Friday, July 16, 2010

Old Man's War by John Scalzi - Award Winning for a Reason

Pros: A fantastic mix of story, comedy, and somberness
Cons: None

The Bottom Line: This novel surprised me in many ways and I enjoyed every second of it.

I shouldn't, I really shouldn't, but I have an image in my mind of what a science fiction novel includes. I'm a total moron for thinking that, but at least I know it. Suffice to say, I expected something completely different when I finally got around to reading Old Man's War by John Scalzi. I'd been told to read it several times and it's been on my reading list f o r e v e r, but I've only just finished it a few days ago.

What a chump I've been.

In a nutshell, protagonist John Perry has decided to join up with the Colonial Defense Forces, and once he's 75, he's ready to go. They want people to be older for a reason, but you don't stay old once you're up there. You never get to come back to Earth, and you have to fight anywhere from two to ten years, but you get to be younger and you get to live happily ever after on a new planet. That is, if you live that long. And what's out there waiting for Perry? Just about everything he can imagine - and everything he can't.

While it is a little Starship Troopers, that's fine with me. Scalzi got this down, ace in the hole. From what I can tell, his science is solid and his military goodies are believable (though you can pretty much make up anything you want once you've escaped Earth rules).

Honestly, what I didn't expect in the least was the humor. Never in a million years did I ever expect this book to be funny. The protagonist tells his story in first person and he's just a guy. That's it. He's not super special or anything, he's just a guy who misses his dead wife and is tired of being old. I laughed out loud several times during the first half of this book, before they head off into battles with strange beings and with souped up technology and hardware I half wish existed now (the other half of me is glad it doesn't).

I mean, I had a really good time reading this. I liked Perry a lot. I wanted all his friends to survive, even if just for his sake, and even though I knew they wouldn't. Scalzi threw me for a loop numerous times too, from the number of creatures the CDF soldiers have to fight to the sneaky science he uses near the end to what Perry finds out there in all that black space. The second half of the book focuses on the battles and Perry dealing with the fighting, but it never loses it's edge, it never slows down, and even though you won't be laughing out loud anymore, you'll probably crack a grin or two because Perry just can't stop himself from making snarky jokes.

The battles are well thought out, fairly easy to visualize, and in some ways, I wondered if maybe James Cameron read this book and used bits of it to influence his Avatar movie (though considering time tables, probably not). Another thing that truly surprised me was how new this book is. Ok, so it was published back in 2005, but for some reason I was under the impression that it was much older, as in before 2000. I look at that actually and think that maybe my story has hope.

But if you enjoy science fiction and don't want it to be too hard (as in, too much science dumped in your face), you'll find this to be a good balance. It's got humor, friendship, fierce battles in space and on the ground, strange planets with strange creatures, loss, and the shock of finding something you'd never thought you'd find again. I read this in a day and know that in the future I'll probably have to read it again.


Originally posted on

Notes from the playlist: "Invincible" by Adelitas Way

1 comment:

G.L. said...

If you liked this book, make sure to check out the sequels - Ghost Brigades, Last Colony and Zoe's Tale. They're all a bit different, but tend to follow the same narrative style. :)

(If this comments gets chosen and I win a book, could I have the Zoo Story? Thanks! :])

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