The more John Scalzi I read, the less convinced I am that he can write characters who aren’t John Scalzi. Mind, that’s not entirely a criticism as I thoroughly enjoy John Scalzi, and so I like all his characters who are very clearly him as well. Same reason I like Bill Murray; you don’t buy a ticket to a Bill Murray movie for the same reason you see a Meryl Streep movie. Disappearing into a role is not the same as embodying a character so thoroughly they’re indistinguishable from yourself, but the differing skills both have value.
This is Scalzi’s Oscar bid; I gotta give credit where credit is due, he really works to inhabit a teenage girl’s brain reliving the events of his last book, even if his reach exceeds his grasp.
He does a damn sight better this book than last taking on Zoe boutin-perry’s perspective, every time she said “90 year old dad” in The Last Colony I cringed. Her experiences of the events of that book are significantly more interesting, so I’ll forgive what missteps I found in service of the better story – particularly where the Obin are concerned – and instead be impressed with the notes that resonate with teen experience (the musical differences being key, a detail with greater significance later on.)
He still hasn’t quite gotten it perfect; even if I’m nearly double her age myself, I remember those years well enough to tell when an adult is thinking about teenage interpersonal drama the way an adult trying to make it serious would. That said, the afterword confirmed my suspicion that Scalzi takes his fan criticism seriously as he explicitly states that this book was written in response to fan response to perceived plot holes in the last book, even if it’s written elegantly enough to stand on its own merits.
I truly appreciate that each of the Old Man’s War series has built upon the last, and that Scalzi has tried writing from the perspective of someone other than himself. Even if the seams show, the effort is appreciated.