Saturday, February 20, 2010

Review: Old Man's War by John Scalzi

Old Man's War
Author: John Scalzi
Publication: Tor Books (December 27, 2005)

Product Description: John 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.

My Thoughts: This is classic space opera in the tradition of Robert A. Heinlein (which is by no means a bad thing). John Perry is an interesting and engaging character. He is sharp, sarcastic and willing to try something very new. At age 75 and knowing that he doesn't want to get older, he enlists in the Colonial Defense Force not knowing what is in store for him. No one on Earth has ever met anyone from the CDF. John is changed and becomes a soldier. He manages to survive numerous battles when 3/4 of his fellow recruits do not and he is promoted from Private to Captain in a very short time.
What is the male equivalent of a Mary-Sue story? This would seem to qualify if only because John always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He lost his beloved wife before they could both enlist. Yet he is rescued from a massacre by someone wearing her body. He comes up with a unique firing solution that turns a battle from defeat to a victory. He manages to find the plans for a secret advanced weapon in the middle of a battle. There are probably more examples too.
I very much enjoyed this book and am glad that the sequels -- The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony -- are sitting in my TBR stack too. The book was filled with adventure, interesting situations and characters, and even love.

This one has been sitting on my TBR stack since before Feb. 19, 2008 (when I joined LibraryThing and scanned all my books into it.)
Challenges: 2010 TBR Challenge, Bottoms Up Reading Challenge


  1. Hi Kathy, I really like your progress reports on all the challenges you are. While I do not read much adult fiction, I do love science fiction and this sound quite interesting. Not sure what a Mary-Sue story is though, maybe you could enlighten me.

  2. Old Man's War looks quite interesting. I don't like adult books very much though, but I might give this one a go.


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