John Scalzi continues his great series Old Man’s War, with The Last Colony, and it does not disappoint. Audio book with William Dufris narrating.
4/5 20/25 total score
Type of Story: Space Opera Science Fiction
Plot – 4(Strong)
Characters – 4(Strong)
Setting/World Building – 4(Strong)
Writing Style – 4(Strong)
Heart & Mind Aspect – 4(Strong)
Former Colonial Defense Forces soldier, John Perry, and former Special Forces soldier, Jane Sagan, are enjoying a many year lasting retirement from the Colonial Defense. They are the administrators at a colony called Huckleberry with their adopted daughter Zoe. Everything changes when one of the leaders of the CDF asks Perry and Sagan to become the new leaders of a brand new colony. This new colony is the first colony made up of former colony planets. Perry, Sagan, and Zoe, along with her two alien bodyguards that worship Zoe like a god, decide to take the job as the new leaders of Roanoke Colony. As soon as everyone arrives at the new colony planet, it is clear that everyone is ignorant of exactly what the CDF has in store for this new colony. Thus begins a story about survival, trust, intergalactic politics, and a small colony doing everything it can to not be destroyed.
Why you should read this book:
The Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi is one of the most fun science fiction series out there. The Last Colony and the entire series is fun because Scalzi writes serious situations but with humorous characters that always have something to say. In fact, no other writer for me, is able to capture the spontaneity of a well delivered, true to life, wise crack of a line, during stressful situations, like Scalzi. Characters, John Perry and Jane Sagan let their opinion be know, without much of a filter, and to follow these type of protagonists keeps the reader on his toes. Expect to at lease smile 5 times or so while reading this book.
Another thing that The Last Colony and the Old Man’s War series does well is twists and turns. Scalzi sets up a major plot and things just don’t go right. A lot of things happen, a lot of turns that the reader doesn’t expect, and I really enjoy that. Sometimes, when you read a lot of speculative fiction, you can kind of see where a plot is going, but with Scalzi, I never feel that way. There are enough surprises to make reading The Last Colony exciting. Each chapter ends mysteriously at times and it just makes you want to start the next chapter. Even though I read this on audio book, I find myself upset to have to stop.
The last reason you should read The Last Colony is that there are many political and social issues that happen through out the story that make the reader look at life in their own world more critically. Our characters have to make decisions that are going to impact an entire colony. These decisions are often treated carefully by John Perry, but his solutions to the problems, include so much critical thinking that it impacts us in real life to stop making brash reactions and decisions. By being more like John Perry, really thinking about the circumstances, and coming up with an idea that best benefits as many people as possible, Scalzi teaches us things like tolerance, mature reasoning, and thinking outside the box. Perry is a common sense, intelligent man, without all the bad qualities that most politicians have. I would let him run my colony or country.
Why you might not like this book:
There is one main reason why you might not like The Last Colony by John Scalzi and that is happenstance. The reader of The Last Colony has to be willing to have a suspension of disbelief because things work out amazingly well and it is just because of the incompetence of their enemies. If this book was more honest to how the military of our world behave, a lot of the mistakes made in this book by the enemy, would not be made. It is only because of ineptness that things go well. That is the main draw back of the book and if you think you can look past that, you will enjoy it even more.
Are you looking for a light science fiction read with fun characters and an exciting plot that is unexpected? If you are, check out The Last Colony by John Scalzi. I would recommend you read the first two Old Man’s War books first but I think you could read this as a stand alone book too. I personally am skipping Zoe’s Tale, as I don’t find her character that great, and I’m not big on a retelling of a story I already know about. I am currently listening to The Human Division and that is continuing Scalzi’s great story-telling as well.
Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson is one of the best written fantasy books I have ever read and has claimed a spot in my soul.
5/5 22/25 total score
Type of Story: Extremely epic fantasy
Plot – 4(Strong)
Characters – 4(Strong)
Setting/World Building – 5(Very Strong)
Writing Style – 5(Very Strong)
Heart & Mind Aspect – 4(Strong)
Erikson continues his Malazan Book of the Fallen series with Deadhouse Gates. In Deadhouse Gates we follow four character paths, the first being the rebellion against the Malazan Empire on the continent of Seven Cities. This follows the path of Malazan refugees and soldiers attempting to cross an arid desert climate while being hunted by the rebellion leaders. The next path is a young girl that is a prisoner and the sister of the new second in charge of the Malazan Empire. She has two unlikely associates that are all looking for a way to gain freedom. The third path is a path of vengeance by characters from Gardens of the Moon against the Malazan Empire, but one that will push them to their limits in the arid desert of Seven Cities. The final path is two ancient friends that travel the world together, but their journey might come to an end as one of them gains a better understanding of himself and the world. As the many paths converge, the story becomes wrought with twists, turns, and reveals of ingenious imagination and despair unlike anything written in fantasy.
