It’s a while since I read anything and it’s even longer since I read any sci-fi. I ended up reading Old Man’s War thanks to Twitter and WordPress. If you browse the web for authors and blogs and sci-fi / fantasy you’ll eventually come across John Scalzi (his blog is here). I enjoyed his blog posts, and followed him on Twitter. Eventually I decided to order his first book (along with books from several other authors I’ve never read but have heard of thanks to Twitter / Blogs), and that first book is Old Man’s War. It was published in 2005 and got a Hugo nomination for Best Novel in 2006 (it came 3rd).
Old Man’s War tells the story of Colonial Defence Force soldier John Perry. New applicants to the CDF join when they are 75, after signing a letter of intent at 65 years of age. Recruits join for a couple of reasons, not least among them is the belief or rumour that the CDF somehow makes them young again – why else would they want soliders aged 75 unless they can give them a fresh lease of life.
The book is interesting and engaging straight off the bat, the base premise is novel and provides a stepping stone for the overall story. This isn’t a complex story or an overly reflective book, but it is a very personal story (the first-person perspective enhances the impact). John’s wife has died, and he’s got few ties left on earth. Joining the army and getting a new lease of life somehow seems like the best thing to do. The arc follows his journey both physical and emotional as he discovers what the rest of the universe is actually like and how the human colonies out there are coping. The CDF is constantly fighting battles against a broad range of enemies of all times.
We spend time initially with John and some people he meets at the early stages of his recruitment. They engage in various battles, learn the truth of the CDF recruitment plan and eventually discover that a throw away comment about the Ghost Brigade was more than just a joke.
The writing is no frills and to the point, it’s not possible to tell if this is John Scalzi’s normal style or if it’s intended to reflect John Perry’s view of the world, either way it suits my reading needs and allows you to engage with the characters easily. There is humour and sadness and while the emotional pieces aren’t deeply moving they’re certainly engaging. The story of folk joining a sci-fi based military organisation and being sent off-world to fight enemies with more than 2 legs isn’t a new one, but Scalzi’s humour and presentation of Perry’s thoughts lift this story above the plot and make it well worth reading. I ordered the sequel (The Ghost Brigades) as soon as I’d put Old Man’s War down.