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Old Man's War (Old Man's War, 1) Mass Market Paperback – January 15, 2007
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“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...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.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Solid…[Scalzi] sidesteps most of the cliches of military science fiction, delivers fast-paced scenes of combat and pays attention to the science underpinning his premise.” ―San Francisco Chronicle
“Thought-provoking!” ―Entertainment Weekly
“Smartly conceived and thoroughly entertaining, Old Man's War is a splendid novel.” ―Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Gripping and surpassingly original. It's Starship Troopers without the lectures. It's The Forever War with better sex. It's funny, it's sad, and it's true.” ―Cory Doctorow
“John Scalzi is a fresh and appealing new voice, and Old Man's War is classic SF seen from a modern perspective--a fast-paced tour of a daunting, hostile universe.” ―Robert Charles Wilson
“I enjoyed Old Man's War immensely. A space war story with fast action, vivid characters, moral complexity and cool speculative physics, set in a future you almost want to live into, and a universe you sincerely hope you don't live in already.” ―Ken MacLeod
About the Author
- Publisher : Tor Science Fiction; Reprint edition (January 15, 2007)
- Language : English
- Mass Market Paperback : 318 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0765348276
- ISBN-13 : 978-0765348272
- Lexile measure : 860L
- Item Weight : 6.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 4.2 x 0.98 x 7.49 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #33,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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John Scalzi is a highly respected writer of ‘hard’ science fiction novels, by which I basically mean space operas with science. I’d never read him before but I got ahold of the first novel in his Old Man’s War series (aptly titled Old Man’s War, 2005) and liked it so I decided to read the whole series. The premise of the series is that interstellar wars are fought by repurposed old people from Earth: reach the age of seventy-five and you can enlist as a soldier in the CDF (Colonial Defense Forces); you receive a new, drastically upgrade body with nanobot-filled artificial blood, genetically enhanced skeleton, musculature, organs and (green) skin, and you’re telepathically connected to your fellow soldiers through a BrainPal inserted in your brain. Serve ten years and you’re placed in a new, normal-human cloned body and allowed to become a colonist in one of Earth’s numerous new colonies. The series follows the footsteps of two respected novels about war in the interstellar future, Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Warriors (1959) and Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War (1974).
The first novel (Old Man’s War) is good: it’s filled with action and gives you a lot to think about. The second (The Ghost Brigades, 2006) is ridiculously convoluted with weak science as the hero thwarts a revenge plot to wipe out mankind. The third, The Last Colony (2007) brings back the heroes of the first: the plot creaks. Zoe’s Tale (2008) retells parts of the story from the previous two books but from the viewpoint of a fifteen-year-old girl. Aside from a fair amount of recycled content, the novel suffers from tone: Zoe’s voice is much too cutesy at times and doesn’t sound at all like a smart fifteen-year-old girl sounds. BY the time I got to the last two novels in the series, The Human Division and The End of All Things (2013 and 2015), my interest in following the series had waned significantly.
Along the way, I had also picked up three stand-alone novels by Scalzi. The first, Fuzzy Nation (2011), is a reconceiving of H. Beam Piper’s 1962 Little Fuzzy: what do you do when you discover the cute little animals on the planet your employer is looting aren’t just animals, they’re sentient beings with wills of their own? Too cute. 2012’s Redshirts was the best of the lot, a funny reworking of the clichés of televised space opera, along the lines of a bad Star Trek (or good Captain Video) show. It was clever, tricky, fun, and in this context, the late teen-aged mindset of the antagonists and the sophomoric joshing back and forth that characterizes all Scalzi’s books was appropriate. The Collapsing Empire (2017) is a followup much later in history of the world, politics and devices of the earlier Old Man’s War novels. It reads like Scalzi is growing tired of that world.
Over all, if I were to rate these books, I’d give 4 stars (out of five) to Old Man’s War and Redshirts, 3 to Zoe’s War, and 2 to the rest.
Without providing spoilers, the story takes place far in the future. Humans have advanced into interstellar space with far-flung colonies, but must compete for territory with numerous alien species, necessitating almost constant warfare. Soldiers are constantly recruited from among earthbound senior citizens, who then undergo some transformations to turn them into fighting specimens. The story follows one such recruit, 75-year-old widower John Perry. Perry's in for a number of surprises, but proves more than worthy as the story evolves. This is fairly straightforward space opera from a very good writer who keeps his story moving and does not over-do it. I recommend John Scalzi's (first in a series) "Old Man's War".
Starship Troopers has been a personal favorite for years, written by the legendary Robert A. Heinlein. It courts controversial topics with an eerie effectiveness, a testament to Heinlein’s enduring brilliance. His understanding of the military machine oozes from the page and sucks you into his character motivations. I thought for sure that this book would endure as my go-to measuring stick for the genre.
