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John Scalzi

John Scalzi(1969- )
John Scalzi is best known for his science fiction, for which he won the John W. Campbell Award (2006) and has been nominated for the Hugo Award for best novel (2006, 2008, 2009). He also writes non-fiction on subjects ranging from personal finance to astronomy to film, and is the Creative Consultant for the Stargate: Universe television series. He likes pie. Learn more at John Scalzi’s blog.

Old Man’s War

Old Man’s War — (2005-2015) Nominated for a Hugo Award. Publisher: John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army. The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce — and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding. Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity’s resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You’ll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You’ll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you’ll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets. John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine — and what he will become is far stranger.

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science fiction book reviews John Scalzi Agent to the Stars, The Android's Dream, Questions for a Soldier, The Sagan DiaryJohn Scalzi Questions for a Soldierfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

Old Man’s War: In this universe, experience counts

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Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

In this universe, experience counts.

John Perry is 75 years old, his wife is dead, and he has nothing left to live for. It’s a perfect time to join the army, and the Colonial Defense Force is recruiting. They need a lot of loyal human bodies to maintain the universe colonization project, so their preference is to recruit old people, rejuvenate their bodies (nobody on Earth knows exactly how this happens), and train them to fight for the human race. Most of them will be dead within a few years, but that’s all they were expecting on Earth anyway. The Colonial Defense Force gives them something valuable to do for humanity, and a chance for a new life.

Old Man’s War is one of the most enjoyable novels I’ve read this year. The premise — old people being rejuvenated — makes for an excellent twist on th... Read More

The Ghost Brigades: Old Man’s War continues…

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The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

The Ghost Brigades is the second novel in John Scalzi’s OLD MAN’S WAR saga. It focuses on the Ghost Brigades — the Special Forces soldiers that the Colonial Union (CU) creates by genetic engineering and who have special powers because of the BrainPal computers in their heads. They’re born in adult bodies and are rapidly assimilated into the Special Forces, though they are a little immature because of their mental age and they lack some of the personality and social skills that come from interaction with “real-born” people in a normal environment. The Ghost Brigades give the regular CU soldiers the heebee-jeebees.

In this story the Colonial Union has discovered the existence of a traitorous scientist, Charles Boutin, who has faked his death by cloning himself and has aligned himself with three alien species who plan to wipe out the hu... Read More

The Last Colony: John Perry is back

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Reposting to include Marion's new review.

The Last Colony by John Scalzi

The Last Colony, the third book in John Scalzi’s OLD MAN’S WAR series, returns us to the perspective of John Perry, the “old man” hero of the first novel in the series, Old Man’s War. John Perry is only mentioned in the second novel, The Ghost Brigades, which told the story of how the cyborg Special Forces soldiers found and defeated the scientist Charles Boutin, a traitor to the Colonial Union. On that mission they also found Zoe, Boutin’s young daughter. Zoe has been adopted by Jane Sagan and John Perry and the little family has been farming on one of Earth’s colonies where John and Jane are the leaders.

Life is easy for them until the Colonial Union comes calling — they need leaders for a new colonization effort and John and Jane h... Read More

Zoe’s Tale: “The Last Colony” from Zoe’s perspective

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Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi

Zoe’s Tale (2008), 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 “i... Read More

The Human Division: A pleasing roller coaster ride of a book

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The Human Division by John Scalzi

The Human Division is a fast-paced roller coaster of a book. At the Nebula Awards this weekend in San Jose, California, John Scalzi politely informed me that this was the fifth book in a series, which starts with Old Man’s War. I haven’t read the other four (which I will be correcting soon) but I understood pretty well what was going on in this universe, although I may have missed some nuance.

