Old Man’s War (Old Man’s War #1)
By: John Scalzi
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.
The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce-and aliens willing to fight for them are common. The universe, it turns out, is a hostile place.
So: we fight. To defend Earth (a target for our new enemies, should we let them get close enough) and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has gone on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.
Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity’s resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force, which shields the home planet from too much knowledge of the situation. What’s known to everybody is that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You’ll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You’ll serve your time at the front. And if you survive, you’ll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.
John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine-and what he will become is far stranger.
The only book by John Scalzi that I read to date was Redshirts (review) which I really enjoyed. This book by him has been on my want-to-read list for a very long time so I was quite thrilled when I finally got my hands on it 🙂 I’ve heard so much about it that I wanted to read it for myself.
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Oh gosh, where to begin with this novel? I guess to start with, when I started reading it, I knew I was reading a John Scalzi novel. Even though it’s my second novel by him, the writing and humour is definitely familiar. The humour especially, which is greatly needed when things get pretty bad fighting against all sorts of alien species. I especially enjoyed the banter and the back-and-forth dialogue between groups of characters (hehe, “The Old Farts” was like the Breakfast Club except, you know, they’re all geriatrics), it was sharp and funny and sitcom-like.
The story itself was interesting, how when people hit their 75th birthday they would join the Colonial Forces, leave Earth, and fight to protect human colonies elsewhere in the galaxy. The science is interesting on how these elderly men and women are able to fight (I’m not going to mention exactly what is done here, but it’s what you suspect would happen–and more), not to mention all the swanky upgrades designed to help them perform to their very best; I can see some of this stuff actually existing in the future, right down to the way they PR it afterwards 😛 It’s also interesting the way they view their lives as a result of their recruitment; in a way it feels like an afterlife or being reborn or however you want to interpret it.
Going back to the story, it was interesting. Some elements were expected, as the story hints at, but I figured there was much more to the conflict than expected. The bit I had fun with was learning more about other branches of the Colonial Forces, especially the Ghost Brigades and what was up with them. John Perry is a lucky man going through what he did–well, I suppose he’d have to be since he’s the one narrating the novel–but the dangers they face are very real. The story wraps up nicely but with enough that I could see how the story would expand to future novels.
Overall I really enjoyed reading Old Man’s War. It’s fun (hilarious dialogue amidst not-so-great times, great cast of characters that come in and out) but it’s also serious and thoughtful. If you’re a reader of science fiction, this book is definitely worth checking out.