That is, until I read Old Man’s War.
John Scalzi is a New York Times bestselling author with a Hugo Award under his belt. Dude has some serious cred, so I went into the book with lofty expectations. Old Man’s War is the first of a six-book series that I plan to gleefully devour. The first book was in my to-read pile for quite some time, as the recommendation kept rearing its head in conversation. Once it reached the top, I actually felt a wash of relief. “Finally, I can see what all the fuss is about.” Several hours later, I put the book down and simply uttered, “Holy ****.”
Without giving anything away, as a happy husband in a two-decade relationship that is still going strong, this book hit me hard in the feels.
I was not expecting that from a military sci-fi novel, albeit one with an enthralling narrative voice. The “old man” part refers to an advanced version of Earth where retirees are the ones who join the Armed Forces. The idea is that a wealth of experience is far more valuable than youthful vigor. And when you live in a world where the military can provide you with a brand new combat-ready body (complete with green skin), it makes a hell of a lot of sense.
The story follows John Perry, a 75-year-old senior who lost his wife and is reaching the end of his days. He joins the military, because why not. He is promised a new and exciting life beyond the stars, fighting for ... well, something. It doesn’t matter. He’s moving forward, and that’s all that matters. John makes new friends along the way and discovers that he is quite adept at his new life battling aliens from planet to planet.
Old Man’s War takes several dives into familiar themes, first and foremost, what it means to be human. Others include the role of advanced technology and the psychological stresses of war. But what Scalzi manages to do is frame them inside a new landscape (or hellscape more like it), one that paints foes as unbeatable and treats characters like members of a hive colony. In many ways, it’s a complete role reversal of books like Starship Troopers, which gives the reader a fascinating new perspective on personal relations and interstellar conflicts.
The book is engrossing up to the third act, at which point it rises to the rank of classic. It pains me to stay mum about it, but it would pain me more to spoil it for anyone else. Old Man’s War is not only my new favorite book in the genre, it’s also a new favorite all around.
The saga continues with The Ghost Brigades, which is exactly where I’ll be shortly after posting this review (with apologies to my to-read pile).
Top reviews from other countries
John Perry and his wife sign up at the age of sixty-five for service ten years hence. His wife, unfortunately, drops dead with no warning, so John, a few years later, goes off alone, knowing that he'll never see earth again. If he survives he'll be given a homestead on a colony planet. On board the transport he meets up with a bunch of similar individuals and they bond, calling themselves the Old Farts. But they don't stay old for long. The reality of their rejuvenation is stranger than they could have imagined. They are mostly split up, but they keep in touch and a series of skirmishes against enemy aliens takes the lives of some of them. Things get even stranger when John is injured and sees his wife in the rescue party…
I really enjoyed reading this though I did wonder about the logic of it all, especially when the rational for the Ghost Brigades came into play. Why did they need all those mature minds when eighty percent of them were likely to die? As it turned out John Perry's mature mind comes in handy and he's a likeable main character. The pacing is great. It's a real page-turner. I heartily recommend this despite my old fart misgivings about the logic of old people abandoning the beliefs of a lifetime to go to war against aliens.
Next thing you know the hours have passed and the end of book acknowledgements assault your eyeballs with the cruel taunt of offing you the next book in the series. Go on....just a bit more...
Quite seriously, I enjoyed this book from start to finish and am eager to move onto Ghost Brigade. I read End of All Things first which was more a compilation of novellas with a common thread, so returning to where it all began with a full length novel was very pleasing.
Highly recommended. Maybe look for the Old Man's War box set if you intend to read the series.
Old Man's War follows John Perry, a 75 year old man who upon turning that age has signed up with the enigmatic Colonial Defense Force. No one on earth knows much about them except for they only recruit people over the age of 75 and have more advanced technology than anyone else on earth. With the rumor they can stop people aging John signs up as he has nothing to lose but gets a hell of a lot more than he expected.
The story was pretty addictive, as John finds out who the Colonial Defense Force really are, why they keep earth in the dark and that earth is located in a really nasty neighborhood. I don't want to spoil anything more than that but it's a a real page turner I read in two sittings. It's a solid, easy to read novel with imaginative ideas and great action at times. The cast of characters are all pretty likable but the story really focuses on John and his experience with the CDF.
All in all, if you're into space opera or military science fiction this is well worth giving a try to.
+ Interesting idea.
+ A real page turner.
+ Great pacing.
Read this book with no more intentions to have fun , this is not the next big thing or the sci-fi version of game of thrones, but is entertaining, well written, make you smile, and occasionally share a tear if you are a particular emotional individual.
I buy and read books to have fun, enjoy reading and dream of far far away worlds full of adventure and likeable characters and this book tick all the boxes.