Monday, February 11, 2013

Old Man's War: John Scalzi

Old Man's War by John Scalzi was published in 2005, and I am just now reading it. I wish I had done so sooner. Of course, now I have several more books in the Old Man's War series to read... so maybe it is just as well I waited.

This book is military science fiction. That may have been related to why I put off reading it for so long. The book was not what I expected. Which probably says a lot about my lack of experience with reading in the sci-fi genre.

The set up for the book: John Perry is seventy-five years old and he is leaving the planet Earth behind to fight for the Colonial Defense Forces on other planets. And how can he do that at his age? Because the CDF will reverse the flow of aging. No one on Earth knows how this is done, but the volunteers are willing to risk military service and its dangers for a chance at a new life.

Several of the science fiction books I have read in January and February deal with colonization of other planets as a remedy for existing problems on Earth. Each handles it in different ways. In this case, the development of the military to protect colonists is explored, including themes related to senseless violence and the mindset of the military. I do not see that the military is glorified; neither is it vilified. Moral dilemmas are examined. I like that the book does not seem to preach or offer answers. It poses questions and allows the reader to chew on the issues while enjoying a good story.

I also appreciate the characterizations in this book, especially the main character who tells the story. He is a pretty normal guy, intelligent, thoughtful. This makes him easy to relate to, to sympathize with.

I found the themes relating to age most interesting. Being at an age when I can sympathize with a decision to extend one’s life or at least experience the end of one’s life in better condition... it hit closer to home.

Scalzi was clearly influenced by and paying tribute to Robert A. Heinlein, as he indicates in the acknowledgments section at the end of the book. Many reviews note a similarity to Starship Troopers by Heinlein. I have not read that book (but have seen the movie, which I understand is not all that close to the book). I now have added Starship Troopers to my want list.


This is my first e-book of 2013 and only the 3rd book I have read on an e-reader. The book is still in print in a mass market paperback edition and a trade paper edition. And of course as an e-book.

A list of Scalzi's publications at his website, Whatever.

I read this book as a part of the 2013 Sci-Fi Experience at Stainless Steel Droppings. The event began in January and runs through February. The Review Site can be found here; check out other bloggers reviews and related posts.

10 comments:

  1. Interesting Tracy. You do make this books sound interesting, and at any age we tend to want to feel/be at least 10 years younger. Glad that you have a new series to read (always a nice feeling).

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    1. Although this does have aliens and technical stuff, it was mainly the story of the man in his new environment that interested me. Although the tech stuff was really cool. Don't know if the series will continue that way, but I will give it a try.

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  2. Tracy - I'm not normally one for sci-fi, but this one does sound interesting. I'm glad you've discovered a new series. And I'll bet any group that had a way to reverse the ageing process would get a lot of new volunteers regardless of the dangers...

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    1. yes, I found the idea of trying a new life, even totally unknown, to be very believable in that context. I am excited about reading more in the series, although where I will find the time to fit them in, I don't know.

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  3. Definitely my kind of book, Tracy. I liked your review, the title, and the cover. I'll see if I can get hold of a physical copy.

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    1. Thanks, Prashant. I know you will enjoy the book. I am looking forward to seeing how the series progresses, and I will be getting physical copies too.

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  4. I get a huge smile on my face whenever someone reads and enjoys Old Man's War. I read it a year or two after its initial release and fell very hard for John, Jane and the universe that Scalzi created. It was my first experience with what I would consider military SF and it has opened me up to trying several other novels categorized similarly.

    You are right in that Scalzi does not use the book to preach a platform but instead shows the necessities of and horrors of war in this future that he imagines and thus provides a thought-provoking narrative wherein all views have a place to be heard and considered. He creates some really likable characters that make you want to keep reading and that trend continues with the other books in this series. Old Man's War is probably my favorite of the group but I like them all so much that it is hard to judge. The relationships between the main characters becomes such an important part of the story as it progresses and that solidifies it as one of my favorite book series ever.

    You've got a lot of great reading ahead of you!

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    1. I don't know why I waited so long to get this book. I was reading Scalzi's blog before it was published. And heard great things about it. I am eager to see how the series continues. I will have to wait awhile to buy the rest of the books.

      I deliberately waited until I was done with the book before checking your review and I saw your re-read review too and saw that you had really enjoyed it.

      Do you recommend any of his non-series books?

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    2. Oh yes, absolutely. I am very fond of the comedic caper-SF novel The Android's Dream and Fuzzy Nation is also a really nice story. I enjoyed his most recent, Red Shirts, but was less wowed by it than most others. Even at that it is worth reading.

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    3. Thanks very much for the response. I will stick with the series for now, but will pick up the others if I see them at a book sale.

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