“I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife’s grave. Then I joined the army.”
Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi, is a sci-fi novel centering around the somewhat near-future expansion of the human race across the galaxy. Elderly people on Earth are recruited by the Colonial Defense Force to become young soldiers with the wisdom of age to fight for Earth, rather than simply fade away and die of old age. With a solid overarching story and likeable characters, it’s fairly easy to enjoy. Though this is a book about people in the military, the fact that the organization tries to be very different from Earth military saved it for me from being some annoying plod through military code words and processes. Nothing against the military, but if you read this blog you probably know I’m not big of realistic military books. In short, I would call this a READ, as it brings up some interesting concepts and is a generally entertaining story.
Here, There be Spoilers
My fiance recommended this book to me ages ago, but my brain kept passing over it. I finally got the chance to read it, and I’m glad I did (you can see his review here, if you’re curious). The basic story follows a recent widower who joins the Colonial Defense Force recruitment program and goes to space to fight in a new and improved younger body, but with the wisdom of age. His exploits lead him to make friendships, find out things about the galaxy that he never knew, and eventually learn some truths about the brave new worlds he is defending that bring forth a font of heroism from deep within.
Scalzi’s writing has a sense of somewhat cynical humor to it, which was showcased well in this book. When the old folks from Earth who joined the CDF got new, young bodies, they immediately had an orgy, just to give an example. But the overarching ideals represented in that humorous cant are also intriguing. We see war for no reason, war for plenty of reasons, and a general breakdown in the way we assume life as we know it should go. Earth is sheltered from most of what goes on in the rest of the galaxy.
There is a brief, well-done look at the truth of what we conceive of as monsters versus what can truly be a monster (hint: anything, even something cute). This book doesn’t try to be an epic satire or commentary, but still has those elements.
There wasn’t too much lingering on scientific principles, but enough to make things interesting. The sheer amount of science and math needed to understand what was going on in the travels through space is a bit overwhelming, but like most of the characters, the reader isn’t required to have a firm grasp on it beyond the basics.
The main character does seem to be unnaturally lucky and good at things. While this works out for him and it’s easy to see that he has a good outlook to handle what he goes through, it does seem a little convenient at times.
Overall, I would definitely call this book a READ. It’s hard to capture the true essence of it in a review, but it was a fun journey through space in a manner that I had never thought of before, without the tedium of most military-based sci-fi.