"I ask because it's what I have to do. I'm Zoe Boutin Perry: A colonist stranded on a deadly pioneer world. Holy icon to a race of aliens. A player (and a pawn) in a interstellar chess match to save humanity, or to see it fall. Witness to history. Friend. Daughter. Human. Seventeen years old.
"Everyone on Earth knows the tale I am part of. But you don't know my tale: How I did what I did - how I did what I had to do - not just to stay alive but to keep you alive, too. All of you. I'm going to tell it to you now, the only way I know how: not straight but true, the whole thing, to try make you feel what I felt: the joy and terror and uncertainty, panic and wonder, despair and hope. Everything that happened, bringing us to Earth, and Earth out of its captivity. All through my eyes.
"It's a story you know. But you don't know it all."
©2008 John Scalzi; (P)2008 Macmillan Audio
Zoe's Tale was fun to listen to. The reader was skilled at adding emotion to the story and was a good actress.
The story itself filled in some gaps and added some dimensions to the story told in "The Last Colony". Whether that information was enough to justify another book must be left for the individual reader/listener. For myself, there was too little new.
The most glaring problem that I had with the audio release was that the reader of this story had obviously not listened to the previous volumes. The differences in pronunciations from previous volumes to this one always took me out of the story. A common pronunciation guide should be a "must".
Still, this book fleshed out characters that otherwise would have, for space reasons, recieved too little attention otherwise. Worth listening to, especially if you have an extra "credit".
This is a tough review to write. I greatly enjoyed the first three books in the "Old Man's War" series, and picked this up without hesitation - as it was listed next in line. However, this is not a book targeted at adults even though it's mistakingly placed in Contemporary SciFi. This is pure bait and switch to sell a few more copies to unsuspecting customers.
1. "Zoe's Tale" is Young Adult Science Fiction.
2. "Zoe's Tale" is an almost verbatim retelling of "The Last Colony", except it's the "Twilight" version.
I'm quite miffed at Audible & the publisher for not prominently calling this out, and classifying the book correctly.
It's strange that Scalzi chose to re-write "The Last Colony" entirely from a teenagers point of view. I had expected Zoe to START OUT as a teenager, then slowly grow into a woman as the story moved forward. However, what I got was Scalzi channeling giggling girls, fart jokes, and teenage crushes. Really? Had I not been on some very long airline flights, this book would have been returned for refund posthaste.
It's clear that there was a kernel of a story hidden in "The Last Colony", where Zoe impressed General Gau, and somehow wrangled an impressive piece of technology from The Consu. However, Scalzi does very little with those events, and thus you'll spend the entire book building up to a rather flat third act.
The one shining star in this whole mess was the narrator: Tavia Gilbert. She grew on me quickly, and her voice acting was very well done.
So - would I recommend this book to a teenager? No.
Why? Because, they'd be dropped into a series 2/3'ds of the way through, with no other books voiced for them before or after.
Scalzi is a good writer, but your credits would be better spent on his other work.
Do not read this book unless you've read the previous books in this series. The Last Colony is particular is required listening before listening to this book. I can't imagine anyone will like this book very much if they haven't listened to The Last Colony first, as this book covers the event of that book from a different perspective.
Let me start by saying, it's very rare for me to enjoy listening to a female narrator. I don't think there are very many talented female narrators, and much prefer to listen to men in most cases. That said, Tavia Gilbert gave a pretty amazing performance. The sarcasm came across really well, and in many scenes you could just feel the emotion in her words. She's definitely one of my favorite narrators now, and I will be looking specifically at books narrated by her in the future. Those of you that listen to books fairly often know how important it is to have a good narrator.
I think that the perspective shift of this book adds a lot to the story that was already there. Zoe is a strong character that's hard not to like. It goes into far more detail concerning Zoe's relationship with the Obin, especially Hickery and Dickery. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed reading about Zoe's relationship with her boyfriend Enzo. I'm not usually big into love stories, but it was very well done in this book. Frankly, I was surprised at how much I ended up enjoying this book altogether.
You shouldn't go into this book expecting Old Man's War. There aren't a lot of great battle scenes with lots of action. This is the events of The Last Colony from the perspective of a strong teenage girl thrust into adulthood before she should be. My only regret in finishing this book is that there are no longer any more books set in this universe to read. I loved them all, and Zoe's tale in particular has a special place in my heart. I urge everyone to give it a try.
I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
Originally posted at FanLit:
Zoe’s Tale, the fourth book in John Scalzi’s OLD MAN’S WAR series, is the same story we were told in book three, The Last Colony, except it’s from Zoe’s perspective. Zoe is the 17-year-old daughter of the traitorous scientist Charles Boutin. Jane Sagan and John Perry adopted Zoe when she was a small child and they’ve been farming on one of Earth’s colonies for years. Now, though, the family is off to lead the settlers of a new colony called Roanoke (uh-oh). When they get there they realize they’ve been duped and life on Roanoke has a lot more going on than just terraforming a new planet.