Why you should read this book:
Steven Erikson writes Deadhouse Gates mercilessly honest to create a world that only few could survive in, but of those few, heroes are created. This is a brutal book filled with a lot of pain and death. The path that the refugees have to take to flee the rebellion is unspeakably difficult. Erikson writes so that knowing who is in the right and who is in the wrong is a question of perspective. At the beginning we believe that the rebellion against the Malazan Empire is a great thing, but Erikson wants to make the reader understand, that in war, there are no clear cut sides. The thing that is important in war are the individuals that step up and protect those that can’t protect themselves.
Erikson’s writing is spectacular. He has a way of creating a visceral scene unmatched by other fantasy authors. Even though he is not detailing every little thing, he does it enough, and in a way for you to visualize exactly what is going on. There are moments of poignant dialogue between characters that can either touch your heart or you can feel like your heart was ripped out. Erikson’s ability to write eccentric and profound characters is such a treat to read. These characters might seem like they are talking non-sense but after some time and events have passed, that dialogue from that crazy character makes sense. The world that Erikson invites you to learn about is wrapped in such mystery. Erikson doesn’t want to tell you a lot of things about the world up front, he wants to get you wondering, asking questions, and then reveal information to you later, which is so satisfying when revealed.
I loved the characters in Deadhouse Gates. My favorite characters were Icarium and Trell. These are two characters that have lived for centuries together. They travel the world and are good friends. The relationship between these two characters is absolutely fantastic. Without giving away many spoilers, this friendship is extremely important, not only for them, but for the rest of the world. The deep conversations about friendship that these two characters talk about and to others is such an enjoyment to read. Erikson does interpersonal relationships extremely well.
Why you might not like this book:
You might not like this book if you are not into fantasy books that focus on “the journey” that characters make. The vast majority of this book are characters getting to a location. The pacing is purposely slow to create more character interaction and conflicts while the characters are on their journey. Because of this slower pacing and more epic in scope and detail, it might not be for everyone.
Another reason you might not like this book is because this book is emotionally draining. There are a lot of difficult passages of brutality. Erikson does not focus on the violence to bring attention to the violence but so that the reader can have an emotional connection with the plight that the characters are involved in. Erikson wants the reader to know what kind of world this is and he does not hold back. Due to this, some readers might find this book too difficult emotionally to read.
I recommend Deadhouse Gates and the Malazan series to anyone that wants to read epic fantasy on a scale much larger than most fantasy books. There is a lot of mystery and figuring out how the world works and why characters choose certain actions. Erikson tells you things about the story, as the story progresses, not exactly when we want to know them, and I find that a lot of fun. The large cast in these stories is something that I love. Malazan Book of the Fallen really reminds me of the television show LOST, many characters, overall mysteries, incremental story-telling, and a story on a large scale.
Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking is a must read book for anyone that has ever associated themselves as an introvert or for anyone wanting to understand introverts better. This book is especially important for people that constantly feel exhausted because of the societal and cultural pressure to be more out-going.
This will be the very first non-fiction book review I have done. Because of that reason, I will explain the format of this review. First I will talk about the sections in the book and a short summary of each section so that people will have a good idea what the content of the book actually is. Next I will then tell you my opinion of the book, both the good points and the bad. Lastly I will talk about how the book effected me.
Quiet is split up into 4 different parts. Each part then has sub-chapters. Each sub-chapter deals with a specific trait dealing with introverts or extroverts and provides a scientific study or someone’s experience to collaborate that chapter.
