Customer Reviews


1,187 Reviews
5 star:
 (745)
4 star:
 (302)
3 star:
 (80)
2 star:
 (31)
1 star:
 (29)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


256 of 276 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Methuselah's Troopers Will Fear No Evil
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_...
Published on August 9, 2005 by John S. Ryan

versus
114 of 135 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Light, Breezy SF
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...
Published on September 1, 2007 by Thriller Lover


‹ Previous | 1 2119 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

256 of 276 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Methuselah's Troopers Will Fear No Evil, August 9, 2005
This review is from: Old Man's War (Hardcover)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


224 of 245 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mindblowing. A terrific read., January 1, 2005
By 
Roger J. Buffington (Huntington Beach, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Old Man's War (Hardcover)
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. Quite frankly, this is far and away the best science fiction novel that I have read since "Dune" and "The Forever War" and it gives my old favorite "The Forever War" a run for its money in terms of which is my favorite military science fiction novel of all time. Any lover of "hard" science fiction will want to snap this one up, and I imagine "Old Man's War" is destined for Hugo and Nebula awards.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


114 of 135 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Light, Breezy SF, September 1, 2007
By 
Thriller Lover (Las Vegas, Nevada) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Old Man's War (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. I was able to finish this book, and I enjoyed it for the most part despite its flaws.

Overall, OLD MAN'S WAR a good read, but the instant classic that some people have been claiming. Lower your expectations, and you should have a good time with it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Great Concept with Nothing New, January 13, 2009
This review is from: Old Man's War (Mass Market Paperback)
From the first page, I was hooked. I was with the man through the beginning of his journey, but things went down hill in the middle. I didn't think I was reading the same book. The build up of the relationships, along with John Perry entering his new body in the first half were the best part of the book, so much so that I felt it whenever he recounted the deaths of the Old Farts, as they called their little group.

Here's what threw me in the middle.

1.) As a veteran, I didn't buy the boot camp scenes at all. Drill Instructors hate all recruits, whether or not they made an ad that saved their life, and not to mention Master Sergeant Ruiz wasn't believable, just a figure filling every Drill Instructor cliche in the world.

2.) The gun. Give me a break. A solid block of nanites can become any kind of ammunition? I can buy a weapon that uses a single mass of ammunition to form different kinds of solid projectiles, but grenades? Guided missiles? A flame thrower? The last one I found wholly unbelievable. Science-fiction needs some kind of rational base, otherwise it's just fantasy with a technical veneer. And I'm a little wary of this whole magical nanite trend I see going around.

3.) Where's the artillery? Where's their supporting fire? Armored vehicles? Power Armor? Battle suits? I would imagine that these new bodies they are given are expensive, not to mention the cost of getting the old people to the station, the medical tests, the large amount of staff to screen and prep them we're introduced too. You'd think they would invest in protecting these assets, like providing, oh, I don't know, a helmet! There were two very obvious instances where soldiers would have lived if they had had this ancient invention. The body armor they wore, high tech as it was, seemed the bare minimum. Maybe the author should play Crysis or something. Overall, the author seemed to rely more on military cliche and common image than to think of something new (foxholes are useless, even counter-productive against an enemy that burrows underground). Another reviewer said that they used WWII-era tactics; I think that's an insult to our WWII vets, honestly.

4.) The aliens. Why do so many species have to find humans as good eatin'? This seems more of a weak attempt to shock or scare the reader into believing the need to fight, rather than tackling any complex issues of war, peace, and diplomacy. And don't get me started on the Covandu. One inch tall? Give me a break. That part read more like a gorefest version of Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It would have been pure comedy if the rest of the book didn't take itself so heavily. I nearly put it down then. And, there were just too many races. Give me two or three, really well-developed species rather than dozens and dozens of two sentence, weirdness-filled descriptions, all with the same motivation.

5.) The premise for the book was putting old people into new, young and heavily modified bodies to fight a war where their experience and maturity would benefit their forces. Yet, their experience never comes to bear. In fact, we're beaten over the head with the fact that their experience means nothing as they've never experienced anything like what they're about to see; see Master Sergeant Ruiz.