The Colonial Union left earth to colonize space about two hundred years ago. During that time, space-faring humans met several other races who didn’t like humans very much. They also met some who did, or were at least willing to trade with us. From Earth, the Colonial Union recruited people over the age of seventy to create soldiers, decanting them into younger bodies with enhanced features like “smart blood” and a BrainPal computer in the... Read More

The Sagan Diary: Not convincing

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The Sagan Diary by John Scalzi

The Sagan Diary was a prize and an experiment. As John Scalzi explains in the introduction, this novelette was written for Bill Schafer, editor of Subterranean Press, who won it in a charity auction. Schafer wanted a story set in Scalzi’s popular OLD MAN’S WAR universe. Scalzi wanted to challenge himself, so he decided to attempt a woman’s internal monologue. Fans will immediately realize from the title of the book that the woman is Captain Jane Sagan, a cyborg who features prominently in OLD MAN’S WAR. Scalzi has said that he originally wrote this story in free verse (which I did not know before I read it). The Sagan Diary is available for free in audio format on Scalzi... Read More

The End of All Things: A fun ride, with some missed opportunities

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The End of All Things by John Scalzi

My experience with John Scalzi’s latest book in the OLD MAN’S WAR series, The End of All Things, was familiar: errands were delayed and chores undone as I pushed back everything so I could keep reading ‘til the end. Scalzi’s accessible style, brisk pacing and interesting premise certainly held my interest. Some favorite characters returned. Spaceships blew up and blew each other up, and there was an exciting ending. Looking back, though, I see missed opportunities.

Kat read the audio book and she adds her thoughts in blue.

The End of All Things focuses on the growing sense of discontent and unrest among the planets of the Colonial Uni... Read More

Lock In

Lock In — (2014) Publisher: Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. Four percent suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And one percent find themselves “locked in”—fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. One per cent doesn’t seem like a lot. But in the United States, that’s 1.7 million people “locked in”…including the President’s wife and daughter. Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can restore the ability to control their own bodies to the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, “The Agora,” in which the locked-in can interact with other humans, both locked-in and not. The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, meaning that from time to time, those who are locked in can “ride” these people and use their bodies as if they were their own. This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse…. John Scalzi’s Lock In is a novel of our near future, from one of the most popular authors in modern science fiction.

Novel:                                   Related novella:
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Lock In: An enthralling novel of big ideas

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Lock In by John Scalzi

In Lock In, Haden’s syndrome has created millions of people who are conscious and alert, but have no voluntary control of their bodies; they are, effectively, “locked in” to themselves. Government funded technology has developed ways to assist these, who are called “Hadens,” to function; both in a non-physical information-world called the Agora, and by using sophisticated Personal Transports or android bodies called “threeps.” (You might be able to figure out where that name comes from if you remember a certain gold-colored android from a popular trilogy of movies a few decades ago.) Chris Shane is a Haden, one of the two most famous Hadens in America, and a freshly-minted FBI agent. On the second day on the job, Chris and acerbic partner Leslie Vann take jurisdiction of a baffling case that involves a dead mystery man and an Integrator, a ... Read More

Unlocked: This prequel could have used more subtext

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Unlocked by John Scalzi

The novella Unlocked is John Scalzi’s prequel to his innovative novel of ideas Lock In. I read the beautiful Subterranean Press hard copy, and Kat will add comments about the audio version of the story. With both Lock In and Unlocked, the publishers have made some interesting choices in audio presentation.

The subtitle of Unlocked is “An Oral History of Haden Syndrome.” Further down on the title page, Scalzi describes it as “a novella-length exploration of the world of Lock In.” The structure of the story is a series of quotations, stories and interviews from people affected by Haden Syndrome, in various ways, when the condition first emerged twenty-five years earlier. Haden Syndrome first manifests a... Read More

Agent to the Stars: John Scalzi’s debut novel

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Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

Tom Stein is a young Hollywood agent who used to think that his clients were hard to handle. That was before Tom’s boss assigned him to represent the most important client any agent has ever had to deal with — the first aliens to contact the human race.

These aliens — the Yherajk — have been watching our TV broadcasts for years, so they know a lot about humans. They are peaceful and want to make a good impression, but they know it’ll be a hard sell. That’s because they look like The Blob, smell like sweaty sneakers, and have some powers that humans are going to find very disturbing. In other words, they seem more like fodder for our horror movies than friends. That’s why they’ve asked Tom Stein’s agency to represent them. So Tom gets to dump his difficult clients off on a junior agent so he can concentrate on figuring out how to give the aliens an ... Read More

The God Engines: Keep some thinking time free

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The God Engines by John Scalzi

AUTHOR INFORMATION: John Scalzi’s debut novel, Old Man’s War, was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Novel. His other science fiction novels include Agent to the Stars, The Android’s Dream, The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, and Zoe’s Tale. He has also written several non-fiction books, The Sagan Diary novella, various short fiction, and edited the anthology METAtropolis. In 2006, John Scalzi won the John W. Campbell Award for Best Writer, and in 2009 won the Hugo Award for Best Related Book for Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever 1998 – 2008.

