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Old Man's War [Kindle Edition]

John Scalzi
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,553 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.

Books In This Series (4 Books)
Complete Series

  • Editorial Reviews

    From Publishers Weekly

    Starred Review. Though a lot of SF writers are more or less efficiently continuing the tradition of Robert A. Heinlein, Scalzi's astonishingly proficient first novel reads like an original work by the late grand master. Seventy-five-year-old John Perry joins the Colonial Defense Force because he has nothing to keep him on Earth. Suddenly installed in a better-than-new young body, he begins developing loyalty toward his comrades in arms as they battle aliens for habitable planets in a crowded galaxy. As bloody combat experiences pile up, Perry begins wondering whether the slaughter is justified; in short, is being a warrior really a good thing, let alone being human? The definition of "human" keeps expanding as Perry is pushed through a series of mind-stretching revelations. The story obviously resembles such novels as Starship Trooper and Time Enough for Love, but Scalzi is not just recycling classic Heinlein. He's working out new twists, variations that startle even as they satisfy. The novel's tone is right on target, too—sentimentality balanced by hardheaded calculation, know-it-all smugness moderated by innocent wonder. This virtuoso debut pays tribute to SF's past while showing that well-worn tropes still can have real zip when they're approached with ingenuity.
    Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    From Booklist

    With his wife dead and buried, and life nearly over at 75, John Perry takes the only logical course of action left him: he joins the army. Now better known as the Colonial Defense Force (CDF), Perry's service-of-choice has extended its reach into interstellar space to pave the way for human colonization of other planets while fending off marauding aliens. The CDF has a trick up its sleeve that makes enlistment especially enticing for seniors: the promise of restoring youth. After bonding with a group of fellow recruits who dub their clique the Old Farts, Perry finds himself in a new body crafted from his original DNA and upgraded for battle, including fast-clotting "smartblood" and a brain-implanted personal computer. All too quickly the Old Farts are separated, and Perry fights for his life on various alien-infested battlegrounds. Scalzi's blending of wry humor and futuristic warfare recalls Joe Haldeman's classic, The Forever War (1974), and strikes the right fan--pleasing chords to probably garner major sf award nominations. Carl Hays
    Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

    Product Details

    • File Size: 678 KB
    • Print Length: 332 pages
    • Publisher: Tor Books (April 1, 2007)
    • Sold by: Macmillan
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B000SEIK2S
    • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
    • X-Ray:
    • Word Wise: Enabled
    • Lending: Not Enabled
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #596 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    278 of 299 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Methuselah's Troopers Will Fear No Evil August 9, 2005
    The title of my review isn't fair; I'm making it sound as though John Scalzi's first novel is a mishmash of Robert A. Heinlein works. It's not; in fact it's refreshingly original, and you certainly don't have to be a Heinlein fan (or even to have read Heinlein) in order to enjoy and appreciate it. But as Scalzi himself remarks in his acknowledgements, the influence _is_ fairly obvious.

    At any rate, I really like the book -- and on its own merits, not just because it reminds me of Heinlein. (Nor is it just because the hero, John Nicholas Perry, hails from the county seat of Darke County in my home state of Ohio, where Scalzi now lives.) Scalzi is a fine writer and his ideas sparkle off the page.

    I won't spoil anything for you; just keep your eyes peeled for at least one really cool idea every three or four pages. (And if Scalzi hasn't blown your mind within the first couple hundred pages, it'll happen when Alan Rosenthal explains how the skip drive works.) I can't really tell you anything specific without giving away something better left for you to discover as you read.

    I can say in general, though, that Scalzi has a pretty healthy sense of what it will take for human beings to colonize other planets in a universe that contains other sentient species. (And I think he has a better appreciation of moral ambiguity than Heinlein did even on his best day.) He's also got a knack for thinking up clever and gruesome ways for people to die. Oh, and there's a lot of nicely handled bittersweet stuff that may bring tears to your eyes if you're inclined to that sort of thing.

    All in all, a fine first novel; I'll look forward to reading his next (_Agent to the Stars_) as well as what appears to be a sequel currently in the works (_The Ghost Brigades_). And welcome to Ohio, John.
    Was this review helpful to you?
    238 of 260 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Mindblowing. A terrific read. January 1, 2005
    Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
    I went back and forth between four stars and five. On the one hand, this novel is not great literature on the level of say, "Dune" by Frank Herbert. On the other hand, "Old Man's War" is a terrific read, very imaginative, and not terribly implausible.

    No spoilers here, so my discussion of the story will be limited. The essential premise and storyline is that in the near future, Earth/humankind have discovered the "skip drive" which is a method of interstellar space travel. Mankind quickly learns that valuable planets are a scarce commodity and there are several intelligent races in our neck of the Galaxy that as a matter of routine try to use military force to take planets away from other races. Including, of course, human colonial planets. Accordingly, to protect Earth and also to protect colony worlds, the "Colonial Defense Force" enlists elderly human beings on Earth as soldiers to protect the colony worlds. The protagonist in the novel is such a one.

    The novel includes pretty strong character development. It manages to make some of the characters both lifelike and alien. This is no small feat and a task that most science fiction authors struggle with. Here, the author succeeds.

    The author's speculations about what interaction between mankind and aliens will be like are startling. The reader can decide for him or her self whether they are plausible. I was not able to say that they were implausible, at any rate.

