John Scalzi’s The Last Colony starts off in Bad Scalzi territory, with smugger-than-thou characters bantering smugly amonst themselves in a way that makes you want to punch them in the face, and cartoonish caricature villains getting their comeuppance in hilarious ways that reveal their cowardice and the author’s heavy hand. “You’re better than this!” I shout at the book. “Your writing has gotten past this stage!”
And, in a miraculous fit of time travel rewriting, Scalzi listened to me and made the rest of the book of a piece with the subtler, more complex, and more interesting The Ghost Brigades instead of the anvilicious and trashy Old Man’s War. Some of the people in the book even make the transition from caricature to character as the writing deepens back up.
The net result is a solid if unspectacular piece of spopera, sort of the poor man’s James Alan Gardner.