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    Review of ZOE'S TALE by John Scalzi (see his website)


    TOR, April 2009

    When Zoe's parents are selected to lead a new colony, teenage Zoe packs herself off, makes new friends (including a boyfriend) and prepares herself for a lot of work. But there's a switch. A galactic alliance has decided to wipe out new colonies and Zoe's colony has to go into stealth mode. No more PDAs, no more computers, no more electronics of any type, so the colonists learn about sing-alongs, pre-technology equipment, and reading ancient paper books. Zoe's life gets complicated when she goes into the forest and meets up with a native intelligent tool-using that apparently never got noticed when the planet was surveyed.

    The day after Zoe makes contact with the natives, her planet is invaded and she is forced to rely on the Obin, a group of aliens who have made Zoe something of their god because her birth father gave them machines that created an artificial consciousness for them. Zoe finds that her experience dealing with the planetary natives serves her well in dealing with the invaders, and realizes that mutual extinction might not be the most effective policy.

    Author John Scalzi (see more reviews of novels by Scalzi) creates an interesting future where humans are not only not alone in the galaxy, they're late-comers to the scramble for living space, but willing to try just about any trick to make sure they get a piece of the pie. Scalzi does a mostly effective job taking the point of view of a teenage girl with her concern for family, boyfriends, and herself.

    Teenagers are different from adults, and Scalzi is mostly effective in giving us a consistent teen. Toward the end of the book, though, I thought things unraveled a bit. Zoe's insistence that the Obin solve her parents' problem didn't reflect the level of concern for others she'd shown earlier. Her order that they solve the problem in one particular way seemed out of left field. And the amount of effort that went into creating the final solution to the colony problems seemed wildly disproportionate to what she actually got. Why rely on some weird futuristic technology when a group of Obin assassins or a couple of warships from the general would have done the job?

    Scalzi's writing tugged me into ZOE'S TALE and kept me reading. For the most part, this is an enjoyable story with interesting and sympathetic characters. For me, the ending was something of a let-down.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 7/06/09

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