    The novel contains dazzling speculation about the future destiny of humanity in space and technology in general. This, combined with a fast-moving storyline and solid plot, earns this one five stars in my opinion.
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    144 of 165 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars Light, Breezy SF September 1, 2007
    Format:Mass Market Paperback
    I'm not a hardcore reader of science fiction, but I've heard a lot of good things about John Scalzi, so I thought I would give this book I try. I found OLD MAN'S WAR enjoyable, but surprisingly lightweight.

    This novel begins superbly. The main character is a 75-year old man who has volunteered for military service. He is very likable person, and the story begins with his enlistment and his transformation into a fighting machine. All of this is fun, imaginative and very well done. I had great hopes for the rest of this novel as a result.

    Unfortunately, OLD MAN'S WAR takes a bit of a tumble after the first third. This book essentially becomes a military war story, and Scalzi does a subpar job of supplying any of the supporting characters with a distinct personality. To a large degree, I found most of them rather boring and interchangeable. There is a lot of action in this book, and a fair number of characters die, but I couldn't care less because I never really got to know any of them. The result is a less than compelling read.

    There is also a ton of jokey dialogue in OLD MAN'S WAR, which I found rather jarring, given the serious themes that Scalzi seemed interesting in exploring. I enjoy humor in a book, but not the sort of endless wisecracking that I found here. As another reviewer commented, it's hard to believe any of these characters is 75 years old. They sound more like a group of smart-alecky college kids, each trying to one-up the other in the joke department.

    That being said, Scalzi has a first-rate creative mind, and I enjoyed the world-building he did for OLD MAN'S WAR. He also writes in a smooth style that's pretty easy to read, and the story moves at a fast clip. Many of the fight scenes are well done.
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    Most Recent Customer Reviews
    5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
    It's not possible to give this more stars but I would if I could. Great story that was really well written. This is my first Scalzi book I've read but it won't be the last.
    Published 16 hours ago by Andy in Colorado
    5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book!
    Read this book! It is different, interesting and innovative. I loved it.
    Published 19 hours ago by aprildoggie
    2.0 out of 5 stars Old formula, may marginally work on old men
    This is not only old men's war, it is also old men's book. The only original idea is the future use of old people as soldiers, once they are improved with technology (not going to... Read more
    Published 1 day ago by medfair
    5.0 out of 5 stars Brings back memories of early science fiction in the '60's
    I hope that this does not turn off younger readers, but in fact this novel by John Scalzi does perfectly transport me back to my youth, the days when I'd wait with great... Read more
    Published 2 days ago by Phil in Mågnoliá
    5.0 out of 5 stars Great story - wanting more.. oh wait there IS MORE! :)
    Mr. Scalzi has reinvigorated my ability to enjoy SF. First of all Scalzi handles something that has to been done, especially in SF, and which most other authors suck at.. Read more
    Published 2 days ago by PageTurner
    5.0 out of 5 stars Humorous and true, very true...
    This book is filled with awesome and amazing humor, yet keeps the strong sense of realism in the book. This book relates to our inner-humanness very well in my opinion. Read more
    Published 3 days ago by T. Humphrey
    5.0 out of 5 stars Great story
    This is a great book. Real characters, tense action, and an interesting story. Can't wait to read the next book!
    Published 3 days ago by Barry Kenneally
    5.0 out of 5 stars As good as it gets
    This is as good as Science Fiction gets.

    The opening chapter is so pure, heartfelt, and real that it sucks you in instantly. Read more
    Published 5 days ago by EC
    5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
    Not your typical sy fi story.
    I really enjoyed it and I am not a sy fi fan
    Try it out
    Published 7 days ago by Randy M. Roth
    5.0 out of 5 stars Pastiche...
    Scalzi comes out of fandom and his style of writing reflects this. He does not create new works but re-envisions what I call the Classical Period of Science Fiction, a time beyond... Read more
    Published 7 days ago by Gregory Alan Wingo
    Search Customer Reviews

    More About the Author

    John Scalzi writes books, which, considering where you're reading this, makes perfect sense. He's best known for writing science fiction, including the New York Times bestseller "Redshirts," which won the Hugo Award for Best Novel. He also writes non-fiction, on subjects ranging from personal finance to astronomy to film, was the Creative Consultant for the Stargate: Universe television series. He enjoys pie, as should all right thinking people. You can get to his blog by typing the word "Whatever" into Google. No, seriously, try it.

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    Topic From this Discussion
    Scalzi and Heinlein
    i liked heinlein when i was young and didn't really think about his portrayals--i really liked old man's war and the series. scalzi's characters seems very true and he does not overload the morality tale of his stories
    Jan 24, 2010 by Kindle Customer |  See all 3 posts
    If they can create Ghost Brigades from DNA, why recruit old men?
    Belatedly, here's my take.

    In our world, while a large part of the training human beings to become special forces troops is physical in nature, it taps into the psychological in a big way: do you have the guts to keep going, no matter what?

    I'm guessing it would be easier to build such a... Read More
    Mar 26, 2014 by Anthony Prudori |  See all 4 posts
    Who did the cover art?
    John Harris. Probably my favorite sci-fi cover artist.
    Mar 20, 2012 by mike palmer |  See all 2 posts
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