Zoe's Tale
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Zoe's Tale

3.8 63
by John Scalzi

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How do you tell your part in the biggest tale in history?

I ask because it's what I have to do. I'm Zoe Boutin Perry: A colonist stranded on a deadly pioneer world. Holy icon to a race of aliens. A player (and a pawn) in a interstellar chess match to save humanity, or to see it fall. Witness to history. Friend. Daughter. Human. Seventeen years


How do you tell your part in the biggest tale in history?

I ask because it's what I have to do. I'm Zoe Boutin Perry: A colonist stranded on a deadly pioneer world. Holy icon to a race of aliens. A player (and a pawn) in a interstellar chess match to save humanity, or to see it fall. Witness to history. Friend. Daughter. Human. Seventeen years old.

Everyone on Earth knows the tale I am part of. But you don't know my tale: How I did what I did — how I did what I had to do — not just to stay alive but to keep you alive, too. All of you. I'm going to tell it to you now, the only way I know how: not straight but true, the whole thing, to try to make you feel what I felt: the joy and terror and uncertainty, panic and wonder, despair and hope. Everything that happened, bringing us to Earth, and Earth out of its captivity. All through my eyes.

It's a story you know. But you don't know it all.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In the touching fourth novel set in the Old Man's War universe, Scalzi revisits the events of 2007's The Last Colony from the perspective of Zoë, adopted daughter of previous protagonists Jane Sagan and John Perry. Jane and John are drafted to help found the new human colony of Roanoke, struggling against a manipulative and deceitful homeworld government, native werewolf-like creatures and a league of aliens intent on preventing all space expansion and willing to eradicate the colony if needed. Meanwhile, teenage Zoë focuses more on her poetic boyfriend, Enzo; her sarcastic best friend, Gretchen; and her bodyguards, a pair of aliens from a race called the Obin who worship and protect Zoë because of a scientific breakthrough made by her late biological father. Readers of the previous books will find this mostly a rehash, but engaging character development and Scalzi's sharp ear for dialogue will draw in new readers, particularly young adults. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher

The Last Colony will kick your butt across the galaxy and make you care.” —Rick Kleffel, The Agony Column, on The Last Colony

“Scalzi's captivating blend of off-world adventure and political intrigue remains consistently engaging.” —Booklist on The Last Colony

“In Heinleinesque fashion, the book is loaded with scenes of comradeship, isolation, ruthlessness and the protocols, which govern the lives of active-duty soldiers. But this is where Scalzi, famous for his blog ‘The Whatever,' surpasses Heinlein. Scalzi weaves in subtle discussions of humanity's growing fear of aging and our simultaneous attraction and repulsion to the Frankenstein-like creatures we are able to create.” —San Antonio Express-News on The Ghost Brigades

Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Old Man's War Series , #4
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Zoe's Tale

By John Scalzi, Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2008 John Scalzi
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-3107-6


The flying saucer landed on our front yard and a little green man got out of it.

It was the flying saucer that got my attention. Green men aren't actually unheard of where I come from. All the Colonial Defense Forces were green; it's part of the genetic engineering they do on them to help them fight better. Chlorophyll in the skin gives them the extra energy they need for truly first-class alien stomping.

We didn't get many Colonial Defense Force soldiers on Huckleberry, the colony I lived on; it was an established colony and we hadn't been seriously attacked in a couple of decades. But the Colonial Union goes out of its way to let every colonist know all about the CDF, and I knew more about them than most.

But the flying saucer, well. That's novel. New Goa is a farming community. Tractors and harvesters and animal-drawn wagons, and wheeled public buses when we wanted to live life on the edge and visit the provincial capital. An actual flying transport was a rare thing indeed. Having one small enough for a single passenger land on our lawn was definitely not an everyday occurrence.

"Would you like Dickory and me to go out and meet him?" asked Hickory. We watched from inside the house as the green man pulled himself out of the transport.

I looked over at Hickory. "Do you think he's an actual threat? I think if he wanted to attack us, he could have just dropped a rock on the house while he was flying over it."

"I am always for prudence," Hickory said. The unsaid portion of that sentence was when you are involved. Hickory is very sweet, and paranoid.