CLASSIFICATION: Despite mostly takin... Read More

Fuzzy Nation: A successful re-write of Piper’s classic

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Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

When Jack Holloway’s dog blows up a cliff during a prospecting mission on the planet Zarathustra, Jack loses his contract with ZaraCorp. Fortunately, inside the cliff he discovers the biggest vein of precious gems that have ever been found on the planet and he gets to take a percentage of the profits as finder’s fee. Things start to get complicated when Jack returns home to discover that his house has been invaded by a fuzzy mammal that seems a lot smarter than he should be on this planet that has no sapient creatures. When he calls in his ex-girlfriend, ZaraCorp’s biologist, to have a look, they realize that there may be trouble ahead. A sapient race means that ZaraCorp will have to give up their rights to the planet’s resources. Murder attempts and court cases ensue.

Fuzzy Nation is John Scalzi’s “reboot” of H. Beam Pi... Read More

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas

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Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi

This is the part where you run and scream a lot.

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Intrepid, a spaceship that has the reputation of killing off most of its non-essential crew. The captain and senior officers and one or two especially good-looking guys always come back from planetary “away” missions alive (though often mangled up a bit), but always, always, at least one, and often many more, of the crew is killed. When Dahl and a few other new recruits begin investigating, they discover that the statistics just don’t work out right. There is definitely something weird going on. With the help of a computer hacker who hides in the bowels of the ship, they set out to get some answers and make a discovery that completely changes how they view the world.

I’d love to tell... Read More

The Mallet of Loving Correction: Scalzi’s plan for world domination?

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The Mallet of Loving Correction by John Scalzi

The Mallet of Loving Correction is a second collection of blog postings from John Scalzi’s well-known blog, the Whatever. Scalzi’s previous collection, Your Hate Mail will be Graded, won a Hugo.

Before I comment on the content of the “Mallet”, I just want to say that in addition to his Hugos and his Nebulas and countless other awards, Scalzi should win some kind of prize just for his industriousness. He publishes several works of prose, both fiction and non-fiction, a year; he assertively markets his work; he participates actively in Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and he moderates his blog, often with a metaphorical mallet (the “mallet of loving correction” in the title). How does he do it?

The Mallet of Loving Correction contains posts from 2008 through 2012. The po... Read More

The Dispatcher: Interesting premise that’s hard to believe in

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The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

A weird thing has happened in our world. Suddenly, people who are murdered can come back to life. Nobody knows why. It doesn’t happen when people die naturally — only when they’re murdered. To take advantage of this new death loophole, the job of Dispatcher has been created and Tony Valdez is one of them. His job is to murder people so they can end up in their own beds a few hours before they died. For example, in one scene we see Tony murder a man who is about to die on the operating table and in another we see him shoot a woman who just got hit by a bus. Dispatchers occasionally do less savory jobs, too, such as shooting injured stuntmen on movie sets so the studio won’t get sued for damages.

When one of Tony’s fellow Dispatchers disappears, a policewoman asks him to help with the investigation. Tony is reluctant, but she is persuasive and he get... Read More

Miniatures: Like pistachios; you won’t stop with one

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Reposting to include Bill's new review:

Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi by John Scalzi

Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi (2016), is a collection from John Scalzi, published by Subterranean Press. Sub Press cleverly chose only one blurb for the back cover, from Kirkus reviews: “Often verging on the silly, but on the whole, quite amusing.”

