129 of 150 people found the following review helpful
Light, Breezy SF,
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.
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 19, 2007 2:15:59 PM PST
Lonnie E. Holder says:
Thriller: You must have forgotten your years in the military. Wisecracks were a constant when I was in. The only difference between the youngsters and those who had been in for decades is that the humor of high-ranking sergeants tended to be a lot drier and more subtle.
Lonnie E. Holder
Posted on Aug 1, 2010 2:08:21 PM PDT
The first third, as you say, is the most interesting since it's all set up and world-building, and the lack of character development is masked by the constant newness of things. The last 2/3 stops presenting new scenarios, other than cursorily developed battle sequences on alien worlds and wonky scifi physics, and there the lack of character development or interaction becomes fairly glaring.
Your title and score sums up the work quite well, though. It's a fun, quick read, but lacks any real depth or drama or emotion. I read it in 3 45-minute gym cardio sessions and enjoyed it, then came here to be amazed at the number of 5-star reviews. Most submitted by Scalzi's throng of online fans, I'd assume, since the book alone doesn't merit them.
Posted on Aug 5, 2012 1:21:24 PM PDT
M. MAUK says:
I was going to write a review, but yours sums it up. Different strokes for differnt folks, but I can't see giving this book a 4 star, much less 5 star review. The jokes got old, very old and they had run their course by the middle of the book.
Posted on Nov 9, 2012 9:36:42 AM PST
M. Pruna says:
I'd like to add to your review the comment that the Colonial Force hierarchy, as the story moves along, becomes more and more casual, resembling a bunch of buddies going hunting together than a military force.
Posted on Jan 28, 2013 4:04:42 AM PST
J. Aumir says:
this is exactly the review I would have written if you had not beaten me to it.
Posted on Mar 19, 2013 11:15:38 AM PDT
Douglas Black says:
What I found most off-putting about this book was the apparent idea that every other sentient species in the galaxy would eat humans if given the chance. Seriously, wtf?
Posted on Jul 9, 2013 10:43:38 AM PDT
I agree with all of what you said.
The beyond immature wisecracks are overdone. Makes you feel that they're teens going through puberty. Old timers are subtle and toned down in their jokes, at any level. Scalzi should go to a retirement home and research how old age changes behavior, etc.
Also agree on the 2 dimensional cardboard characterizations. The author needs to work on creating characters you care about. In addition, his character descriptions need beefing up so one can imagine better how they look like and why they act they way they do.
Also agree that Scalzi is a very creative mind and if he beefs up his characterizations and have more detailed descriptions of said events and actions, he'd be on a very high tier among sci-fi writers.
As is, the book feels like a skeleton, not realizing its full potential.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 21, 2013 7:38:23 AM PDT
Perfectly stated. With each new "thing" added to the mix I was waiting for more depth and at each step, I got none. I also agree this could have been epic, idea wise, if he only slowed down a bit and gave us more depth. Ex. how did the Earth get to the state you find it in. So I guess what I'm saying is, I don't plan on buying additional books in hopes of getting more detail.
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