Book: Old Man's War by John Scalzi

Good but not great old-school-ish military-sf novel

John Scalzi
Old Man's War
Tor, 2005
ISBN: 0-765-30940-9
316 pages

Cory Doctorow has a blurb on the cover of Old Man's War that says in part, "It's Starship Troopers without the lectures. It's The Forever War with better sex." I don't always agree with Cory Doctorow, but in this case I think he's exactly right. If that description makes Old Man's War sound like a book you'd like, you almost certainly will.

The book begins:

    I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife's
    grave. Then I joined the army. (p. 9)

The book begins on earth in the not-too-distant future. There's space travel and plenty of alien species, but people who live on earth don't get to see them. The Colonial Defense Forces aren't based on earth and they have a monopoly on space travel. For reasons they don't specify, they take colonists from some countries and military recruits from others. For reasons they also don't specify, they take recruits only when they're seventy-five years old. One of the few things known to potential recruits is that they undergo some sort of rejuvenation process before their basic training. That's one of the attractions.

John Perry has signed up and he's off for rejuvenation and basic training. After competing basic training, he becomes an infantryman and takes part in various battles against various alien enemies. The military aspects of the book are good and sometimes very good but they're not remarkable. They're very much in the military-sf genre rather than being genre-expanding. There's a human-interest aspect that comes up about two-thirds of the way through the book. Mr Perry has been wounded and is near death after a disastrous battle, but he's rescued. What's strange is that it seems to him that he's rescued by his wife.

If you wanted to, you could say that the book had something to say about what it means to be human. I'd prefer to say that if you're in the mood for a good, pretty standard, military-sf novel, Old Man's War will deliver.

Mr Scalzi's website is here and he has an interesting blog over here. Note that the background image for the blog is from the book's cover art. Mr Scalzi isn't that old. He has a photo of himself here.

Posted: Sat - March 19, 2005 at 08:57   Main   Category: