Fiction Reviews

The End of All Things

(2015) John Scalzi, Tor, £7.99, pbk, 372pp, ISBN 978-1-447-29050-6


This is gung-ho military SF (underpined with a good few core genre tropes) mixed with some political diplomacy on the interstellar stage and, importantly, the latest in the series that began with Old Man's War and which follows on from The Human Division.  If you have not read Old Man's War then I urge you to do so, as if you like that novel then you'll enjoy this one (promise), but you can't really enjoy this one without at reading these two titles first: importantly, Old Man's War was nominated for a Hugo.  However if you really want to know about The End of All Things then read on…

The End of All Things begins almost where The Human Division left off (see my previous review). There is an unknown third party playing off humanity's Colonial Union against mother Earth. The Human Division saw the orbit end of it space station destroyed: an act for which Earth blamed the Colonial Union and so went independent.

The End of All Things sees the Colonial Union in a not a particularly good place. Earth is no longer a source of old men (who can then be brain-imprinted on genetically enhanced clones) as recruits and so the Colonial Union is beginning to feel pressed with its personnel shortage while the crowded nearby galaxy has potentially hostile alien civilisations who only remain at peace due to the Conclave of species imposing collective order.

Yet for some time now Colonial Union ships have gone missing and we (the readers) know that there is a mysterious third party trying to stir things up to further divide Earth from the Colonial Union and even perhaps get the Conclave to take humanity out

When computer programmer turned spaceship pilot Rafe Daquin signs up to The Chandler four what should be a routine jaunt, a politician unexpectedly hitches a ride. Not only that, soon after The Chandler begins its journey, the politician insists that the ship change course for a secret rendez-vous that will supposedly help save humanity from it many alien enemies… This was only the beginning, for Rafe Daquin's brain son ends up in a box!

As with The Human Division, The End of All Things is effectively four separate-but-connected novelettes that while distinct have a clear overall plot arc. For much of this Rafe Daquin and The Chandler interact with Lieutenant Harry Wilson, who also was a lead protagonist in The Human Division. (And so you may begin to see that you really do need to read The Human Division to get a sense of this all, as well as Old Man's War to understand the overall set-up.

I greatly enjoyed Old Man's War, though a little less so the subsequent novels in this series. Nonetheless I did find The End of All Things very engaging and a sound read: I certainly would like to know what happens next.

The End of All Things has less novel SF content than the original Old Man's War though we have seen a greater exploration of the local galactic set-up in the recent books. All well and good. But given I am now hooked on this series, one does wonder where Scalzi will take us next? The author has shown over a number of novels (beyond this run) that he in no one-trick pony, so my hope is that he does not continue to give us more of the same but explores some of the questions as to the broader galactic backdrop that arise from what has gone before. Given that the Galaxy seems to be teeming with intelligent life that far outstrips the number of habitable planets available, and given that this situation has presumably been going on for a while, how come that newcomer humanity is not at such a technological disadvantage: some species must be far, far more advanced than most of the adversaries presented us so far, especially given the Galaxy's age. Where are they? Why don't we see them? And why do not some of the more advanced civilisation exert their influence rather than leave it to the recently formed Conclave? If Scalzi were to answer these (and other such) questions in future 'Old Man's War' novels then it would breathe new life into the series that otherwise might descend into bog standard military SF. I for one will be waiting to see what happens next as so far it has been a very engaging ride.

Jonathan Cowie

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