Books I can’t wait for in 2012!

This isn’t a definitive list of what is being released this year, just books I am looking forwards to in particular.  I have probably missed some and of course, there will always be authors that are new to me to be discovered.  Let the reading begin… as they get released of course 😉

January

Lothaire by Kresley Cole (Immortals After Dark #12)
Jacob by Jacquelyn Frank (The Nightwalkers #1)
Gideon by Jacquelyn Frank (The Nightwalkers #2)
Seven Princes by John R. Fultz (Books of the Shaper #1)
Unclean Spirits by M. L. N. Hanover (Black Sun’s Daughter #1)
The Duke is Mine by Eloisa James
Second Grave on the Left by Darynda Jones (Charley Davidson #2)
Copper Beach by Jayne Ann Krentz (Dark Legacy #1)
Heir of Night by Helen Lowe (Wall of Night #1)
No One Left to Tell by Karen Rose
Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan (The Riyria Revelations)
Blue-Blooded Vamp by Jaye Wells (Sabina Kane #4)
Eternal Hunger by Laura Wright (Mark of the Vampire #1)
Eternal Kiss by Laura Wright (Mark of the Vampire #2)

It’s very hard to choose just one out of all the great books being released this month but my top pick for January is No One Left to Tell by Karen Rose.

February

Mass Effect: Deception by William C. Dietz
Darker Angels by M. L. N. Hanover (Black Sun’s Daughter #2)
Third Grave Dead Ahead by Darynda Jones (Charley Davidson #3)
A Walk in the Park by Jill Mansell
The Dread by Gail Z. Martin (Fallen Kings Cycle #2)
Eternal Captive by Laura Wright (Mark of the Vampire #3)

The Dread by Gail Z. Martin continues the Fallen Kings Cycle and is my top pick for February.

March

Bridge of Dreams by Anne Bishop (Ephemera #3)
Fair Game by Patricia Briggs (Alpha & Omega #3)
Recipe for Love by Katie Fforde
Elijah by Jacquelyn Frank (The Nightwalkers #3)
Damien by Jacquelyn Frank (The Nightwalkers #4)
Vicious Grace by M. L. N. Hanover (Black Sun’s Daughter #3)
Fated by Benedict Jacka (Alex Verus #1)
Infamous by Sherrilyn Kenyon (Chronicles of Nick #3)
Exogene by T. C. McCarthy (Subterrene War #2)
Lover Reborn by J. R. Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood #10)
A Rising Thunder by David Weber (Honor Harrington)

March is a very tough month to choose a top pick from, with books out by several favourite authors.  I am going to have to go with Lover Reborn by J. R. Ward since I love the Black Dagger Brotherhood and this is Tohr’s story!

April

Noah by Jacquelyn Frank (The Nightwalkers #5)
Killing Rites by M. L. N. Hanover (Black Sun’s Daughter #4)
Vengeance by Ian Irvine (The Tainted Realm #1)
Gathering of the Lost by Helen Lowe (Wall of Night #2)
The Love Letter by Fiona Walker
32 Fangs by David Wellington (Laura Caxton #5)

The Love Letter by Fiona Walker is my pick for April, her books never fail to amuse and entertain me.

May

The King’s Blood by Daniel Abraham (Dagger and the Coin #2)
Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison (Elder Races #1)
Born of Silence by Sherrilyn Kenyon (League #5)
Frostbite by Richelle Mead,  Emma Vieceli and Leigh Dragoon (Vampire Academy Graphic Novel #2)

By May I will be jumping up and down with excitement with the release of Born Of Silence by Sherrilyn Kenyon, the next book in her brilliant League series!

June

Darkness Devours by Keri Arthur (Dark Angel #3)
Caliban’s War by James S. A. Corey (Expanse #2)
Blackout by Mira Grant (Newsflesh Trilogy #3)
Storm’s Heart by Thea Harrison (Elder Races #2)
Lethal Rider by Larissa Ione (Lords of Deliverance #3)
Cursed by Benedict Jacka (Alex Verus #2)
Messenger’s Angel by Heather Killough-Walden (Lost Angels #2)
The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead (Bloodlines #2)
A Night like This by Julia Quinn (Smythe-Smith Quartet #2)
Silver-Tongued Devil by Jaye Wells (Sabina Kane #5)

This is not getting any easier!  June has so many books I am really excited about, but if my arm was twisted behind my back to choose (please don’t!) it would have to be Lethal Rider by Larissa Ione.