"Let's try the first line of defense instead," I said, and walked over to the screen door. Babar the mutt was standing at it, his front paws up on the door, cursing the genetic fate that left him without opposable thumbs or the brains to pull the door instead of pushing on it. I opened the door for him; he took off like a furry heat-seeking slobber missile. To the green man's credit, he took a knee and greeted Babar like an old friend, and was generously coated in dog drool for his pains.

"Good thing he's not soluble," I said to Hickory.

"Babar is not a very good watchdog," Hickory said, as it watched the green man play with my dog.

"No, he's really not," I agreed. "But if you ever need something really moistened, he's got you covered."

"I will remember that for future reference," Hickory said, in that noncommittal way designed for dealing with my sarcasm.

"Do that," I said, and opened the door again. "And stay in here for now, please."

"As you say, Zoë," Hickory said.

"Thanks," I said, and walked out to the porch.

By this time the green man had gotten to the porch steps, Babar bouncing behind him. "I like your dog," he said to me.

"I see that," I said. "The dog's only so-so about you."

"How can you tell?" he asked.

"You're not completely bathed in saliva," I said.

He laughed. "I'll try harder next time," he said.

"Remember to bring a towel," I said.

The green man motioned to the house. "This is Major Perry's house?"

"I hope so," I said. "All his stuff is here."

This earned me about a two-second pause.

Yes, as it happens, I am a sarcastic little thing. Thanks for asking. It comes from living with my dad all these years. He considers himself quite the wit; I don't know how I feel about that one, personally, but I will say that it's made me pretty forward when it comes to comebacks and quips. Give me a soft lob, I'll be happy to spike it. I think it's endearing and charming; so does Dad. We may be in the minority with that opinion. If nothing else it's interesting to see how other people react to it. Some people think it's cute. Others not so much.

I think my green friend fell into the "not so much" camp, because his response was to change the subject. "I'm sorry," he said. "I don't think I know who you are."

"I'm Zoë," I said. "Major Perry's daughter. Lieutenant Sagan's, too."

"Oh, right," he said. "I'm sorry. I pictured you as younger."

"I used to be," I said.

"I should have known you were his daughter," he said. "You look like him in the eyes."

Fight the urge, the polite part of my brain said. Fight it. Just let it go.

"Thank you," I said. "I'm adopted."

My green friend stood there for a minute, doing that thing people do when they've just stepped in it: freezing and putting a smile on their face while their brain strips its gears trying to figure how it's going to extract itself out of this faux pas. If I leaned in, I could probably hear his frontal lobes go click click click click, trying to reset.

See, now, that was just mean, said the polite part of my brain.

But come on. If the guy was calling Dad "Major Perry," then he probably knew when Dad was discharged from service, which was eight years ago. CDF soldiers can't make babies; that's part of their combat-effective genetic engineering, don't you know — no accidental kids — so his earliest opportunity to spawn would have been when they put him in a new, regular body at the end of his service term. And then there's the whole "nine months gestation" thing. I might have been a little small for my age when I was fifteen, but I assure you, I didn't look seven.

Honestly, I think there's a limit to how bad I should feel in a situation like that. Grown men should be able to handle a little basic math.

Still, there's only so long you can leave someone on the hook. "You called Dad 'Major Perry,'" I said. "Did you know him from the service?"

"I did," he said, and seemed happy that the conversation was moving forward again. "It's been a while, though. I wonder if I'll recognize him."

"I imagine he looks the same," I said. "Maybe a different skin tone."

He chuckled at that. "I suppose that's true," he said. "Being green would make it a little more difficult to blend in."

"I don't think he would ever quite blend in here," I said, and then immediately realized all the very many ways that statement could be misinterpreted.

And of course, my visitor wasted no time doing just that. "Does he not blend?" he asked, and then bent down to pat Babar.

"That's not what I meant," I said. "Most of the people here at Huckleberry are from India, back on Earth, or were born here from people who came from India. It's a different culture than the one he grew up in, that's all."

"I understand," the green man said. "And I'm sure he gets along very well with the people here. Major Perry is like that. I'm sure that's why he has the job he has here." My dad's job was as an ombudsman, someone who helps people cut through government bureaucracy. "I guess I'm just curious if he likes it here."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"I was just wondering how he's been enjoying his retirement from the universe, is all," he said, and looked back up at me.

In the back of my brain something went ping. I was suddenly aware that our nice and casual conversation had somehow become something less casual. Our green visitor wasn't just here for a social call.

