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Old Man's War Mass Market Paperback – January 15, 2007
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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 alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going 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. Everybody knows 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 two years 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.
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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".
The book is a classic.
Spoiler: By the end of the story, I had to question the premise of the story. If new soldiers can be grown from artificially engineered DNAs, why do they still need these old soldiers? Why not just grow more soldiers of the "Ghost Brigade" style? Maybe this is a question the author answers in the sequels, but for now, it detracted from the enjoyment of this book.
Most recent customer reviews
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