July

Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong (Women of the Otherworld #13)

July is a bit of an obvious one!

August

Time Untime by Sherrilyn Kenyon (Dark-Hunter #22)
Shadow Blizzard by Alexey Pehov (Chronicles of Siala #3)
Seawitch by Kat Richardson (Greywalker #7)
Kitty Steals the Show by Carrie Vaughn (Kitty Norville #10)

Kitty Steals the Show by Carrie Vaughn is my pick for August, I just love this series so much!

November

Death’s Angel by Heather Killough-Walden (Lost Angels #3)

This month speaks for itself 😉

In Her Name: Empire

I read In Her Name: Empire in literally one sitting.  I couldn’t put it down and was so engaged I didn’t even want to stop for food!

There are almost two parts to this book.  First, an invasion of colonised space by an alien species, and humanity fighting back with enormous losses.  This is followed by a more fantasy-like setting with a gladiatorial feel which fills the rest of the book.  The two styles didn’t lessen the impact of the story at all, and if anything they made it more intriguing.

I loved how Michael Hicks showed us Reza’s life from a very young boy through to a man, and he is my favourite type of hero.  He never tries to be heroic, he just does what he can to survive, but without compromising his ideals.  Reza’s initial survival was enabled by ultimate sacrifice and incredible courage and from then on, I was hooked.  His decisions were wonderfully reasoned and played out, and even after I’d finished the book I kept thinking about it, and what would I have done in his situation.

The Kreelan race provided a puzzle for me, and I think it’s down to Hicks’ clever writing that while you know they are the enemy, you slowly come to realise they are also a deeply connected and spiritual people, with their own strict way of life that is completely alien. Their history and their mystical way of life was brilliantly envisioned and made it really easy to empathise with them, despite their role.

It wasn’t until the end of the book I was reminded that they are in fact, the enemy.  And I cried.

The plot was really well laid out, driving us through a series of events that forge Reza into a survivor, from young boy to man, with amazing strength of character and very likeable.

The character of one of the Kreelan warriors was really well conceived.  Again, it’s down to excellent writing by Michael R. Hicks that I hated the character at first, but as Reza grew and his perceptions changed, so did mine and I ended up loving her (no names, to avoid spoiling it)!

The Kreelan are a warlike people who are bound together by soul and so deeply steeped in honour, tradition and ceremony that it is stagnating their culture.  I thought it was interesting that on the Kreelan planet, there is no evidence of technology nor that the people could be capable of space flight, but it’s a given that they are since they are waging war on humanity. I suspect that will feature more in the next books of this trilogy.

The pace is tricky as it covers a long period of time but I thought Hicks handled the jumps forward well, and I enjoyed the book all the more because I got to see Reza at so many points in his life, and eventually learning who he is now.

The ending didn’t really come as a surprise, you knew the eventual outcome was always a possibility but that didn’t detract at all from its power.  Reza’s honour, belief and loyalty made him stand out amongst heroes and it moved me to tears.

In Her Name: Empire is a book that has heart, emotion, sacrifice, and courage and I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: Michael R. Hicks
  • Format: Kindle
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Leviathan Wakes

This book is utterly amazing,  I can’t stress that enough. It hits every single sci-fi button I have; space opera, crime, horror, and just enough of a touch of romance to give it an emotional punch.  It has zombies, heroic sacrifice, interplanetary war, and some truly great action.

On paper that might seem like a book by the numbers but it really isn’t.  The writing is clever but eminently readable and the story just blew me away.  With such a heady mix of so many elements the plot could have been really confusing, yet I had no trouble following it.