"I think he likes it fine," I said, and kept from saying anything else. "Why?"

"Just curious," he said, petting Babar again. I fought off the urge to call my dog over. "Not everyone makes the jump from military life to civilian life perfectly." He looked around. "This looks like a pretty sedate life. It's a pretty big switch."

"I think he likes it just fine," I repeated, putting enough emphasis on the words that unless my green visitor was an absolute toad, he'd know to move on.

"Good," he said. "What about you? How do you like it here?"

I opened my mouth to respond, and then shut it just as quickly. Because, well. There was a question.

The idea of living on a human colony is more exciting than the reality. Some folks new to the concept think that people out in the colonies go from planet to planet all the time, maybe living on one planet, working on another and then having vacations on a third: the pleasure planet of Vacationaria, maybe. The reality is, sadly, far more boring. Most colonists live their whole lives on their home planet, and never get out to see the rest of the universe.

It's not impossible to go from planet to planet, but there's usually a reason for it: You're a member of the crew on a trade ship, hauling fruit and wicker baskets between the stars, or you get a job with the Colonial Union itself and start a glorious career as an interstellar bureaucrat. If you're an athlete, there's the Colonial Olympiad every four years. And occasionally a famous musician or actor will do a grand tour of the colonies.

But mostly, you're born on a planet, you live on a planet, you die on a planet, and your ghost hangs around and annoys your descendants on that planet. I don't suppose there's really anything bad about that — I mean, most people don't actually go more than a couple dozen kilometers from their homes most of the time in day-to-day life, do they? And people hardly see most of their own planet when they do decide to wander off. If you've never seen the sights on your own planet, I don't know how much you can really complain about not seeing a whole other planet.

But it helps to be on an interesting planet.

In case this ever gets back to Huckleberry: I love Huckleberry, really I do. And I love New Goa, the little town where we lived. When you're a kid, a rural, agriculturally-based colony town is a lot of fun to grow up in. It's life on a farm, with goats and chickens and fields of wheat and sorghum, harvest celebrations and winter festivals. There's not an eight- or nine-year-old kid who's been invented who doesn't find all of that unspeakably fun. But then you become a teenager and you start thinking about everything you might possibly want to do with your life, and you look at the options available to you. And then all farms, goats and chickens — and all the same people you've known all your life and will know all your life — begin to look a little less than optimal for a total life experience. It's all still the same, of course. That's the point. It's you who's changed.

I know this bit of teenage angst wouldn't make me any different than any other small-town teenager who has ever existed throughout the history of the known universe. But when even the "big city" of a colony — the district capital of Missouri City — holds all the mystery and romance of watching compost, it's not unreasonable to hope for something else.

I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with Missouri City (there's nothing wrong with compost, either; you actually need it). Maybe it's better to say it's the sort of place you come back to, once you've gone out and had your time in the big city, or the big bad universe. One of the things I know about Mom is that she loved it on Huckleberry. But before she was here, she was a Special Forces soldier. She doesn't talk too much about all the things she's seen and done, but from personal experience I know a little bit about it. I can't imagine a whole life of it. I think she'd say that she'd seen enough of the universe.

I've seen some of the universe, too, before we came to Huckleberry. But unlike Jane — unlike Mom — I don't think I'm ready to say Huckleberry's all I want out of a life.

But I wasn't sure I wanted to say any of that to this green guy, who I had become suddenly rather suspicious of. Green men falling from the sky, asking after the psychological states of various family members including oneself, are enough to make a girl paranoid about what's going on. Especially when, as I suddenly realized, I didn't actually get the guy's name. He'd gotten this far into my family life without actually saying who he was.

Maybe this was just something he'd innocently managed to overlook — this wasn't a formal interview, after all — but enough bells were ringing in my head that I decided that my green friend had had enough free information for one day.

Green man was looking at me intently, waiting for me to respond. I gave him my best noncommittal shrug. I was fifteen years old. It's a quality age for shrugging.

He backed off a bit. "I don't suppose your dad is home," he said.

"Not yet," I said. I checked my PDA and showed it to him. "His workday finished up a few minutes ago. He and Mom are probably walking home."

"Okay. And your mom is constable here, right?"

"Right," I said. Jane Sagan, frontier law woman. Minus the frontier. It fit her. "Did you know Mom, too?" I asked. Special Forces was an entirely different thing from regular infantry.

