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Old Man's War Mass Market Paperback – January 15, 2007
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100 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books to Read in a Lifetime
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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
John Scalzi won the 2006 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and Old Man's War, his debut novel, was a finalist for science fiction's Hugo Award. His other books include The Ghost Brigades, The Android's Dream and The Last Colony. He has won the Hugo Award, the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for science-fiction, the Seiun, The Kurd Lasswitz and the Geffen awards. His weblog, Whatever, is one of the most widely-read web sites in modern SF. Born and raised in California, Scalzi studied at the University of Chicago. He lives in southern Ohio with his wife and daughter.
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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.