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The End of All Things
Old Man's War, Book 6
by John Scalzi
Tor, $8.99, 400pp
Published 2015

In the first book we learned that humans have spread all over the universe but rather than an idyllic galaxy-wide confederation of trade, it’s all they can do just to stay alive.  Turns out the humans have lots of competition for prime real estate.  The Colonial Defense Forces are the only thing standing between human colonies and all the alien-uglies trying to kill them to take away a planet.  What makes this story stand apart is a clever twist:  rather than recruiting from young people and destroying generations in sometimes hopeless battles; they recruit from seniors who have lived their full lives and are on the down-hill slide.  The recruitment is simple and irresistible:  on your 75th birthday, you can choose to join the CDF for a minimum two-year term of service, not to exceed ten years; and, in return, they will make you young again.  There are, of course, catches.  They will never return to Earth, they will never see friends or family again; and, no one on Earth has the slightest idea how the promise of youth is fulfilled. Oh, and they’ll probably die.

This book is actually a collection of four interrelated novellas.  The first third of the book is Rafe Daquin’s story; of how he became the first brain-in-a-box to escape from his captors and deal damage at the same time. The next part of the story was about the Colonial Union ship that arrived at the Conclave with an open plea to be heard regarding the fate of the human traitor.  This happens at the same time as Sorvahl is navigating the treacherous shoals of politics amid the consequences of the apparent assassination of General Gau.  To allow the Colonial Union to address the Conclave and retain her position of authority was going to be very tricky.

The next short piece, about a quarter of the book – more or less, concerns a squad of CDF soldiers who are sent on mission after mission to quell revolts on colony planets.  After a while, even they begin to question the stability of the Colonial Union when so many colonies are unhappy enough to stage a futile revolt.  What they discover, of course, is that while the colonies are certainly dissatisfied, their revolts actually had a bit of a push.

The last section features Harry Wilson and his attempts to interrogate the Rraey prisoners captured in the previous section.  It is his mission (and hope) to find reason behind the Equilibrium’s attempts to foment rebellion and find a way to stop it.  As it turned out, Harry and Ambassador Abumwe had to ask for the impossible to save humanity…with the help of their own enemies.

This wasn’t quite as satisfying or exciting as “The Human Division” but it was a very good conclusive story.  The novellas gave the author a chance to explore some of his characters in-depth and yet still add to the overall story arc.  Overall, I’d have to say the series rates about a 6 out of 10 for me.  It had some interesting worldbuilding and a few of the characters were very interesting but the plot seemed a bit unstable from time to time.  It’s hard to point to anything in particular but the flow of the six books felt erratic; although, the author did a credible job of maintaining the main plotline in the background.  Mostly what this was about was how humanity presented itself once it reached for the stars, how hard it is to gain trust when it was never offered first; and how true is the truism “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  ~~ Catherine Book

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