The characters are believable, realistic and they quickly get into your mind, even those that are only present for a short time.  I loved Captain Jim Holden and his somewhat naive and altruistic view of life. He’s written so well that the odd mix of both admirable and foolhardy decision making is believable. The authors have given us a hero that acts like one despite the consequences.  The rest of the survivors were also well realised and added a lot to the depth and flavour of the story.  As an aside I did laugh when Naomi figuratively had to smack Jim into sense, one of a number of comic moments that help break up the considerable tension.

Detective Miller is a bit of an enigma.  A very strong character but obviously fundamentally damaged, and the complete opposite of Jim.  He sees things from a much more realistic perspective and can look at the bigger picture.  I thought the debates with Holden about his decisions, and them both being at opposite ends of the spectrum were very well written and thought out.  Neither were right or wrong but I found my own feelings on the matter coloured how I looked at it.  Miller’s involvement was excellent yet sad and the emotional writing of this character had me in tears towards the end of the book.

I thought the future technology side was well crafted and believable, taking into account physics and the forces at play when ships are moving.  I felt it all was very smooth, understandable and very creative.

The plot and pace are very much tied together as each chapter unfolds and both increase in intensity nicely.  I’ve seen some people say the ending employs deus ex machina, however I totally disagree because the groundwork had been building right from the start.  To me it was just another example of the clever writing in Leviathan Wakes.

I didn’t find out until after I’d finished, that James S. A. Corey is actually the pen name for two people; Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.  I have to say I think they blended perfectly; sometimes you can get a feel of two voices in these situations but I was unaware and very surprised when I did realise.

An amazingly exciting space opera, and I absolutely can’t wait to see what happens in the next book!

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: James S.A. Corey
  • Genre: Sci-Fi
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

 

Halting State

Halting State is a book that ticks all my “I’m interested” boxes.  Its has lots of technology, virtual reality, augmented reality, on-line gaming, intrigue, mystery, crime, tabletop roleplaying references and a protagonist who’s full of self doubt.  So I keep having to ask myself why I found it so hard to finish.  The story is set in the near future and augmented reality is an essential part of every day life, the best example in the book is a network used by the Police to drive heads-up displays and overlays on their goggles/glasses.  The result being they always know who they’re talking to, their past history and everything they do is recorded and analysed.  The whole thing is so pervasive that the author tells us people can’t even find their way around big cities any more without their augmented reality map overlays.  Massively Multi-player Online Games are huge business, telephones are insanely powerful and provide all your local computing needs, everything is highly-connected, pervasive computing is the norm, and taxis drive themselves to your destination.

Against this backdrop of near-future technology is the theft of a bunch of digital assets which drags our little band of protagonists into a deadly hunt for what’s really going on.  Mix in some spy-vs-spy style espionage, some politics and a little bit of big business and we have what seems to be an engaging and complex backdrop for what should be an excellent journey.

Sadly, Charles Stross manages make it hard going.  The book is written in the 2nd person, with chapters alternating between the main protagonists.  Sometimes there’s even some overlap, so the end of one chapter from Elaine’s point of view in the second person, is then covered by Jack in the start of the next chapter.  This is particularly frustrating when one chapter ends, “You squeeze his hand tightly”, and the next starts, “You feel her hand in yours” (those aren’t in the book, just my example).  The 2nd person structure might work in some circumstances, but here it just adds to the overall confusion.  The rest of that confusion is delivered via the plot which is straggly and badly connected, and the technical jargon.  In an interview, Stross suggests that when he wrote this in 2008, only one of the technologies mentioned in the book wasn’t actually commercially available.  That may be true, but the sheer amount of jargon and technology mentioned is overwhelming.

I kept reading because I liked Jack (the burned out games developer), and Elaine (a forensic accountant), I even liked Sue (a Scottish policewoman). However, thanks to the 2nd person delivery and the rest of the structure, the characters don’t grow and remain pretty shallow.  Sure, they have their moments, and there are some brief flashes of what they could have been, but every time I felt I was getting to know them the 2nd person style threw me back to the real world.

The pace is okay, there’s humour, some amusing revelations and some excellent examples of what technology might turn into – but it’s all wrapped in such a chaotic and confusing plot that it’s too well hidden to fully enjoy.  I was not at all surprised when the end turned out to be nothing that we expected and it had to be explained de-briefing style in the last chapter.

