Old Man’s War, John Scalzi

omwarJohn Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.

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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Old Man’s War is my third John Scalzi book this year.  Also ever.  The point is I’m loving his books, and if you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you’ll probably have already guessed that.  This is also the first real space sci fi book I’ve ever read, and although it wasn’t a conscious decision, I realise now that I have been doing myself a disservice by not reading proper sci fi before.  I figured I’d like it, but I bloody love it.

There is something just so perfectly ridiculous about the idea of waking up on your 75th birthday, visiting your wife’s grave one last time, and then heading over to the local enlistment office that I couldn’t help but fall in love with John Perry.  He’s your all around good guy with a wry sense of humour and he’s also weirdly okay with giving up everything he’s ever known to go and join a space army.  Then again, the alternative is simply sticking around and waiting for your body to fail – a point the book makes times and time again.  Well, so, fair enough.

There is a lot of mystery surrounding the CDF and no one on Earth knows quite how they whip squads of 75 year olds into fighting shape.  For the longest time I was convinced that there must be some horrible, sinister plot looming on the horizon for the amazing characters I was quickly becoming stupidly attached to.  Spoiler alert, when the big reveal came it was better than any dodgey space government plot.  It wasn’t a total surprise, but I really like the way Scalzi went about it.

From the there, the story takes off into different universes where our characters encounter alien races and, well, go to war.  There is a particularly memorable visit to a planet of aliens who are highly intelligent but only one inch in height and so, you might be able to guess the best way of defeating that particular enemy.  I loved the picture of the universe the Scalzi created, and the way aspects of the story circled and slotted together beautifully.  The space aspects were wonderful, the weapons and spacecraft and other technology were all believable and, like Scalzi’s other work, it’s funny and fast paced.  I find it difficult to review books I loved, but believe me when I say it pains me to give this book only 4 stars.  It’s teetering on the edge of a five and I may have to rethink the rating after I’ve had some time to mull it over.


four - Copy


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