Friday, May 25, 2012

Old Man's War by John Scalzi - review

****Boy - I have been a flake lately about posting reviews.  I've been reading, and finishing some novels.  I've been enjoying them, but for some reason I haven't been posting reviews.  I mean to.  I always plan to.  Yet I find myself saying, I'll write a review soon and post it, then next thing I know, it's been almost a year and I still haven't written a review of a certain book.  I think there's still some books from 2010 that I haven't reviewed.  Now there are times when I purposely don't write about a book - usually because I didn't finish it, or because I pretty much hated it, or was bored.  So I don't waste my time.  My aim is to review books that I enjoy - to share them with others who might enjoy them.  So if I don't enjoy, I don't post.  So, I'm giving myself a goal to review at least two books a week from now on.  At least then, even if I don't read two books a week (sometimes I don't, gasp!) at least I'll be catching up, slowly but surely.  Ummm, wish me luck, I can be pretty lazy (G)***
With that said, and done - on to a review!

John Scalzi
2005 (ppb)


cover- I like this cover.  Sure, it's like a lot of SciFi covers - except this one doesn't have the dramatically serious face floating above or below the planet/ship that is about to be blown up.  I like the fighter spaceships.  I'm probably naming the flying ships the wrong thing, but I don't really care if I'm accurate about names of things....just names of authors and books...and grandchildren, or children.  The important things. :)

I've seen this title around for quite a long time.  Old Man's War.  I have to admit here that from the title (you should never ever judge a book by either its cover OR title, though it's mighty tempting) I thought it was going to be about a war that was caused by the usual - rich old men who want to get richer or keep rich or hide something.  The usual.  I was pleasantly surprised about the way the soldiers came into being.  Sure, the reasons for all the wars and military actions are still about greed, etc.  But the fighters, refreshingly, are old men at the end of their life expectancy.  This is refreshing.  In a way.

The reason I even picked up this book, was because on a whim, I bought Zoe's Tale, though I didn't read it until after I - on another, later whim - bought Fuzzy Nation.  I read Fuzzy Nation and loved it.  Even though Scalzi warns that Fuzzy Nation is unlike any other novel written by him, I still went right from there to Zoe's Tale.  Now Zoe's Tale is also reportedly unlike his other books....still I liked it enough that I thought I would buy the very first of this series and try it.  I did like it.  Not as much as I liked Zoe's Tale or Fuzzy Nation, but I like it enough that I'll be looking out for the next novel - The Ghost Brigades.

Old Man's War seemed to me, to read more like an account of a man's journey from old man to soldier than a story.  It was interesting, though I'm still not sure if I quite enjoyed the style of narration.  It was first person, which I enjoy - but seemed a bit dry.  That's okay, though once in a while.  It was, after all, an interesting account.  The premise was good - when people turn a certain age, they are given a chance to sign up to join the army at the age of 75 years.  It's a mystery to everyone on Earth what happens then, because people who join the space army - or Colonial Defence Forces never return to Earth.  Joining with the CDF means you give up your entire life.  All assets go to relatives, you're declared dead and you never ever return to Earth or expect to see your past family/friends.  But in return you are assured a new life, and after two, possibly ten years, you are given the option of retiring from the CDF and living a new lifetime on a settled planet.  

The first part of the book is about how John Perry turns 75, joins up with the CDF, gets his new life and goes through training.  Things are very different now - the least of the changes is his new green skin.  After training, he and thousands of other recruits - after some changes - begin a tour of Colonial Defence - with the emphasis on Forces.  He's not entirely proud of the way the CDF runs business.  However, he's joined and now is part of a squad, so makes the best of it.  Afterall, at this point, you're fighting with your troop, your co-soldiers and that's what you focus on.  Interesting.

The other section of the novel is where he meets Jane Sagan and has an encounter with the Special Forces - aka The Ghost Brigades.  The ending of the book leaves an opening for a future as a person - possibly with a mate, possibly farming.

There's way more to the novel that the above.  There are computer like brains, smartblood, the green skin which has a purpose, and lots of fighting sequences.  Some battle strategy and sadly (for me) a little bit of infodumping in the guise of conversations about things such as skip drives, politics, etc.  Thankfully, these infodumping conversations were short enough that I wasn't quite tempted to quit reading and each time I almost got the point of the burning stomach feeling, these conversations would end. Those were the only real drawbacks to the novel for me.  The rest of the novel, though written a bit dry or emotionless (hey - I enjoy just a touch of feeling, not too much, but not a complete lack, either) was still interesting enough with the SciFi elements that I had fun reading it. So, while I don't quite give it my highest score of six stars, I do rate it at a four stars.  It's apparent that Scalzi knows how to write a good plot, and he's good with dialogue.  His characters are interesting - and each one holds his own.  So even though I didn't LOVE this book, I'm still looking for the next novel which might feature Jane Sagan, and maybe has John Perry in it.  Maybe not.  Either way, I would like to read The Ghost Brigades and I found overall, his novels interesting and varied enough that if I see his name on a book, I'm going to most likely buy that book. 


  1. I enjoyed reading this book and I agree that Scalzi is a master of plotting. I love how all the old folks got "repurposed" and were able to be vital again.

    1. That would be kind of cool, wouldn't it? being repurposed (that's a good term). Better than the slow inevitable slide to...well, you know. That would very cool. :)