"Just by reputation," he said, and again there was that studied casual thing.

Folks, a little tip: Nothing is more transparent than you try for casual and miss. My green friend was missing it by a klick, and I got tired of feeling lightly groped for information.

"I think I'll go for a walk," I said. "Mom and Dad are probably right down the road. I'll let them know you're here."

"I'll go with you," Green man offered.

"That's all right," I said, and motioned him onto the porch, and to our porch swing. "You've been traveling. Have a seat and relax."

"All right," he said. "If you're comfortable having me here while you're gone." I think that was meant as a joke.

I smiled at him. "I think it'll be fine," I said. "You'll have company."

"You're leaving me the dog," he said. He sat.

"Even better," I said. "I'm leaving you two of my friends." This is when I called into the house for Hickory and Dickory, and then stood away from the door and watched my visitor, so I wouldn't miss his expression when the two of them came out.

He didn't quite wet his pants.

Which was an accomplishment, all things considered. Obin — which is what Hickory and Dickory are — don't look exactly like a cross between a spider and a giraffe, but they're close enough to make some part of the human brain fire up the drop ballast alert. You get used to them after a bit. But the point is it takes a while.

"This is Hickory," I said, pointing to the one at the left of me, and then pointed to the one at my right. "And this is Dickory. They're Obin."

"Yes, I know," my visitor said, with the sort of tone you'd expect from a very small animal trying to pretend that being cornered by a pair of very large predators was not that big of a deal. "Uh. So. These are your friends."

"Best friends," I said, with what I felt was just the right amount of brainless gush. "And they love to entertain visitors. They'll be happy to keep you company while I go look for my parents. Isn't that right?" I said to Hickory and Dickory.

"Yes," they said, together. Hickory and Dickory are fairly monotone to begin with; having them be monotone in stereo offers an additional — and delightful! — creepy effect.

"Please say hello to our guest," I said.

"Hello," they said, again in stereo.

"Uh," said Green man. "Hi."

"Great, everybody's friends," I said, and stepped off the porch. Babar left our green friend to follow me. "I'm off, then."

"You sure you don't want me to come along?" Green man said. "I don't mind."

"No, please," I said. "I don't want you to feel like you have to get up for anything." My eyes sort of casually flicked over at Hickory and Dickory, as if to imply it would be a shame if they had to make steaks out of him.

"Great," he said, and settled onto the swing. I think he got the hint. See, that's how you do studied casual.

"Great," I said. Babar and I headed off down the road to find my folks.


I climbed out onto the roof through my bedroom window and looked back at Hickory. "Hand me those binoculars," I said. It did —

(Obin: "it," not "he" or "she." Because they're hermaphrodites. That means male and female sex organs. Go ahead and have your giggle. I'll wait. Okay, done? Good.)

— and then climbed out the window with me. Since you've probably never seen it I'll have you know it's a pretty impressive sight to watch an Obin unfold itself to get through a window. Very graceful, with no real analogue to any human movement you might want to describe. The universe, it has aliens in it. And they are.


Excerpted from Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi, Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Copyright © 2008 John Scalzi. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

John Scalzi won the 2006 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and his debut novel Old Man's War was a finalist for science fiction's Hugo Award. His other books include The Ghost Brigades, The Android's Dream and The Last Colony. He has won the Hugo Award, the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for science-fiction, the Seiun, The Kurd Lasswitz and the Geffen awards. His weblog, Whatever, is one of the most widely-read web sites in modern SF. Born and raised in California, Scalzi studied at the University of Chicago. He lives in southern Ohio with his wife and daughter.