It picked up in the end, and the left hook he threw in there actually turned out to be pretty thrilling and got me going to the end. The prose is easy to read, a nice change nowadays. The Consu stand out among the aliens, and they turned out to be pretty cool with a differing motivation than conquer, kill, eat, repeat. But still, the glaring problems which I have illustrated here prevent me from calling it a favorite.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heinlein? Ringo? Or unique?, August 1, 2005
This review is from: Old Man's War (Hardcover)
I admit it, I bought the book because Amazon gave me a discount on deliver charges if I bought two, and I was already committed to another book (by Chales Stros).

As it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised by the development of amiable characters in the "Old Man's Wars" ... and what a great title that was!

Sure, there's a little of Heinlein's juvenile fiction efforts/accomplishments here. I wouldn't compare it to "Time Enough For Love", because the breadth of "Time" just isn't here.

Certainly it's not "Starship Troopers", because the action scenes are as uniformly gripping ... but that may be closer.

John Ringo's books are a whole new generation, and those of us who have been reading him are reminded of his work ... but that's not quite the flavor.

I would be more inclined to compare the book to John Barnes, especially "Candle", one of Barnes' "Meme Wars" books. Why? I can't tell you. It's not a matter of substance; it's more a matter of style and the reader's impression.

The book was "a good read", and the characters were likeable. Perhaps a little to shallow, in the sense that they were line-drawings rather than full portraits. Perhaps that's a sign of a Good Writer, rather than that of an Excellent Writer.

It's probably unfair to compare the author to Heinlein, who could draw a character with a dozen words and make you remember that character for the rest of your life.

John Perry is drawn as the sort of person you would instinctively like. I had to go back to the book to refresh my memory, before I could quote is name. It really doesn't seem important. I read the book yesterday (in on sitting, which should give you some idea about its readability). I'm certain that many of the scenes, such as the personal combat with the Consu and the unfortunate episode with the Slime Mold, will stay with me for a long time. Perry is such an unassuming character, he's easy to forget against the backdrop of the action scenes.

Still, I do hope that Scalzi finds a similar theme and works it just a little bit harder.

In the meantime, "Old Man's War" will stay on my bookshelf. I'll read it again the day I order his next book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life begins at 75, though you may not live to see 76, May 28, 2006
By 
David Roy (Vancouver, BC) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Old Man's War (Paperback)
John Scalzi's debut novel, Old Man's War has an intriguing premise, some interesting science fiction concepts, and a complete ability to ignore military SF cliches that usually turn me off from this kind of book. It's a wonderful little book, violent but not overly graphic (though there are a couple of scenes that go beyond that), and it's certainly worth all of the accolades that have been heaped on it. Only the fact that it's a bit slow to get to the meat of the action drags it down even a little bit.

Earth has reached the stars, and been slammed back into isolation. Humans are out there colonizing the galaxy, but Earth itself is cut off from it, becoming almost a backwater in comparison to everything else. The Colonial Defense Force (CDF) insures that this remains so. On the other hand, once you turn seventy-five, you can enlist in the CDF, go out and see the universe, and kill lots of aliens who are out to kill you too. You'll just never see Earth again. John Perry has decided to take this route, and Old Man's War tells the story of this decision, and what he runs into when he gets out there. What he learns when he gets there is beyond what he could ever have imagined. He gets a new, grown body (green and all) that will make him young again (even if he's not completely human any more) and the extreme possibility of dying out in the mean universe. But he could be dead in ten years anyway, in a broken down body, on Earth, so why not go out where his death means something? Will John be a successful soldier, not only surviving but rising in the ranks? Or will he just be more cannon-fodder for the human colonies?