The actual conclusion was a real let down after the build up and it felt like Stross just didn’t know where to take the whole thing in the end.

Having said all of that, I read the whole thing, and I laughed out loud a few times.  I enjoyed the technology when I could get past the jargon and I think Stross has provided an interesting insight into how things could turn out.  This book is absolutely not average – but I’m going to give it a squarely average score.  It could have been so much better and it’s saved only by the touches of brilliance amidst the chaos.

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Charles Stross
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Robopocalypse

The story might sound familiar; sometime in the near future, a super-intelligent AI has co-opted all the machines in the world to wage war against humanity.  Humanity, of course, has lined itself up for this disaster by allowing more and more of the machines it takes for granted to be controlled by their own inbuilt computers.  It should be no surprise that eventually the machines stand up and rebel, and that premise has driven any number of books and movies in the past.  But dig just the tiniest bit deeper and you’ll find a far more complex story going on in Robopocalypse.

Along with the more subtle presentation of a familiar theme, this book presents the story in an unusual style.  It is presented as a number of reports or incidents viewed retrospectively by a third person, the narrator.  So while all books are a fusion of style and content, in this book the style is more than just a container for the words, it’s an actual part of the story.  Robopocalypse relies on this unusual structure to build a cohesive and moving story from a number of engaging vignettes.

Cormac Wallace narrates the story for us after a brief introduction, which actually starts just after the war is over.  In fact the first sentence in the book starts, “Twenty minutes after the war ends ….” so there are no spoilers in revealing this.  Cormac takes us back to before the war starts, through reports of a small groups of individuals who turn out to have pivotal roles in the upcoming struggle.  They include a US congresswoman, a lonely inventor, an American soldier and a London based hacker to name a few.  Each shows up over and over in different chapters focussed on them, and we eventually witness the rise of the artificial intelligence (Archos), and the terrible war which follows.

The vignettes are all excellently written and Wilson manages to present well rounded and engaging characters very quickly.  Which is good news, because this format could so easily have failed if the reader couldn’t empathise with or join the characters on their journeys.  It is the emotional engagement that drives the overall story arc, we mostly already know the end, so the only reason to read is to see how these people get there.

The individual chapters each cover very short periods of time, but together they take us from just before the war, to the moment where Archos takes control, through the actual fighting and right up to the end over three years later.  Each chapter has it’s own pace, some are frantic and filled with panic while others are more relaxed.  While we don’t get to see individual characters often or for very much time, the long time scale involved in the main story arc gives Wilson a chance to show us those characters have changed even if we don’t watch that process in action.

I did sometimes feel that pieces of the story were missing, or that I would have liked to have seen more of some of the characters, but that’s the nature of the format Wilson has chosen.  Perhaps less is more, and that desire to find out kept me turning the pages.  Either way the end result is an excellent, entertaining and emotional look at what might be if the Robots ever do rebel.  If my only complaint about a book is that it’s too short, then I think it’s a pretty good sign.  I thoroughly enjoyed Robopocalypse, and hope you do as well.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Daniel H. Wilson
  • Genre: Sci-Fi
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Hellhole

Exiled to Hallholme after he led a rebellion against the Constellation Empire, General Tiber Adolphus was expected to die from the planet’s barely habitable environment.  Much to Diadem Michella Duchanet’s annoyance, he refused to give in and instead managed to establish a small community that quickly expanded as convicts, malcontents,  and people with nowhere else to go were dumped and left to the mercies of Hellhole.  Struck by a meteor centuries earlier that wiped out all indiginous life, it’s a mostly barren wasteland with unpredictable and often deadly weather patterns.

Back in the Crown Jewel planets, the Lords and Ladies of the Parliamentary government enjoyed the fruits of the Deep Zone labours, requiring tributes from their already taxed economies, forcing them to give up valuable assets that would help their own colonists.  Determined not to let another rebellion take hold, the Diadem keeps her government on their toes, encouraging them to plot against each other if it suited her interest or simply have her spies and military personnel step in if it didn’t.  Diadem Michella Duchanet was the ruler of the Constellation and she would not have anyone get in her way.

