Friday, June 26, 2009

Book Report: Zoe's Tale, by John Scalzi

I've enjoyed John Scalzi's books in the past primarily for the voice he brings to each story, and Zoe's Tale is no exception. Although it's told from the point of view of a teenaged girl, it contains the same humor and witty banter that permeate all the other Scalzi books. Zoe's Tale is the fourth book set in the Old Man's War universe, but unique because it covers a time period already explored in The Last Colony. It covers that time period from a different point of view, and fills in a lot of "behind the scenes" depth.

Ordinarily, I'm against going over ground I've already covered. I never read Ender's Shadow for that reason. I'm sure it was a good book, but I didn't personally have any interest in reading Ender's Game again, even if it were told from someone else's POV. (I'm aware this is a fault). However, it's been long enough since The Last Colony, and I've come to trust Scalzi's ability to entertain me sufficiently that I thought I'd see what Zoe's Tale had to offer. I wasn't disappointed, since this was an enjoyable read, but I found the first two sections of the novel just went over story ground I knew. The third section branched off into action that had occurred off stage in The Last Colony, weaving itself into events that formed TLC's conclusion.

This was important, because I remember reading TLC's conclusion and thinking, "Well, that was a blatant asspull" (deus ex machina, for those of you who are more literate than vulgar).

The second point about Zoe's Tale is its emotional detachment. It's not an intense or flowery book. It has a breezy style even when dealing with serious or deep topics. The characters show their emotions without reservation, but those demonstrations are reported with such narrative distance that I found it difficult to feel empathy. The climax of the book, though, where Zoe faces the species that has adopted her as mother goddess, still affected me. In retrospect, I suspect it bordered on melodrama... but it's GOOD, and it works.

Ulysses Rating: 3 - I enjoyed this.

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