While I was reading The Last Colony there were several times I wondered “what’s Zoe doing?” or “what does Zoe think about this?” or even “is Zoe the sweet innocent teenager her parents think she is?” I guess John Scalzi knew I was wondering those things, because the sole purpose of Zoe’s Tale is to let us know what Zoe was doing and thinking all this time. Thus we hear the same plot again — there isn’t really any plot progression — but we do get to know Zoe and we get information about the events that only Zoe experienced in The Last Colony. Mostly these occur at the end of the story when Zoe has a major role in saving Roanoke colony.
I liked getting to know Zoe in this novel, but I found the lack of new plot to be disappointing. I also was not convinced by Scalzi’s characterization of Zoe, mainly because she and her teenage friends banter with each other as if John Scalzi was writing their dialogue. They’re just too clever to be believed.
My favorite characters in Zoe’s Tale were Hickory and Dickory, the aliens who revere Zoe’s father and act as Zoe’s bodyguards. Their lack of a sense of humor, literal interpretation of human speech, and deadpan delivery of their lines is charming. I listened to Tavia Gilbert’s narration and she does a wonderful job with them (and Zoe and the rest of the characters, too). Hickory and Dickory also supply some background information about one of the alien races that I hope we will see more of in a future installment.
If you’re not interested in a sometimes angsty teenage girl’s perspective of the events that occurred in The Last Colony, there’s no reason to read Zoe’s Tale. If you haven’t read The Last Colony you could read Zoe’s Tale instead — you’d be caught up with the story so far. I don’t know if Scalzi plans for Zoe to be protagonist in a future book. If she is, then I’ll be glad I read this story of her childhood and teenage years.
I’m giving Zoe’s Tale 3.5 stars for those who haven’t read The Last Colony. In that case it’s an enjoyable novel with a lot of plot and some great characters. If you have read The Last Colony, I’d give this book a 3 star rating. It’s just not enough new plot.
Let preface everything by I love the first two books by John Scalzi. This book is however a huge departure from his previous work Old Man's War and Ghost Brigades story lines. It is told from the first person narrative of Zoe, a 15 year old girl. I have a 14 year old bright girl, but this book accurately portrays some of peculiarities that viewpoint for better or worse.
Being a first person story, its perspective was limited and some of the more interesting events are simply glossed over. This book would be ideal for Young Adult with its love story, but for a thirty-something adult I was outside the intended age group.
I liked this but it is not a military adventure like ghost or old man wars.
OK if you are a father of a teenage girl you will like this, or are a teenage girl. Other than that it's just too much like a teenage girl story
I so enjoyed "Old Man's War", "The Sagan Diary" and "Lost Colony", which were written in this universe. I had kind of hoped that, even though this was written from the perspective of an adolescent female, it wouldn't be a juvenile book. But it is. And since any juvenile who wanted to really enjoy this would need to understand the universe created in the adult books that he or she likely never read, there is a tiresome amount of explanatory narrative. Kids will be bored and adults will be annoyed.
I'll start with the good: I admire John Scalzi as a writer, and all his skill with words is evident here. His "Old Man's War" series is a general homage to the works of Robert Heinlein; in this novel he captures the intelligence and attitude of a typical Heinlein precocious teenager from his young-adult novels.
I'll also compliment Tavia Gilbert as a reader. She gets the tone of a teen-age girl exactly right, along with the "I'm always in control" attitude of Zoe.
With all that, I can only give this two stars. The problem is that I listened to Scalzi's "The Last Colony" only a few months ago. Every plot point or bit of information I listened to in "Zoe's Tale" was something I already knew. There were no surprises. I found I simply was not interested.
I listened to first half hour of part 1, trying to give it a chance. Then I skipped to part 2. I listened to no more than five minutes before I realized I knew exactly in what part of the story from "The Last Colony" I was in, and listened to at least two plot points repeated from that previous book. I couldn't take it anymore.
If you haven't listened to "The Last Colony," I can recommend this audiobook. If you've listened "The Last Colony" and you like to listen to audiobooks more than once, wait whatever interval you normally wait between successive listens to the same book before listening to "Zoe's Tale."
Otherwise, I suggest you get "The Human Division" or "Redshirts", two other novels by John Scalzi available on Audible.
It makes sense to listen to this after Old Man's War and The Last Colony. Both books will give you a bit of background but also add appreciation for John Scalzi's talent to change perspective, tone and maybe even a little bit of the genre. I found Zoe's Tale very much fun to listen to, and actually for different reasons than the above mentioned books.
As it is the events of The Last Colony retold there is not so much happening which you do not know already. And still I found the book fast paced, gripping from beginning to end, and yes very much a teen girl story with all what you expect to find in it: a smart female hero, a little bit of romance, a bit of food for deeper thoughts, a little bit of drama and lots of humor and easygoing story telling. And all of this packed into an universe which I came to like and enjoy in the previous books.
When I look at the other reviews, I see that it cannot be everybody's cup of tea but then it never pretended to be anything else but this: a fun story told in the words of a teenage girl.As such it is exceptionelly well and wittily written, and really perfectly narrated.
Story that seemed geared to a young audience that adults, like me, can like but a bit to slow and "childish" at times. The story is slow to start but the ending is wonderful and might even bring a few tears to your eyes. Wonderful reader.
I loved every minute of this book and recommend it to 10 and upwards. The reader is amazing and really gets you into the story!! Totally recommend this.
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