John Scalzi: Old Man’s War

Reviewed by: Charity Bradford

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi was number one on the Tor poll for the top 10 sci fi and fantasy books of the last decade. And now I know why.

From Goodreads:

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 Take:
Avatar meets Starship Troopers, and it so works. OMGosh! Scalzi’s world building is wonderful. I never felt lost as he jumped from one world to another. He wove the information and science I needed into the story without confusing or boring me to death. I’ve always loved sci fi, but sometimes I skim over the deep physics lessons because, well you know, “I don’t have the math for that” (one of my favorite quotes from this book). The science felt real and possible, and most importantly comprehensible.

All I can say is Scalzi is a genius. This is military sci fi at it’s finest. When you’re at war with something completely alien, you need people with experience. People who know how to problem solve and think fast on their feet. You need people who have done this for a lifetime. Unfortunately, those people are old, so you give them a second life. And what physically old person, whose mind still feels as young as it did at twenty, wouldn’t jump at the chance?

First really cool moment–comprehensive physical overhaul. I so want one when I turn 75. I’m not going to spoil it by telling you what that is, but yeah, we should develop the technology to do this. 🙂

Scalzi covers some deep philosophical topics and some heavily speculative science, but it flows effortlessly thanks to his underlying humor. I smiled and laughed a lot–such as when everyone named their brain pals. (Once again, no spoilers, just read it for yourself!) But Scalzi also surprised me and made me tear up.

Yeah, I’m a girl and I DO cry at a lot of stuff, but Scalzi’s juxtaposition of two people’s deaths really hit me (chapters 9 & 10). Neither are main characters, and I didn’t really know either of them, but Perry (the MC) cared about one of them. The one that made me cry was probably only a page long, but the simplicity and the tribute within that page was beautiful.

I really loved this book and think everyone who remotely enjoys sci fi should give it a go.

My rating:
Character development: A+ I really liked Perry and wanted him to succeed. He was human, intelligent, lucky without being cocky.

World Building: A I never felt lost or confused and we visited several completely different worlds and alien races.

Science believability: A I believed every word. 🙂

Story Arc: A Perfect mix of emotional growth, conflict and the resolution completely satisfied me.

Language: F, because I don’t swear and the F bomb is dropped every other word at times. It was distracting to me, but if you don’t mind swearing you won’t even notice. Probably.
Charity Bradford has been a voracious reader ever since her 5th grade teacher introduced her to the world of books with Where the Red Fern Grows and Summer of the Monkeys. She’s the mother of four kids that keep her on her toes, constantly reminding her that imagination still makes the world go round. She lives in Arkansas. The Magic Wakes, her debut novel, comes out 19 Feb 2013.

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