Zoe’s Tale Review at GeekPlanet

A very positive review, which is nice, but the review was also interesting because the reviewer spends a lot of time thinking about the character of Zoë and what makes her tick. I liked this part:

Zoe is very much a typical teenager and that fact is one of the better parts of the story; it seems as if we’re being bombarded with stories of little girls who somehow end up being smarter than their parents, older than their years, hugely influential, and someone’s saviour, and yet although Zoe is a hero, she is still a teenage girl – she makes teenage girl decisions, has teenage girl discussions, has teenage girl relationships and has strong parents who know oh so much more than she does. She loves teenage girl music, has teenage loves and manipulates people just like a teenager would. Even as Zoe is struggling to save her family and friends, the author remains very much aware of her age, painting her realistically and not as some freaky version of an adult in a child’s body.

Yes, indeed, that was the intent: Zoë’s a smart and clever girl who still has to be her age. So I’m glad it worked for this particular reviewer. Also, I love this line: “Overall, Scalzi does a very good job of channeling his inner teenage girl… which is both awesome and weird at the same time.” Well, and think how I feel about it.

And now, to show that not every one thinks Zoe is the best book evar, an underwhelmed review at SFSignal. Someone sent me a link to it this morning and wondered if I was going to be okay with it. Well, you know. I’m the guy who did this. I think I’ll be fine. More generally, less than wonderful reviews happen to every writer, and not everything you write works equally well for everyone. There’s room for variances of opinion.

28 Comments on “Zoe’s Tale Review at GeekPlanet”

  1. Maybe the not so positive review will make it on ‘The Critics Rave!’

    (altho, at times, it does seem they didn’t read the same book I read, but one never knows….)

  2. I’m about 1/3 of the way through my copy. It’s not “Old Man’s War”. But part of what’s great about the first book of a series is discovering the author’s universe. OM’sW introduced a new world that explained the local tech, politics, culture, etc. “Ghost Brigades” followed up by introducing a new part of that same universe. It was a very different kind of story from OM’sW. “The Last Colony” did the same thing. Same universe, same people, but completely new situation and, quite literally, new world. “Zoe’s Tale” covers established ground but from a different perspective. This concerned me at first. But I have faith in Scalzi and so far it’s been rewarded. While you cover old ground it’s new because it’s viewed not from the view of another adult in the same colony but a mind that sees things significantly different.

    And it contains that Scalzi banter that I love.

  3. I’m just waiting to The Last Colony to be available for Kindle before I buy Zoe’s Tale. I check the Kindle Store everyday BTW…

  4. I just finished “The Last Colony” over the weekend. Hopefully there’s an available copy of “Zoe’s Tale” waiting at the library this afternoon. (In the meantime, there’s “Ragamuffin,” and since I learned of Tobias Buckell here at Whatever, there’s another thanks I owe you.)

  5. There’s room for variances of opinion.

    This from the John Scalzi who stifles free speech and expression on his website? :) Heh. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

    ZT reminds of me of certain Heinlein works (I know, I know, that’s never been said before about Scalzi’s work. Insightful am I). I enjoyed it, but for different reasons than the rest of your work – and I especially enjoy seeing an author stretch into new areas, it keeps the franchise from getting old and tiresome, both for the author and for the reader.

    Now, if the next OMW universe installment is from an Obin’s perspective…

  6. Screw the critics, they just haven’t gotten over the trick you played of making Enzo entirely decent. I was grumpy about it for a while, too. Why couldn’t he be a normal teenage guy guided by the usual hormones and vague logical fallacies held as fundamental truths?

    Okay, sorry. I think I’m done being grumpy. His character made the story more powerful. I place ZT second behind TSD for best Scalzi book I own… (I think I have all the fiction) Which probably reveals what a delicate flower I am inside, but screw it.

  7. That review does a nice job summing up the feeling I had while reading the book. She’s got that teenage voice, but the humor and attitude feel like what you express at Whatever. I won’t presume to say it “sounds like you” because I don’t know you. But it was a bit trippy sometimes.