Scalzi is on record (in a Usenet post when asked about his military experience) as saying that he wanted Old Man's War to be accessible by his grandmother, who has no interest in things military. This meant that he wasn't going to spend a great deal of time on infantry tactics, technology, and the jingoism that many military SF novels embrace. The weapon of choice for the CDF is an adaptable rifle that fires five types of ammunition and can change on the fly, and he spends a bare amount of time making any explanations for the science of the situations he presents, such as the "skip drive" that gets everybody from Point A to Point B. It's the military SF novel for those who can't stand the genre, and I loved it for that.

Still, Scalzi doesn't completely avoid the science, and there are a couple of "theoretical" (as in, one of the characters who doesn't really know a whole lot about it is theorizing) explanatory scenes that seek to get this sort of thing out of the way. I found this appropriate given the situation that Scalzi presents. The humans that are enlisting don't know any of this stuff. The CDF keeps humans ignorant of it intentionally, so Scalzi is able to gloss over it a bit. While I did find it appropriate, I also thought that these occasional theorizing scenes slowed the book down much more than they should have (though certainly much less than they would have if they had been fully explained, and yes, I'm speaking to you, Mr. Weber!)

Scalzi gets the characterization down perfectly, creating a great "hero" in Perry. He's intelligent and he rises through the ranks fairly quickly by using his brain. The friendships that Perry forms when he first enlists seem very logical, as these people have been thrown together into a strange situation with no visible support apparatus. Even the fact that the first thing these older people do when they get young bodies is to enjoy themselves with as many people as possible is certainly understandable, and Perry's first scene like this is hilarious (though none of it is actually shown, for those prudes among us).

There is only one characterization misstep, and I'd say the good and the bad of the character even out. Perry's drill instructor, Master Sergeant Ruiz, is hilariously portrayed by Scalzi, with all of the typical movie drill instructor attitude. Even better is that he acknowledges the drill instructor stereotype, insisting that the recruits get that stereotype out of their heads because he's not going to gain "grudging respect" for them. He doesn't like any of them. This is all refreshing, acknowledging the clichés and then moving beyond them. Unfortunately, after his brilliant opening scene, we don't see a lot of him, and the description of subsequent events make him seem like the drill instructor that we all are familiar with. Only his last scene with Perry really moves above this.

The other small problem with Old Man's War is that it takes a long time to get through the setup of the setting. This is mitigated by the entertaining way that Scalzi writes these sequences, but it takes almost half the book before Perry actually gets into the action. The rest is his journey to the CDF and the establishing of the galaxy and his place in it. It's only a small problem because Scalzi does make it interesting, but I wish some of it could have been condensed.

Overall, Old Man's War is a wonderful book, one that I raced through because I was loving every minute of it. If you absolutely hate the genre of military SF, then you may find that even this book won't be enjoyable. But if you're just annoyed with a lot of the military SF that's out there, give this one a shot. It's an excellent debut novel, setting up an interesting situation, with characters that are a lot more compelling than in others of the genre. This one's worth a shot.

David Roy
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but derivative., August 25, 2005
By 
This review is from: Old Man's War (Hardcover)
There are some really fun bits in this book, but there's definitely something lacking. The good part first: the style is nice, the characters are fairly distinctive, the book reads easily, the pacing is quite good and the starting concept is fascinating. However, things start to fall apart once we get into Starship Troopers/The Forever War territory.

The concept of recruiting geriatrics in order to fight a war is so full of implications that the entire book could have been written around the social aspects of only that. However, after the first third of the book our 'Old Farts' are in fresh new bodies and acting like 20-year-olds. Not that much of a problem, but it pretty much cuts the legs out from under the book's primary raison d'etre.

Where things go a bit off the rails is the numerous battle scenes. They're well written, exciting and fun. But they have the exact same problem as the movie Starship Troopers (as opposed to the book) - we're watching vastly futuristic troops fighting with WWII-era tactics. Plus, we're covering the same ground Heinlein did. Not that there's really anything wrong with that, but it's not incredibly interesting the second time around and it's definitely not what the cover and the title promised.

By the final act we've segued firmly into The Forever War territory, complete with characters questioning the futility of war, the nature of humanity and looking forward to retirement. There's even a completely derivative ending where one character asks another to wait for them so they can retire to the paradise planet and be together forever. Yawn.