For someone who read a lot of science-fiction when I was younger,  I don’t seem to be able to get into it much these days.  It has been a while since I found anything that held my interest, that wasn’t also linked to the romance genre.

Hellhole has completely changed that for me and I am very happy it did so.  It’s an engaging story of hazardous frontier worlds and brave pioneers yet also of intrigue, plotting and maneuvering among the nobles of  the vast Constellation Empire.   The despot ruler, Diadem Michella Duchanet, is a real piece of work, as are some of the myriad nobles that rule the individual worlds of the Crown Jewels planets.

When the book starts, General Tiber Adolphus is at the final battle of his victorious five year rebellion against the Diadem and her armies, and right from that first chapter I was drawn in.  And it didn’t really let up from there.

It’s a book that has so many different facets and layers; it isn’t just a book about a rebellion against an unfit ruler, nor just about the people who were imprisoned or volunteered as colonists on the Deep Zone worlds.  It’s not even just about the possibility of alien life.  It’s about everything that makes up a wondrous vision into a possible distant future.

The protagonists were really well written and I came to care about some of them very quickly.  I also didn’t just dislike the antagonists, I hated them.

Hellhole itself was described with vivid imagery and I could see it in my mind’s eye.  The other Deep Zone worlds too, but to a lesser extent.

The pace was excellent, going from almost a normal pace of life after the first few chapters to an almost frenzied state as different threads were coming together.  I even growled as I turned the last page and realised I would have to wait to find out what happens until the next book.  It caught me out, even though I should have realised that with everything that still needed to happen, it wouldn’t fit into the number of pages left.

The plot was so intricate and layered, I have no idea how the authors kept it straight, but it wasn’t confusing.  I knew where I was and what was happening, it just ramped up the tension as each layer was added.

There are a few shocks and surprises but I won’t spoil them here.  Suffice to say some of them were very sad but there is also joy to balance it out.

If you like great science fiction on an epic scale, you have to read Hellhole.. really!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson
  • Genre: Sci-Fi
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Born of Ice

Devyn Kell joined the League to save lives as a doctor and help those whose lives were being torn apart by conflict.  He didn’t bank on the League being one of the corrupt oppressors involved in the war and in one moment, throws his career and nearly his life away to save an innocent child.  Hunted by both the League and an old enemy with a family grudge, he becomes a runner to bring supplies, medicines and aid to those in need.  Alix Garran is a slave offered her freedom and the lives of her mother and sister if she can bring in the notorious rebel.  When an opening is made in Devyn’s crew, she’s forced to apply for the engineering role and find evidence that will convict Devyn and his crew.  If she can’t find it, she’ll have to fabricate it and time is ticking.  Not expecting to find a cause she can believe in, or people she can trust, Alix finds herself horribly torn between her family, and a man she can finally respect.

I expected this book to follow along the same timeline as Born of Night and Born of Fire and was surprised to find it was about their now grown up children.  Devyn is the son of Syn and Shahara and some of the major cast of characters are offpsring from Nykyrian and Kiara, his crew and friends.  I thought that was a great idea!  Sometimes you get to see what happens after a book is finished, not often you get to see what happens nearly a generation later.  I thought the character of Devyn was nicely written as a blend of his parents temperaments but not a mirror of either.  Alix is a character that brought out a lot of sympathy from me and at times I empathised a lot with.  Her life has never been her own, enslaved along with her mother and sister to her own father.  It was a nice switcharound that it was the female lead character in this book that had the traumatic life instead of the male, although saying that, Devyn has his own issues too.  I liked that the parents were kept out of the book as much as possible and when they appeared or ‘interfered’ it was called for in the story rather than being in it just for the sake of it.  This isn’t as much of an action book as the first two but when it happened it was explosive and fierce and highlighted Devyn’s nature of preferring to heal than harm.  That’s not to say he’s not willing to fight and happens to be very good at it.  Alix is just gutsy, even as self-effacing as she is, having had enough of being her father’s punching bag.  Two brilliant leading characters who you can admire and love.  There is more humour in this book also, maybe due to the larger cast but their banter is very funny and there are a couple of scenes that made me laugh out loud.  Luckily I was reading at home!

