John Scalzi - Shastrix Books

John Scalzi

Recently reviewed

Unlocked

Unlocked

15th December 2018

This is a fascinating work of fiction. Set in the world of Scalzi’s novel Locked In (and subsequent sequel Head On), this book gives a lot of the background to the illness which prompts the main plots.

It’s told from an in universe point of view as a journalistic work, based on interviews with dozens of characters, each of whom tells part of the story of how the illness began, spread, and affected the world.

It’s a really interesting take on a novel, and a great companion piece to the original - and i would definitely recommend reading the novel first.

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Head On

Head On

7th July 2018

The sequel to Lock In, this novel continues the adventures of FBI agent Chris, a ‘Hayden’, who is one of many people with locked in syndrome who carry out their daily lives by controlling Android-like avatars over the Internet.

Scalzi has built-out the world in a new and interesting direction by looking to the arena of sport. This makes for a fascinating bit of world-building and suggests an author who puts a fair amount of thought into the repercussions of his storytelling choices.

One of the key elements of interest in the first novel was that Chris’ gender remains unrivalled throughout. This continues in this sequel, but unlike the first book, I aware of it in advance. I’m not sure how much difference it makes to my experience of reading - I’d hope little, but I’m not sure if that’s because my brain is just defaulting to male regardless, or if I truly am thinking of the character with no regard for gender.

It’s a really enjoyable story, and I’m glad there is a sequel. I hope that Scalzi chooses to write more of these stories and can continue to build out this world and see what other changes his fictional disease might cause in the global culture.

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Zoe's Tale

Zoe's Tale

18th November 2017

The fourth book in the Old Man’s War series is one of the strangest novels I’ve read. Not because of anything in the novel itself - it’s the tale of a young girl on a new colony, settling in and learning about herself and the world she’s arrived in. Instead because of how it fits into the series. This is the same story as told in the previous book, The Last Colony, just from a different point of view.

While in some ways this is a fascinating idea, and somewhat typical of the adventurous approach to storytelling taken by John Scalzi in his novels (Redshirts and Lock In which I’ve read both play with novel ideas too), it gives the reader a strange sense of déjà vu, particularly as it’s some time (nearly two years)( since I read the previous novel.

Despite that, it’s still a great story that works really well, and I felt that Scazi captured the voice of a young sarcastic girl well. The range of characters that we get to see is different, and this helps to build a richer world, and there’s still a river of politics flowing through that even a 12-year-old girl can get involved in.

And enjoyable read, if a weird experience. Definitely a world I want to return to and an author who’s on my must-buy list.

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The Last Colony

The Last Colony

12th January 2016

The third story in the 'Old Man's War' series by John Scalzi continues the tale of the life of John Perry, an elderly man who left Earth to join humanity's colonial defence force and regain his youth. Now retired, he finds himself offered an opportunity he can't refuse - to start a completely new colony.

Once again it's a fantastic story filled with a rich volume of intrigue, comedy and drama - while a complex plot it's really approachable and manages to avoid the pitfalls that many science fiction stories seem to suffer, such as being unintelligible or dull. The pacing is spot on and the action flows in an episodic manner that still feels naturally continuous.

Despite the time that's passed since I read the first two books, and my memories off then being somewhat hazy, the narrative provides just the right amount of setup to get me back into the world without me feeling overly burdened by recaps and I'm sure this would provide an easy starting point for a new reader to the series.

I love the characters and the humour that Scalzi creates and reading this was another great experience. I'll definitely be looking out for the later books in the series and hope that they continue to be as great.

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The Ghost Brigades

The Ghost Brigades

25th May 2015

The sequel to 'Old Man's War', and therefore the second book in the series, while not continuing directly from the story of the first, expands the world in which elderly humans from Earth are recruited into the space military to defend human colonies from other species across the galaxy.

The novel begins with quite episodic chapters and it takes a while to get an idea where the story is taking you. Once is does though this becomes a very good book. It's nice to see a different take on the world these stories inhabit, and I hope that's something that the series continues with.

The characters are interesting, showing a variety of different perspectives and places for them in the world, and the story gradually reveals more about what's going on and really tempts the reader to continue to discover more. There is a little overlap with some of the characters and messages from other books I've read by John Scalzi from outside the series, but that doesn't detract.

Really enjoyable, and as I thought of 'Old Man's War', some of the best science fiction I've read. I'm very much looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

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Buy book: UK
Lock In

Lock In

16th November 2014

John Scalzi is rapidly becoming one of my favourite science fiction authors. In this new novel he depicts a world after a massive flu epidemic, which leaves thousands of people with a type of locked-in syndrome. Industry quickly catches up, with mind-controlled robots becoming available for the locked-in to use to interact with the world. This is the story of a locked in FBI officer in his first week on the job.

The science fiction elements of the story are fascinating. It's a really clever idea to think about users of remote controlled avatars ad how their world would work, for example being able to rent a new body in a different place and jump straight there. There are aspects that really stand out, including the slang that's developed around the new situations. Scalzi also uses these elements of world building to feed the plot, rather than just to create somewhere for it to happen, and I really liked the complete integration of the whole story.

The characters are really interesting, although I didn't feel we explored them in as much depth as we could have. There area a good range of characters all of whom fit into the world that Scalzi has constructed and help to make the whole novel feel a single work of art. The story keeps you guessing, and fits the mould of a crime novel without compromise - making it one of the best pieces of cross-genre fiction I've read for some time.

An excellent novel that explores potentially real issues while remaining thoroughly entertaining. I'm really loving getting into John Scalzi's novels and will definitely be looking to fill out my collection of his back catalogue as I wait for the next one.

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Buy book: UKUSBuy ebook: UK
Old Man's War

Old Man's War

29th May 2014

This is the second book by John Scalzi I've read, after Redshirts (a space opera parody), and the first in his series. It's the first 'hard' science fiction novel that I can safely say I've really enjoyed reading - those I've read recently have either read like pulp paperbacks from several decades ago or were impenetrably dense and lacking in plot or character.

This is the story of a widower of 75, who signs up for the military (as is the custom), and ships out from Earth to defend its colonies in whatever manner is necessary. It's a fascinating universe with an almost endless amount of questions to explore. Scalzi raises an array of moral questions in the grand tradition of science fiction, and allows his characters to explore some of them.

The character is strong and easily relatable, and the first-person narrative gives a really good view on the events and thought processes, unlike some pulp characters who feel more like cartoons than real people. The plot moves at a good pace, with an episodic nature that manages not to feel like it’s breaking the flow.

Overall a really enjoyable story that really made me think. I loved it, and will definitely be returning to the universe to try out the sequels.

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Buy book: UK

Other reviewed books

Redshirts

Top books

  1. The Last Colony
  2. Old Man's War
  3. Head On
  4. The Ghost Brigades
  5. Lock In
  6. Unlocked
  7. Zoe's Tale