“Old Man’s War” by John Scalzi

“Old Man’s War” is a science fiction novel by John Scalzi, an author who happens to be internet-famous for taping bacon to his cat.  My boyfriend read “Old Man’s War” first and couldn’t put it down, and since we have similar taste in books, I decided to give it a go.  I’m so very glad that I did.

The story begins when John Perry’s wife dies and he decides to join the army on his 75th birthday.  Alien life has been discovered and Earth has begun colonies in outer space, but due to a strict quarantine, people aren’t allowed to come back to Earth once they’ve left.  This means that Perry knows nothing but rumors of the Colonial Defense Force (CDF) and the war that they’re fighting in outer space.  The CDF recruits old men from Earth who assume that the advanced technology and resources available to the army can make them young again.  That’s about all that I can say about the plot, because if I talked much about the rest of the book then I’d quickly devolve into major plot spoilers.

Scalzi’s writing is very approachable, even if you don’t read a lot of sci-fi.  He’s also got a great sense of humor (the scene where all the old people in their young bodies start having sex with each other because they can comes to mind… it would totally happen), and I was amused that he named a minor character after Neil Gaiman.

Perry finds a sense of camaraderie in the CDF, and quickly rises through the ranks.  I liked the way that Scalzi used Perry’s character to examine the emotional implications of war, especially when the odds seem unbalanced.  In once scene, Perry feels bad about stomping on teeny tiny aliens, only to be continually reassured by his superiors that what he’s doing is for the ultimate benefit of mankind.  We see the CDF being used in situations where politicians hadn’t exhausted other options, and the troops do struggle morally with what they’re told to do.  At the same time, they realize that they’re fighting for their former friends and families back on Earth and that nothing is quite as simple as it seems.

For those of you who have read the book, I’m a big fan of the ending, and the romance in the book was well-orchestrated.  This is one of those books where the love story enhances the story rather than detracts from it.

I enjoyed this book a lot, and I’m planning on reading the sequels at some point in the future.  I’d definitely recommend it.

Categories: Fiction, Sci Fi | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on ““Old Man’s War” by John Scalzi

  1. This goes on the list! Thanks. I’ve been looking for a good bit of modern science fiction. I especially like the mental picture of old men stomping on tiny aliens.

  2. This sounds like a good one for me. I haven’t read a lot of SF but after Asimov I’m more curious about the genre. And if both you and Carl like, odds are I will.

    • I think you’d like it. Scalzi’s a really fun person, too… I read his blog and it tends to be pretty amusing.

    • I’ve read “We,” but that’s the only one so far. I do have a short story by Olaf Stapledon in a collection of stories themed around singularity that I’ll be reviewing sometime in the future. 🙂

  3. Carl V.

    This is by far one of my favorite SF novels. It came along at a time when I wasn’t reading much contemporary SF and Scalzi single-handedly relit a fire in me for the kind of fiction I loved as a young reader. I really enjoy the other three novels in the series as well, and that romantic trend continues throughout as well as some good family and community stuff too. He is always entertaining.

    I too think he does a really good job here of examining the consequences of war and lets you see things from more than one side and yet I never felt like he was being preachy or one-sided in his position.

    I love John and Jane. So great.

    • I’m looking forward to the sequels. John and Jane are one of the few book couples that I can be completely and unhesitatingly invested in. A lot of the time I feel like the romance subplot of books can distract readers from the main action (um, Hunger Games, this means you!), but in this case it felt completely natural and I could feel for each of the characters.

      I loved the fact that Scalzi’s commentary on war wasn’t preachy, and that there weren’t any easy answers. It was more like he used the CDF to explore a lot of thoughts, but allowing each person to come to their own conclusion.

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