Old Man’s War by John Scalzi A Fangurl’s Review


This was a book I’ve long had on my to-read list and one I was in two minds about reviewing. Because I’ve followed and adored Scalzi on Twitter for uhm… some years now and I knew it would make me very predisposed to his writing when I finally got the time and money to dig into them. I told myself it is much easier to keep an eye on your predispositions in a review when they tend to be in the negative. That being positively predisposed would make me fangurl over things I wouldn’t love from other writers.

Then I told myself to shut up and get on with it.

Old Man’s War cover

Because Old Man’s War was totally my kind of story. It has space pew pew, it has fantastic and creepy and morally questionable futuristic ideas and solutions. It has non-bipedal aliens (hey, I was a child during Star Trek’s (previous) heyday and I still love them but sheesh). It has a galactic war. Apparently this is now a thing for me. Thank you very much, David Weber. That really meshes with my pacifist persona here!

Old Man’s War was Scalzi’s debut novel in 2005 and as an aspiring novelist that’s just depressing. Maybe if I work really hard for many years I could be a tenth as good a writer. /wistful. Pointless lamentations aside, this is one of the novels that belongs in your scifi  to read/have read list and this goes double if you are one of my special darlings that I’ve dragged bodily into Honorverse . You will like this book.

Another comparison that occurred to me while reading was Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. But less silly (movie) and much less depressing (book).  Not so far fetched as it turns out since he added a thank you to Heinlein by the end of the book and has mentioned in many interviews that Starship Troopers was a source of inspiration. In fact I’m pretty sure my favorite ST character, Sergant Zim, was in Scalzi’s book, at least in spirit.

As an interesting aside, according to Wikipedia, a copy of Old Man’s War can be seen in an episode of the off-shoot TV series. Stargate Universe which Scalzi was a creative consultant for. Not sure if I’m counting that a pro or a con really, I’ve been trying to forget about that series since I watched the pilot. /wince

On a more interesting and much less eye-twitchy note is that SyFy announced in the Summer of 2014 that they are working on an Old Man’s War TV series under the title of Ghost Brigades with Wolfgang ‘Das Boot‘  & ‘Neverending Story‘ Peterson at the helm.  So… wow! Incidentally Ghost Brigades is another title in the Old Man’s War series of books which now count a total of 9 titles, some of which are available for free.

The story follows retiree John Perry as he signs up for the Colonial Defense Forces along with other pensioners looking for the promise of a new life. Nothing is known about how that promise is fulfilled by the mysterious Colonial Defense Forces but surely there would be some changes happening in order to turn 75-year-olds into a fighting force. As John finds out, there certainly are and formerly mild mannered, peace loving grandpa is transformed over time into a hard bitten soldier in a multi front war of survival among the stars.

How do you like them new sci-fi idea apples?

Old Man’s War alt cover

The galactic war, while central to the story, takes a backseat to John himself and his gaggle of rookie friends as they learn to cope with new world views and new truths – both moral and scientific and the book turns over the ethicality of life extension and the deceased as well as as giving us a grim face to face with what competition for resources looks like at the big kid’s table. Because humanity is neither the strongest nor brightest contender in this universe and some of the others want to eat us. And that too is on my list of likes for a sci-fi story. Not the cannibalism part… ><

“Colonial Defense Forces” by David Paul. (click to see original)

I pronounce it a whopping 5 out 5 flying bear squirrels (you’ll understand when you read the book).

You can find John Scalzi as @Scalzi on Twitter or on his blog Whatever.
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