Friday, May 12, 2017

James Review -- The End of All Things

This week I decided to review Old Man's War: The End of All Things by John Scalzi. It is a collection of e-books released in print all dealing with Equilibrium, an organization intending to destroy the settings two superpowers, the human Colonial Union and the Conclaves made up of hundreds of alien species. The stories take place after Earth, the primary source of new colonists and soldiers for the Colonial Union, severs ties with the Union in response to an apparent Union attack on Earth Station, Earth's primary space station.

Life of the Mind focuses on Rafe Dauqin who when the story starts is a pilot desperately seeking a job after an argument with his previous captain led to the captain telling anyone who would listen that Dauqin was a troublemaker. Dauqin gets a job as one of the pilots on the Chandler, a decommissioned Colonial Union frigate turned into a freighter. The Chandler is supposed to carry Union Ambassador Ocampo to a vacation, but midflight Ocampo orders the ship to carry him to a secret meeting. This turns out to be a trap and the ship is boarded by Rraey, an aggressive species neutral in the heated political affairs between the Conclave and the Union. Ocampo reveals that he is working with the Rraey, and since their plans require a pilot he picks Dauqin. Dauqin's brain is removed and put in a life support container connected to some of the Chandler's controls while the rest of the crew is left to die in escape pods to cover up Ocampo's survival.  Ocampo eventually reveals the existence of Equilibrium to Dauqin, explaining that they plan to use the Chandler and a fleet of similarly seized and controlled ships to launch attacks that will start a war between the Conclave and the Union. But before becoming a pilot Dauqin was a programmer for spacecraft software and, using his knowledge and skills, he begins a desperate effort to gain full control of the ship and escape...

This Hollow Union focuses on affairs within the Conclave.  General Gau, the founder and leader of the Conclave, is planning steps towards bring Earth into the Conclave but many in the Conclave oppose this. And when an Earth diplomatic ship is narrowly rescued after an attack, and the Colonial Union delegation reveals a number of Equilibrium agents within the Conclave, things rapidly grow worse after General Gau is killed and his former advisor Hafte Sorvalh finds himself thrust into leadership and struggles to hold the Conclave together while deciding how to deal with the human and Equilibrium issues.

Can Long Endure follows a Colonial Defense Force unit that is sent on a variety of missions to suppress independence movements on Union worlds. Most of these involve little more than reminding potentially rebellious governments how easily the Union can obliterate them, or dealing with rebel snipers, but there is also a commando raid against the government of a world that has declared independence where they find themselves in a battle against Equilibrium forces secretly brought in to defend the planet.

Then comes To Stand or Fall. The Colonial Union discovers that Equilibrium plans to start a final war between the Union and the Conclave by launching a nuclear strike against Earth using seized Conclave ships while the Union Fleet is dealing with rebellious planets. Not wishing to drive Equilibrium further into hiding, the Union struggles to convince the Conclave to join forces with it to defend the human homeworld and strike at Equilibrium's new base of operations while also convincing Earth to trust them. There is also a sideplot dealing with an effort to reform the Union into something less likely to spark the kinds of discontent that Equilibrium has been using to spark the rebellions.

Finally there is An Alternate Life of Mind which is a collection of deleted or altered scenes from the first story, including Dauqin's father blackmailing the Union into launching a mission to find the Chandler.

I give the book 9.5 out of 10. It had a nice variety of stories to suit different tastes. However, I feel that some of the important events that took place during the stories weren't given enough detail and that some areas of a couple of stories could have been trimmed to make room for more detail in other portions of the tale which I feel were more important to the storylines.

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