That was a stroke of marketing genius on the part of Sub Press because this collection of works does verge on the silly. It jumps the border of silly. It tap-dances and cartwheels through the world of silly, shrieking “Wheeeee!” the whole time until the end, where there is one serious piece. As a journalist, a columnist, and a long-time blogger, Scalzi works well in... Read More

SFM: Swirsky, Scalzi, Wong, Sriduangkaew, Heisler, Brookside

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 

Grand Jeté (The Great Leap) by Rachel Swirsky (2014, free at Subterranean Press)

“Mara, please wake up. I’ve made you a gift.” But gifts can be complicated: often there are strings attached, and the giver may not be completely in tune with the desires of the recipient… may, in fact, be giving the gift primarily for his or her own reasons. Mara, a young Jewish girl in the final stages of cancer, lives alone with her father Jakub, a free-lance inventor, and their aging German Shepherd in a secluded home in the countryside. T... Read More

METAtropolis: It’s just maybe something that sucks a little less

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METAtropolis edited by John Scalzi

It’s not a utopia. It’s just maybe something that sucks a little less.

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and it turns out that all those eco-freaks were right all along. We humans destroyed the planet and now we’ve got to live with the mess we’ve made. Many world governments, including the U.S., have been essentially dismantled and large, mostly independent and self-governing city-states have taken their place.

Under the direction of John Scalzi, the story authors — Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell, Read More

The New Space Opera 2: All-New Tales of Science Fiction Adventure

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The New Space Opera 2: All-New Tales of Science Fiction Adventure edited by Gardner Dozois & Jonathan Strahan

The New Space Opera 2: All-New Tales of Science Fiction Adventure is, as its name implies, the second of Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan’s themed anthologies attempting to put a modern spin on space opera, a subgenre of science fiction which causes many of us to think of big metal spaceships crewed by handsome blaster-wielding men who protect us from evil aliens that want to destroy the Earth, or at least steal it’s shrieking scantily clad women. We laugh at these old stories now — the way they ignore the vacuum of space and the effects of relativity, the way their aliens seem a lot less alien than they should, and the way that... Read More

Twenty-First Century Science Fiction: Packed full of excellent SF stories

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Twenty-First Century Science Fiction edited by David G. Hartwell

Twenty-First Century Science Fiction is packed full of excellent science fiction stories. I've been reading anthologies lately, partly to improve my own short story writing, and this is the best I've found so far. It contains stories by authors such as Paolo Bacigalupi, Cory Doctorow, Catherynne M. ValenteJohn Scalzi, Jo Walton, Charles Stross, Read More

Other books by John Scalzi

science fiction book reviews John Scalzi Agent to the Stars, The Android's Dream, Questions for a Soldier, The Sagan DiaryThe Android’s Dream — (2006) Publisher: A human diplomat creates an interstellar incident when he kills an alien diplomat in a most… unusual… way. To avoid war, Earth’s government must find an equally unusual object: A type of sheep (“The Android’s Dream”), used in the alien race’s coronation ceremony. To find the sheep, the government turns to Harry Creek, ex-cop, war hero and hacker extraordinare, who with the help of Brian Javna, a childhood friend turned artificial intelligence, scours the earth looking for the rare creature. And they find it, in the unknowing form of Robin Baker, pet store owner, whose genes contain traces of the sheep DNA. But there are others with plans for the sheep as well: Mercenaries employed by the military. Adherents of a secret religion based on the writings of a 21st century science fiction author. And alien races, eager to start a revolution on their home world and a war on Earth. To keep our planet from being enslaved, Harry will have to pull off the greatest diplomatic coup in history, a grand gambit that will take him from the halls of power to the lava-strewn battlefields of alien worlds. There’s only one chance to get it right, to save the life of Robin Baker — and to protect the future of humanity.


Novellas and stories:

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Click here for more stories by John Scalzi.


Marion and Terry report on the 2013 Nebula Awards Weekend

The 48th Annual Nebula Awards weekend was held by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America at the San Jose Convention Center in northern California from May 17 through 19, 2013. Terry Weyna and I, who both live in Northern California and both are aspiring writers, decided to see what a bunch of published writers get up to when they party together.

Gene Wolfe and Teri Goulding



Marion Deeds: I think what surprised me most is how light on programming the weekend was. I thought there would be sessions about the nuts and bolts of a writing career, but I guess that SFWA members already have a pretty good idea about that. Still, I thought we’d hear about things like the new Amazon publishing arms, the Night Shade Books mess, that sort of thing.

Terry Weyn... Read More