John Scalzi seems determined to set himself a challenge with his latest entry in the "Old Man's War" series: tell several stories in a series of stand-alone parts that nonetheless can be brought together into a larger narrative. Though this can seem a writerly stunt, Scalzi pulls it off successfully. His stores tell of the fallout from John Perry's decision to end Earth's enforced isolation at the end of The Last Colony. with the Earth now denying the Colonial Union the steady stream of recruits necessary for them to wage their constant wars for interstellar turf, the CU is forced to dust off their underused tool of diplomacy in an effort to salvage the situation.
Scalzi develops events primarily (though not exclusively) from the perspective of Harry Wilson (one of the "Old Farts" from the first novel) and the team of diplomats to which he is often attached. Theirs is hardly a string of unbroken successes, as they are constantly challenged by a shadowy conspiracy determined to foment discord between the Colonial Union and the Earth, as well as between the CU and the alien alliance known as the Conclave. Here Scalzi demonstrates that he can make political intrigue every bit as exciting as futuristic combat, an achievement enhanced further by the nature of his self-imposed format. It all makes for an impressive work and a worthy contribution to his series, one that demonstrates how much of his tale remains to be written.