Overall, it's a good read but it doesn't fulfill the promise of it's title. Now, an entire war being run by expendable geriatrics via remote control is a completely different matter and could have made a good book. But that would be some sort of reversed version of Ender's Game and this book is a rehash of Heinlein and Haldeman. Fine if you like that sort of thing (and I do), but nothings particularly original here.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An army of oldsters takes on the universe, November 25, 2005
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Old Man's War (Hardcover)
On his 75th birthday John Perry joins the Colonial Marines. Why they would want Earth's old people for an army is something of a mystery to the people of earth. None of the aged volunteers ever return to earth to provide an answer and none of the people on earth have any idea of what the colonies are like - except that they have much more advanced technology than earth does.

This novel provides well rounded characters, who once they get out into space, despite their long lives on Earth, finally realise how little they know. And they are needed by the colonies. The universe is not always a friendly place and the skills they learn in the army are more needed than they know.

This is what could be described as "hard SF" but its well written, and driven by characters and not "Gee whiz" technology and the nice balance of the Gee Whiz and characters make this a memorable and enjoyable novel and makes me look forward to the next book set in this universe THE GHOST BRIGADES
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty standard military sci-fi fare in spite of the hype, June 8, 2007
By 
Utah Blaine (Somewhere on Trexalon in District 268) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Old Man's War (Mass Market Paperback)
After reading the cover of this book and some of the really favorable Amazon reviews, I thought this book was going to be a great novel in the tradition of Starship Troopers (and other great works by Heinlein). Alas, I was sadly disappointed. The influence of Heinlein to the storyline is quite obvious, but this book falls well short of the best works of the master. It is really a pretty standand military sci-fi novel in spite of the hype.

The plotline is relatively simple. Old men and women are given the chance to exchange their worn out bodies for young, strong genetically modified bodies so they can be foot soldiers in a series of intergalactic wars and skirmishes. Humanity is only one of many races that are competing for habitable planets and resources, and the fighting against alien races requires soldiers with a lifetime of experience in genetically modified superhuman bodies.

The book is broken up into three sections. In the first, the 75 year old protagonist has volunteered for military service, but he (and we) slowly learn what this really entails. This is the best part of the book and held my interest. What does this military service really mean? In the second section, the protagonist goes to basic training. This is the most Heinlein-like part of the book, but carries absolutely none of the timeless quality of Juan Rico going through basic. Scalzi tries to create the tough drill sergeant thing, but it turns out to be pretty shallow. The interaction between Rico and Sgt. Zim in Starship Troopers is still relevant today to young men and women joining the military. The third part of the book is a conventional military bug hunt and is not particularly imaginative or memorable.

Two additional things really bugged me about this novel. One of the central plot threads to the story is the fact that 75 year olds are taken into military service because their life experience is necessary/valuable to fight the wars. This life experience is never important in resolving any conflicts. The protagonist could have been a 17 year old, there was no problem that required a man or women's lifetime experience to resolve. Second, I didn't like the whole idea of genetically modified bodies. This plot line (at least the way it was developed b Scalzi) makes the soldier into superheros.

This is a short, easy to read military sci-fi tale and is certainly worth a look for anyone interested in this genre. Just don't expect something on the level of Starship Troopers because it isn't close.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent work, well written, compelling characters, October 21, 2005
By 
Bryan Broyles (Fairfax, Virginia United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Old Man's War (Hardcover)
The Heinlein comparisons are apt, and complimentary. This has obvious elements of Space Cadet and Starship Troopers, but it's not in any way derivative.

In some ways, the story ends a bit too abruptly...really feels like the first portion of a larger story, and the sequel is already on the way. But, no story elements are left unfinished, it's just clear this is a broader story line. That's good and bad, as you definitely want more from this author, but I like a more closed feeling.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2119 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Old Man's War
Old Man's War by John Scalzi (Mass Market Paperback - January 15, 2007)
$7.99 $5.49
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Rate and Discover Movies
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.