A very engaging, exciting and passionate book that I highly recommend you read!  I do hope there are more coming in this series.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Born of Fire

C.I. Syn the deadly, predatory and notorious filch has been accused of an horrific rape and murder.  The warrant out for his capture is picked up by Seax Shahara Dagan, desperate for money to pay for her sister’s medical bills.  Had she not been in such need, not even she would have gone after the son of one of the worst criminals in history.  Branded by his father’s sins and a universal assumption that the son would follow in his evil footsteps, Shahara goes in fully prepared to meet a monster.  What she finds though is what she least expects, an honourable man trying to escape a past that continually haunts him.

After finishing Born of Night, I was eager to get right into the escapades of Nykyrian’s best friend but it took a while for me to get a copy.  I thought I might have to re-read the first book to get back into the setting but only a few pages in, I was well into the story.  I love how Sherrilyn Kenyon can write so astutely from another’s viewpoint in a different book.  Born of Night was Nykyrian’s story in which Syn featured quite a lot and while I liked him, he was a grumpy soul with obvious issues from his past.  In this book, seeing life from his point of view told me so much more.  As I  learned his history and how he’d been treated just because of who his father was, my heart just went out to him.  Shahara’s struggle to keep her family together and their ability to get themselves into trouble, expecting her to bail them out all the time was well written too and her love tinged with exasperation and weariness were very tangible.  I loved these two characters together, right from their first encounter, there were sparks flying.  As the story progressed and perceptions changed for them both, I just fell in love with them more and knowing what was likely to happen at the end, made it all the more heartbreaking.  Everything fit so well together, the pace of the book, the action, drama and love scenes and at no point did I feel any of it was gratuitous.  The only negative thing I can find to say is she re-uses one or two phrases which can get annoying but it’s a minor thing and those phrases do carry a lot of weight.

As an added note, these books are not just Dark-Hunters re-created in space but their own unique stories, completely separate from the rest of Sherrilyn’s work and even if you aren’t a sci-fi fan, if you enjoy her books, definately read these!

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

The Ghost Brigades

The Ghost Brigades is the second book from John Scalzi, set in the same world as Old Man’s War.  There are couple of cross-over characters but the main protagonist from Old Man’s War is not present (although he is mentioned).  The story revolves around a few characters (including Jane Sagan) which sets it immediately apart from it’s predecessor and indeed The Ghost Brigades is a better book.

Three intelligent races appear to be ganging up against the humans backed with knowledge from a human traitor, and it’s up to the CDF’s Special Forces unit to find out what’s going on and shut it down before it turns into a disaster.  But to achieve it, they have to recreate the traitor to learn exactly what their enemy is up to.

The Ghost Brigades reads more smoothly than Old Man’s War and the increased number of viewpoints throughout the story give it more depth.  On one level this is a less personal story, more a story of humanity’s attempt to survive in the great Universe; and yet it retains a very personal core in the form of Jared Dirac and his struggle to work out who he really is or might become.  We learn more about the CDF’s technology, get a hint at some greater machine turning in the background behind all the action and experience some thrilling and tense combat action.  Character interaction is excellent and while the nature of the CDF special forces might seem to prevent much character growth, Scalzi manages to do it anyway in a satisfying way.

The science / sci-fi element is interesting although I’m not a fan enough of sci-fi to tell you if it’s credible or crazy.  Sclazi also manages to provide some truly interesting aliens races to think about who are more than just humanoids with head prosthetics.

I’m a sucker for all the emotional triggers in this book (I’ll say no more in case I give too much away) so was very moved and touched by the latter few chapters.  That results in me almost forgiving the initially slow and slightly clumsy start, but not enough to give it 5 stars.

The Ghost Brigades is a worthy successor to Old Man’s War, and in many ways surpasses it.  Strongly recommended.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: John Scalzi
  • Genre: Sci-Fi
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Old Man’s War

 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.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: John Scalzi
  • Genre: Sci-Fi
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)