poised to change. It shouldn’t affect me too much, though; there are plenty of older books I can read during that time on my Kindle.

  3. Do you think a Kindle is the reason you have finished so many books? I rarely have the time or feel the need to read an actual book anymore, and I’m sure it’s my generation as a whole. I don’t know what I think of this new gadget…

    1. I think the Kindle had to do with it in part. Initially, it was the “OMG this is awesome,” but then I settled in and realized how freaking nice it was to be able to read in any position with one hand and not have to worry about not being able to see half the book. A well designed ebook reader actually made reading books easier and more comfortable, so I was able to jump back into reading with a fresh look. Going from the 1100 monster Under the Dome in hardcover to a Kindle that’s about the size of a children’s book is refreshing. Even reading Leviathan felt awkward and uncomfortable after going back, and it’s a well put-together book.

      I love to read, though. I’ve felt bad for a while that I want to write books but never find the time to read them. So I made the time and have loved it.

      I avoided the ebook reader fad for a while. I thought it was silly. But I finally bought in and decided to see, and I won’t throw around the word revolutionary, but being able to download just about any book I want (or a sample, at least) whenever I want is nice. I don’t even have to wait for shipping anymore.

      It will never replace physical books for that collector in me (I love my shelves of all of Stephen King’s hardcovers), but the Kindle has certainly proven to me that ebooks are just as necessary for readers as iPods/mp3s are for audiophiles.

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