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Zoe's Tale: An Old Man's War Novel    by John Scalzi order for
Zoe's Tale
by John Scalzi
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Zoe's Tale, the fourth in John Scalzi's excellent Old Man's War series, is unusual in that it repeats the events that played out in the previous book, The Last Colony, but this time from smart-ass teenager Zoe's point of view. (This technique was also used effectively by Orson Scott Card in Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow.)

As in The Last Colony, this story opens on two-mooned Huckleberry, where Zoe's adoptive parents, John Perry and Jane Sagan, have been village ombudsman and colony constable, respectively, for the last eight years. During that time, Zoe has been protected by Hickory and Dickory, members of the Obin race, who are grateful for the gift of consciousness that Zoe's father made to them. Since then, the Obin have revered his daughter Zoe almost as a goddess, the entire race following her development - recorded by her minders for them - with great interest.

Readers of The Last Colony will have a sense of déja vu as they watch Zoe meet General Rybicki before he asks her parents to lead a new seed colony, Roanoke. On colony ship Magellan, as John and Jane begin to work with the leaders of the disparate groups that form their new colonists, we see Zoe make a best friend of Gretchen, enjoy the progress of her first love with Enzo, and learn to tolerate his best friend Magdy. We watch the Roanoke PDA teenage rumor mill in action, and see Hickory and Dickory (what do they know that John and Jane don't?) try to persuade Zoe to tour the Obin worlds instead of going to Roanoke.

On the new world, the colonists learn that they're in grave danger and must avoid use of electronics (especially tough on teens) to remain hidden from aliens searching for the colony. Zoe and her friends make first contact with intelligent Roanoke inhabitants who resemble werewolves. And, after disaster strikes, Zoe takes on a dangerous journey and must make a tough ethical call to save her family and friends. At the end of this entertaining tale, John Scalzi tells us that Zoe's Tale is for his daughter Athena. It's a heartwarming, heartbeaking story, not to be missed.

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