First off, the rating. The Last Colony is a solid 4.5. I found the book delightful. Scalzi unpacked a little bit more of his universe, and ends the book with a punch, but not in a way that I felt suckered into continuing the series. It was just a final crescendo to a great adventure, and I was left wanting more.
Which leads to my second point: Zoe’s Tale was fairly pointless. It’s a retelling of The Last Colony. Literally. It’s the exact same story, with a bit more flesh added to the characters. Reading these books back to back feels like treading water. To have The Last Colony end so perfectly only to be followed by a re-tread was pretty disappointing. By itself, I think it’s a fair book – maybe a 3.5 – but following The Last Colony, I struggle to give it a 2, and only do so because Scalzi is an easy going but enjoyable writer who seems deserving a better rating than that.
It was a weird choice on the part of Scalzi. Maybe he felt like writing from the point of view of a woman (commendable). Maybe he felt like paying homage to science fiction great Orson Scott Card (who did the same thing with his follow up to Ender’s Game, Ender’s Shadow). Maybe he forgo he already told this part of the story. Regardless of his reasoning, I can’t help but feel as though he failed.
In terms of contemporary science fiction series, I still place Old Man’s War ahead of The Expanse as both more engaging and as a more fully realized universe. I highly recommend it to any fan of the genre.
Just…skip Zoe’s Tale. It’s for completionists only.