    And don’t get me started on Enzo. Liking him and knowing his fate the whole time was difficult.

  8. You know, the SFSignal/i> review is partially right. There wasn’t a whole ton of action, because like The Sagan Diary, it was told from a memoir point of view.

    The title makes a lot of sense as well. Look at Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony. Atleast to me, the names of the books themselves would suggest some significant military action/conflict scenes.

    Had ZT been named, “Zoe’s Totally Fucking Awesome Adventure with Conflicted Aliens and Kick-ass Bombs”, well, you’d have parents really mad that it had swearing in the title, and I’d pissed because it the title didn’t live up to the name.

    What I got instead was a well crafted, dramatic trip down memory lane that made me kinda blubber at the climax (more so than TSD).

    In short, I liked it, alot. :)

  9. ““Overall, Scalzi does a very good job of channeling his inner teenage girl… which is both awesome and weird at the same time.” Well, and think how I feel about it.”

    Forget how you feel about it. How does your pre-teen daughter feel about having a father like that?

  10. John:
    I liked ZT but I have a concern/comment. I seem to remember that you wanted ZT to be an introduction to the OMW universe for a YA audience – my question is WHY? There seems to be different standards (language/violence) for mainstram books and YA books. I don’t have a teenager yet, but I hesitate to recomend ZT to my nieces/nephews because it will make them want to read othe OMW universe books – and I don’t feel they are age appropriate

  11. My partner was very distracted when I read Zoe’s Tale, as I kept being unable to resist interrupting her studying to read pages of dialog aloud to her.

  12. I enjoyed Zoe’s Tale but two things that I wished were differerent was that I wish you were a little more willing to go back to some previous conversations in TLC and have them again, I think the story was missing if we glossed over a scene. Especially when [spoiler deleted — Not everyone’s read Last Colony, you know — JS].

    Also I really wish you had talked about what happened to the Perry family when they got to earth! That part was very intersting to me in TLC and I wanted to know more.

  13. Folks, please be careful about posting spoilers for The Last Colony or Zoe’s Tale — not everyone has read them.

  14. Is there going to be an audiobook of it? Is there already? Will you read it to us, John!? Hey John! Please read us a bedtime story!!!

  15. So.. what you’re really saying is that you want us, your sycophantic minions, to track down the reviewer from SF Signal, crush him, see him driven before you, and hear the lamentation of his women?

    But… but… what if John DeNardo dosen’t have any women? What then!?!

    God, Scalzi? What kind of plan is that? Are you setting us up to fail? DeNardo, you’ll live. For now.

  16. I found out that Fictionwise had Zoe’s Tale available in mobipocket for an effective price of $9.76 (if you are a member of their club).


    I found it to be a very good novel, probably the one of the best science fiction novels this year. I’m probably an unusual target audience for it, since I only read electronic editions these days for a variety of reasons, I have not read The Ghost Brigades or The Lost Colony. I found that this lack of background wasn’t a problem and the novel worked fine.

    My only minor quibble is that it seemed like some areas were only glossed over, especially after Zoe returned to the colony. After that it felt like I was reading a summary of some major events. Perhaps this is because I missed the other half of Zoe’s tale. I was left wanting more, which is a good way to be left.

  17. Is it weird that even reading the underwhelmed review makes me want to run out and read Zoe’s tale?


  18. No spoilers here. Just a comment on Zoe’s “voice”.

    First, Zoe is quite the wit. Lots of sarcasm. And I’ve got to hand it to you John, you’re the Sultan of Snark. I’ve been reading you in book form and electronic form for a few years now, and I’ve heard your voice in podcasts/videocasts… so it seemed to me when I “heard” Zoe, I “heard” your voice… it was disconcerting.

    This is not a criticism, or a comment on Zoe’s character development, rather just a comment on how my brain works :)

  19. “what if John DeNardo dosen’t have any women? What then!?!”

    I can attest that, in fact, there are at least 2 women in the Denardo household. I’ll leave it to you to decide if John makes 3…

    “DeNardo, you’ll live. For now.”

    Funny, I say that every day.


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