John Scalzi makes for an interesting teenaged girl, in his return (after the briefest of respites) to his Old Man’s War universe with Zoë’s Tale. Ostensibly, this novel retells the events of The Last Colony from the point-of-view of Zoë Boutin Perry, John Perry and Jane Sagan’s adopted daughter. Scalzi has said the book is accessible for teen readers. Note that “accessible for teen readers” is not precisely the same thing as “writing a Young Adult novel,” which makes sense considering the first person POV of the novel is a sixteen year old girl, of a happily married couple.Fiction and reality (in this case, the writer’s life and personality) often intersect in strange ways, some more apparent than others. With John being as popular as he is on the intarwebs, it is almost impossible not to make the connection between some of his work and his life as he’s discussed it on the Whatever. John touches on this point on his blog in mentioning and linking to my review.
Character has consistently been a strength of Scalzi’s writing, he has an ear for dialogue and the scenes just flow very smoothly into one another. Although the scenes involving Zoe, Jane, and John (or any combination thereof) are crafted very well, Zoe does her best with her friends and the Obin. Particularly when Zoe and her best friend Gretchen get into involved conversations, the story just flies by and Scalzi reveals just how frustrated Zoe is about her position as saviour and daughter of the head of the colony.
This has cropped up in my own writing; in the novel I finished and continue to edit/rewrite. As I re-read it after the first draft was finished, I found myself realizing I injected a good portion of myself into the protagonist. I’m aware of it, but I don’t know if I’ve injected too much or too little. Since I’m still rewriting and adding to the story, that question remains unanswered for now.
Regardless of anything else, Zoe’s Tale is a terrific novel and does what I think John wanted it to do – it made me (as the reader) laugh, turn the pages fast, and think about some real issues.