The Last Colony
Series: Old Man's War 3
Reviewed date: 2013 Sep 12
Convoluted. Unbelievably complex. That's what's wrong with this story. After two excellent novels (Old Man's War and The Ghost Brigades) Scalzi loses some of his magic. The human stories that made the previous books so interesting are overshadowed in The Last Colony by an examination of the Colonial Union's vast conspiracy to deceive humanity.
The Colonial Union controls all inter-stellar communications, so it's relatively easy to keep certain secrets. E.g., the existence of the Conclave, an alliance of 400 races who have sworn to end the cycle of violence that wracks the galaxy. The Conclave's one rule: no race may colonize any planet without Conclave approval. Any illicit, unauthorized colony will be forcibly evacuated or razed.
The CU has not joined the Conclave, and in deliberate defiance, has established a new colony: Roanoke. They convince Jane Sagan and John Perry to serve as colony administrators. But what they haven't told anyone is that the new colony is a trap: it exists only to lure the Conclave fleet to Roanoke, where the CU will destroy it.
Sagan and Perry are clueless, at first. They understand that something is wrong and they are being used as pawns, but little by little they unravel the mystery. But they are unable to stop the destruction of the Conclave fleet, and it seems the Colonial Union's iron grip on humanity is unbreakable. Furthermore, internal dissension in the Conclave is ripping it apart, and it appears that when the Conclave fails, each member race intends to attack humanity as retaliation for the Roanoke incident. Racial genocide seems a real possibility.
Sagan and Perry, with help from their daughter Zoe, manage to find a solution. The Conclave permits any member of a race to join. Humanity can join even if the Colonial Union does not. So the Conclave shows up at Earth, the racial home of mankind, and extends an offer of membership. Bypass the Colonial Union entirely, join the Conclave.
I keep thinking this should be called The Lost Colony, not The Last Colony. It isn't last, it's just the newest. And a major part of the plot--in fact, the key to the whole scenario--is that the colony has been deliberately lost.