Old Man’s War.
What can be said about this book that hasn’t already been said? What could I add to a review that would make mine stand out? What could I add to a review that would lend an iota of credibility or originality to my work? The truth: absolutely nothing. A lot bigger names then I have said a lot more meaningful things about this book then I could. So when all else fails and my backs to the wall I do what I do best. I rely on humour and sarcasm.
Old Man’s War – by John Scalzi – is a brilliant military sci-fi book. It takes a society where 75 year old men and women enlist in the Colonial Defence Force to fight. When they get there they find their mind transferred into an upgraded-cloned body of them in their prime. Then they are sent into space with a rifle and some armour and told to fight – a war – in space. IN. SPACE.
A deep sick part of me hoped that this book would be about decrepit geriatrics trying to fight in a young man’s war, the end effect being the most disturbing, violent and hilarious episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos ever, but what I got was an in-depth and thought provoking book. It is a Heinlein fiction book, military sci-fi’s inspired by the writings of Robert Heinlein, but it comes with a much different plate of themes then Starship Troopers did. It examines themes of friendship, marriage, the significance of mortality, what makes one human an individual identity and ethics of life extension.
Scalzi wrote a military book that’s not about the young soldier running into battle and learning about the world, nor is it a story about becoming a man and learning wisdom through combat. This book is about a 75 year old men and women who were at the end of their lifespan when they are given a second chance at youth. They enter battle not with an eager to learn but with a wisdom that comes with age.
A hesitant prize-fighter,
Still trapped within my youth
– Dan Hill – Sometimes When We Touch
What we see is a very introspective look at battle. This isn’t the adrenalin filled sci-fi war story, this is calm and collected book where the hero thinks before acting, thinking in a way that only comes from getting beaten, getting old, and getting slow. The book makes the normal stops, first battle, bonding with soldiers, and the normal sex-filled nights that would be seen in Forever War, but Scalzi makes each of these steps different. Even the love interest is approached in a completely different fashion.
Old Man’s War is Scalzi attempt at Heinlein Fiction. He makes no attempt to hide that fact, he goes out of his way to admit his inspiration, but the Heinlein Fiction genre means that this book isn’t perfect. It comes with some flaws. Our main character is kind of perfect. He lives a perfect life, comes up with a advertising campaign in his past life that wins over his gruff Sergeant’s heart, figures out battle plans quickly and even survives things that no other man should. He never does anything wrong and doesn’t seem to stray off the beaten path too much.
In most genres this is bad, in Heinlein Fiction this is standard.
Scalzi does, however, also improve on the Heinlein Fiction, making his story strong in the character department then Starship Troopers. Heinlein writes Rico as almost an emotionless person. There was no love interest or real character connections save for the father. Scalzi makes the human connection a massively strong point of the book when Jane Sagan shows up.
Women, am I right?
So is this book any good? Really? Are you seriously asking this? Did you not read the review? Did you just skip to the end?
Yes – this book is great. It was one of the best military fiction books I’m read in years. It actually makes me jealous that this was John Scalzi’s debut novel. Needless to say – jealousy aside – this is a great book and is not to be missed.