Part One primarily focuses on the extrovert ideal in which western cultural has adopted the idea that being an extrovert is the ideal personality in every day life. The first chapter is all about how the industrial revolution changed everything. People started to move into the city and got jobs that made them deal with the public. The better you talked, the better chance you had at landing yourself a good job, because it was all about selling yourself to businesses. The self-help craze soon began because there was a necessity for people to get better at being an extrovert. The next chapter is about personality, that the extrovert personality is the personality most wanted, and the one people react to the best. The writer visits a Tony Robbins’ self-help seminar, a Rick Warren church meeting, and the campus of Harvard Business School, and finds much the same atmosphere at each setting. The last chapter of part one is all about the idea that group think is the best way to promote ideas and create a successful business. Susan Cain then finds some scientists that have run experiments on groups of individuals and have found exactly the opposite, that the best ideas usually come from introverts. A lot of the most successful people on Wall-Street and Silicon Valley have made their break-through alone. Some people need to have time to themselves because it is scientifically proven that intense concentrated alone work is ideal for people to become successful at what they do.
Part Two is an intensive focus on introverts and if they are born that way, if the environment makes the introverts, and if they can overcome their biology to act differently. There are many scientific studies that Cain describes in this section of the book. The first chapter of this part deals mostly with scientific studies on babies and their reaction to stimuli. They found that babies that are highly sensitive are much more likely to develop introverted personalities later in life. The next chapter has to do with how introverts can overcome their fear of public speaking and the roll of free will when it comes to changing your personality. The following chapter is a fascinating read on people’s reactions to extroverts vs introverts and how reading the body language of introverts make people trust them more. Introverts are much more likely to feel embarrassed or have an empathetic response during a conversation. These are good things as embarrassment and empathy reveals how much that individual cares. Then the final chapter in this part is the difference between introverts and extroverts when taking risks. It is an interesting chapter that looks at the recession of 2008-2009 and how extroverts didn’t see the warning signs that something bad was going to happen but introverts did. It is about how introverts are more likely to think things through and extroverts just live in the moment.
Part Three is a smaller section but it is the examination of Asian culture and how they value introverted personalities more than extroverted personalities. It is a good balancing chapter to see the counter of western culture’s obsession with extrovert traits. I was especially interested in the personal stories of young Asian American students that have a similar idea to being introverts as mainland Asia in high school/home and how they deal with life and studying at an American university.
Part Four focuses on introverts needing to act more extroverted than they really are on the job, how to talk to significant others that might have an opposite temperament as you, and what the teacher needs to do to help introverts in the classroom. The most interesting part of this section deals with the need for introverts to have time to themselves to recharge. You can be an extremely extroverted person in the business room, because your job demands it, but you must have time to yourself to recharge.
Opinion: I absolutely loved Quiet. As someone that has struggled to be more out-going his entire life it was nice to read something that justified scientifically, multiple times, that it is alright to have a more introverted temperament. That “here’s the research! This is how I am! I don’t have to try to meet anyone’s expectations anymore. I don’t need to feel apologetic or defensive in any way.”(pg 147) I can stay true to who I am and it is alright. Scientifically it is important that there are introverts in business and society because they bring a skill set that is much needed. There is a place for everyone and no one really has to change themselves.
The thing that impacted me the most is the realization that introverts need time to themselves, doing the thing that they want to do, to recharge. Without that time of recharging, their life feels chaotic and out of control. Anxiety and stress levels go through the roof when introverts are constantly made to do things that extroverts always want to do. It is alright to do what you want to do, “spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re suppose to.”(pg 269) Also, taking your time to react to things is perfectly fine, you can take extra time to process information and emotions. It doesn’t make you slow or unintelligent to need extra time to process things. It is more important to take the extra time than it is to get upset at being pushed into something.
The biggest draw back of this book and the only reason that I gave it a 4/5 instead of a 5/5 is because I did not believe that Susan Cain accurately depicted self-help books. As a proponent of self-help books myself, I found her view on them to be generalized. She believes that most self-help books are all about becoming extroverts but I believe that self-help books are about gaining confidence. Gaining confidence is important to introverts and if reading self-help books do that for introverts, then they should read them. Also her ideas of introverts vs extroverts near the beginning of the book was a little too one-sided in favor of introverts. Also, even though it was stated a few times, the idea that most people fall in the middle of the temperament scale, was not stressed enough.
Recommendation: Anyone that is interested in figuring themselves or others out more should read this book. There is a large focus on scientific studies, which makes the book highly credible. The scientific jargon was not overly complex, but complex enough to be taken seriously. If you feel any pressure in your day to day life to act more out-going, check this book out.