John Scalzi - Shastrix Books

John Scalzi

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The Kaiju Preservation Society

The Kaiju Preservation Society

John Scalzi

1st May 2022

John Scalzi has produced a great, light-hearted yet incredibly serious novel, set during but not about the pandemic, which kept me well entertained.

After being sacked and forced to work for a corrupt food delivery firm, an old friend offers Jamie a mystery job which turns out to be working for the titular Kaiju Preservation Society.

The opening is particularly funny to the extent that I had to read passages aloud. It’s a long time since something has opened so well, and a little disappointing that the same level of amusement wasn’t kept up through the subsequent chapters.

However the plot picks up then and keeps the reader engaged. There’s an element that’s almost Harry Potter - we’re aligned with a character who is totally new to this world, lives in a dorm room with his friends, gets lessons, fights monsters, and ends up having to save the day. There are more spoilery parallels too.

That’s not to say it’s derivative, just an amusing observation about how this sort of story works.

I really enjoyed it, and am glad that the author found some time amid the grim few years of pandemic to produce something that is a bit fun, as well as having a serious message for our time.

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The Collapsing Empire

The Collapsing Empire

John Scalzi

24th July 2020

Oh wow. Recently I’ve been a bit slower at reading - the mindless drudgery of lockdown having sapped my enthusiasm and attention span - but this book was very different.

I’ve read Scalzi before, but this was me dipping my toe into what I worried might be a bit harder sci-fi and thus outside my comfort zone. I was wrong though.

This is a novel about people - realistic and believable people - living in a space empire that’s clearly allegorical, and yet living lives that are compelling and which made me, for possibly the first time in the over ten years I’ve been tracking my reading, want to immediately read the next book in the series and find out what’s going to happen to them next.

I loved many things about this novel - the characters, the worldbuilding, the plot, the allegory, the details that are crafted so as to give the reader flexibility in interpretation. Superb.

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Unlocked

Unlocked

John Scalzi

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

John Scalzi

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

John Scalzi

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 deja 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

John Scalzi

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

John Scalzi

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

Other reviewed books

Lock In
Old Man's War
Redshirts

Top books

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  4. The Collapsing Empire
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  6. The Kaiju Preservation Society
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  8. Zoe's Tale
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  10. Unlocked
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  12. Redshirts
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