The hard core sci-fi cover might make you think otherwise, but Zoe’s Tale is chiefly an empowering yet sweet coming of age story about 17 year old Zoe, both player and pawn in a complex interstellar battle between the Colonial Union (the human alliance) and the Conclave (an alliance of roughly 400 alien species). If you’ve read The Last Colony, I guess you probably know how it all turns out since this is apparently a novel with a parallel timeline told from a different perspective. If you haven’t, no matter, as this exciting tale can stand on its own.
Zoe, her adopted parents, her two alien bodyguards and about 2000 settlers from 10 different human colonies are sent off by the Colonial Union to colonize a new planet called Roanoke (and anyone who knows American history will appreciate the irony of the name). As it turns out, the Colonial Union has plans that don’t have the best interests of the colonists at heart. But fortunately, Zoe is not the type of girl who goes down without fight, especially when the lives of her parents, her new best friend Gretchen (with whom she has a great sarcastic rapport) and her new boyfriend Enzo’s lives are at stake.
I like sci-fi, but I’ve never been big on books where alien races make up a big part of the narrative because of all the exposition you normally have to slog through. Author John Scalzi is wise to keep this to a minimum and the aliens he does introduce even manage to be entertaining (picture big spider like creatures at a hoedown and try not to laugh). Don’t let the star trek like premise turn you off, because Zoe, an ordinary teenage girl asked to be extraordinary, is worth getting to know. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Although this isn’t a YA novel, Publisher Tor is actively courting the teen market. And with a heroine as appealing and strong as Zoe, I think they just might succeed.
Zoe’s Tale comes out this Tuesday August 19th.