As I stated during one of my status updates, the structure of this book reminded me of I, Robot. In that short story collection, Asimov has a couple guys who work for US Robotics (or whatever the company’s called) who somehow always end up being on the scene when one of the robots finds a loophole through the Three Laws of Robotics. I loved both the “cruelty” of the situations Asimov put the guys through and their logic steps as they solved the problem. I don’t know if Scalzi was directly influenced by I, Robot, but the crew of The Clarke end up in a similar situation with Wilson and Schmidt playing the parts of the two guys from US Robotics. The book is also structured as a series of short stories with a bit more of an overarching plot linking them than in I, Robot, but they almost function as singular stories.
Although I was slightly disappointed at the ending – it’s no less of a cliffhanger than the end of The Last Colony – it didn’t detract from my love of the overall plot of the book.
Finally, I have to say that Scalzi has pulled a nice little trick with his Old Man’s War series. Each book is definitely science fiction, but it’s also another genre and so he’s been able to write lots of different genres while still playing off the fame of his sci fi work. The first book was military fiction, the third was frontier drama, the fourth was YA, and this one was essentially a political thriller slash deductive reasoning or whatever you want to classify this book and The Martian as. Well done, Scalzi. Well done.