Scalzi’s Writing

A while back I started reading John Scalzi’s blog, which has some cool info for writers. I don’t usually read sci-fi, so I hadn’t actually read any of his stuff. Then I read his April Fools’ prologue to the first book of his non-existent fantasy trilogy The Shadow War of the Night Dragons.

I was extremely impressed with his writing; I wish he would really write that trilogy, because I’d love to read it. But it made me interested to read more of his stuff, so over the second half of last week, I read his sci-fi trilogy that begins with Old Man’s War, and wow.

The creativity and attention to detail here is incredible, and Scalzi’s writing really is masterful. I think the first book is the best, followed by the third (The Last Colony) and then the second (The Ghost Brigades). The only thing I noticed in Scalzi’s writing style that some might call a flaw is his tendency to “infodump” alternately every few pages: he’ll go into a detailed explanation of something that will ultimately turn out to be somewhat related to the story. Don’t get me wrong, these segments are just as well done as the rest, sometimes presenting some of the cleverest parts of the whole book, but they do break up the pace a bit.

I like Old Man’s War the best partially because of this: those segments are less cumbersome with some specific features to help them out. I didn’t actually notice it at all in Old Man’s War until looking back after reading The Ghost Brigades, because first person point of view helps. Since the protagonist is there through these segments as a frame of reference, it is easier to get into and through them, which helps keep the pace going. This was the case for Old Man’s War and The Last Colony, but The Ghost Brigades was written in third person for the obvious reason that its protagonist didn’t appear until about a quarter of the way through the story. Unfortunately that means many of the “infodump” segments didn’t really have a frame of reference to help keep the pacing (something that seemed to slow down the first part of the book before the protagonist appeared, as well). The tendency shows in The Shadow War of the Night Dragons also, but there the humor keeps it going as it does for Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams.

Overall, though, wow. Scalzi is an excellent writer whose stuff you should read.

I picked up Zoe’s Tale as many people did: not realizing that it is the same story as The Last Colony but from a different character’s perspective. I will read it, but after a break, since The Last Colony is still a little too fresh on my mind.

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