Image from Amazon ebook cover
The End of All Things
by John Scalzi
A good friend of mine just recently wrote about The End of All Things. In it, he writes, “Scalzi is one of a very few genre writers whose work I’ll buy immediately in hardcover, no questions asked.” Since he said it so well, I won’t try to say the same thing differently, I echo that statement. The only minor difference is that I have slightly less access to hardcover, just replace hardcover with ebook. Oh, and I borrowed Lock In from said friend. OK, so while I don’t exactly buy every Scalzi book, the point is… If Scalzi writes a book, I will read it and find a way to do so before it comes out in paperback.
Similar to my friend’s opinion, TEOAT was really good, and I’m happy that I bought it and read it. It was not amazing. Maybe this is because I had such a great experience with Old Man’s War. OMW was such a surprise that I expected the the same level of surprise. This could very well be impossible. There are two things working against that; 1) I had no expectations going into OMW , whereas I did reading TEOAT, and 2) you can never go home again. Nostalgia is weighed down with positive bias. This is the problem of writing sequels. You either write the same book over and over again – and arguably satisfy your loyal fan base – or you write something different – and risk reviews that give you four stars instead of a five.
The book is written in installments. They were released separately and in order as ebook novellas. This is very similar to The Human Division. I had the same feelings about THD. That is to say, each story was an episode, a short story. They fit together fairly well. Each story had a point that progressed the overarching story. And here, it is very different from OMW. OMW was a a full length novel with a single character with his own story. TEOAT has several stories, with multiple main characters. Maybe if you read each episode separately in time it would be ok, but as a whole I was surprised by Scalzi’s choice to use the first person with four separate main characters. It reminded me that it is not a traditional novel. Of course, it’s four serialized novellas.
In Scalzi’s introduction, he wrote that TEOAT took him longer to write than most of his books. He had false starts and struggled whether he should write in first or third person. In the end, he settled on first person. Maybe that’s why each of the characters, as my friend mentioned earlier in this post said, “sound the same. In fact, they all talk (judging by his website) rather like … John Scalzi.” I think this is the essence of what made OMW so good, and left me wanting more with TEOAT. OMW was a full story about one great character, with a story arch, written in first person by a witty writer. I like short stories, too. That’s why TEOAT is still a fun ride, anyway a couple of fun rides.