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Zoe's Tale 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 63 reviews.
DrewGuy More than 1 year ago
I picked this ebook up thinking it would tell a new story set sometime after The Last Colony. Unfortunately, this is a complete retelling of The Last Colony, only from Zoe's viewpoint. And it was boring. There are significant plot points to The Last Colony, and having presented that story once, Scalzi obviously can't relate it in such detail again. So instead Scalzi gives a synopsis of each critical plot point when the book gets there, essentially skimming over all the action and drama. This makes the book very weak. In fact, there is only two completely new scenes: the first to address some criticism he received about introducing and then dropping the "werewolves"; and the second the story of what happens when Zoe enters Conclave territory to deliver John's message to General Gau. By themselves, not worth buying this book for. To be fair, the voice Scalzi creates for Zoe is believable, and the dialogue mostly entertaining. Scalzi does have a way with sarcastic dialogue. But this is the only redeeming feature of the book. Overall, the constant narration of the same story weakens Zoe's character quite a bit. She would have been stronger in an original story. Or, if Scalzi could have woven Zoe's Tale into The Last Colony, it would have made that book even better than it is now. But simply retelling the one book from a different character's viewpoint just didn't work. I won't say not to buy this book. But if you do so, be aware of what you are paying for.
BdGold More than 1 year ago
This was such a disappointment. Don't get me wrong. I love the Old Man's War series, and John Scalzi is a pretty good story teller with a rich SF universe. I bought this simply because Scalzi had written it, figuring that even a "bad" book by him would be good. Nope. I grabbed Zoe's Tale without bothering to read any reviews. Stupid, I know. I have paid the price. This is Last Colony told from Zoe's point of view. Sadly it adds little to even understanding the Last Colony. Also I have teenage daughters. I know entirely too much about teenage girl behavior. I don't need to grab a book expecting Sci-Fi swashbuckling and get the FaceBook version of my daughters' last sleep over. That being said, I am still heading back to the bookstore to find another Scalzi book because I need my fix.
Adam_Weeks More than 1 year ago
I wish I read some reviews before I bought this book! John Scalzi must be under a contract to write X amount of books because this "Zoe's Tale" proves that he is suffering from writers block. I feel dupped & quite honestly I don't think I will continue with this series because I don't trust him now.
The same story but from another characters perspective, I mean come on! That's pathetic!
Goofyfoot2001 More than 1 year ago
Funny how lengthy and well written the good reviews are here. The bad reviews tell the story here. No point revisiting the same story. This must have been a horendously boring book to be forced to write. Loved the series though. Couldn't put those first three down and read all three in about a week.
Midwesterner More than 1 year ago
Agree with DrewGuy's review. While the book reflects Scalzi's writing skill, it does not have enough new plot-material to be satisfying for those of us who've read the other books in the "Old Man's War" series. Avoid disappointment (and make time for the rest of your reading stack) by just reading Chapters 16-17 and 22-25.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I made an old man all misty. I hope he writes another in this series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A retelling of the story from Zoe's perspective. Fun and a must read for fans of the authors other books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
But I guess I have to write something, too. I'll just put the same thing for all of Scalzi's work. Basically, funny dialogue and narration, completely lacking in pretension, and clever plot-writing to boot. I don't usually have favorites if anything, but Scalzi has earned the position of my favorite author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gawd More than 1 year ago
Imaginatively sculpted Universe with diverse races and many things going on; not just waiting for the MC
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
James_Reid More than 1 year ago
Zoe's Tale is an excellent example of expanding a story by telling from a completely different perspective. Scalzi is a skilled writer.
DFY More than 1 year ago
Scalzi is a master story teller to be able to pull off two books in a row about the same series of events. The perspective of Zoe's tale is different and exciting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Morningbreeze: res2 <br> Sharkfang: res3 <br> Lionpaw: res4 <br> Abby: res 5 <br> Extus Eagle: res 6 <p> Abby can be found in camp half blood at athenian constitution. Her favourite colour is blue and she can so far hold her breath for upto 20 min under water.
Drewano More than 1 year ago
As indicated from the title of the book this story is told from the viewpoint of John and Jane&rsquo;s teenage daughter Zoey.  Although she&rsquo;s just a teenager, you would never know it from the way she acts and talks during the book.  Yes there are some teenage angst and immaturity but it&rsquo;s few and far between.  Although an interesting take, this book doesn't add much to the &ldquo;Old Man&rsquo;s War&rdquo; story as its follows the same events as the reader saw &ldquo;The Lost Colony&rdquo; just from a different perspective.  There are a few new things we learn but they&rsquo;re character specific.  That being said if you enjoy the series you&rsquo;ll enjoy this one as well!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read Old Man's War and I was hooked. I've read everything Scalzi has done. The Old man's war and Ghost Brigade was up there with the all time greatest ...such as Ray Bradbury. I was somewhat disappointed with the rambling and confusion of Zoe's Tale. It was good, but a long way from his best.
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