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Old Man's War by John Scalzi
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Old Man's War (2005)

by John Scalzi

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Old Man's War (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
6,0563061,001 (4.07)3 / 426
Recently added byprivate library, tOoManYto, jellyfishjones, gadosiahe, SanduX, LPmyers, rena75, BigSki, JMLandels
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    The Forever War by Joe Haldeman (JulesJones)
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    Karlstar: John Scalzi introduces the universe of the Colonial Union in this book. Similar in feel to Starship Troopers, in many ways.
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    TomWaitsTables: An anthology of stories in this vein.
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    Space Cadet by Robert A. Heinlein (JulesJones)
    JulesJones: The obvious Heinlein influence on Scalzi's "Old Man's War" is "Starship Troopers", but this also covers some of the same ground as Heinlein's YA "Space Cadet".
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    tottman: 47 Echo lacks the depth (and the universe-spanning scope) of Old Man's War, but the story and the fighting are both quite enjoyable. I won't say it's nearly as good as Old Man's War, but it is a quick, fun enjoyable read. And there's a lot of potential from this author I hope to see come out in future books.… (more)
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English (296)  Swedish (1)  Croatian (1)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Hungarian (1)  Italian (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (303)
Showing 1-5 of 296 (next | show all)
Let me start by saying that not for one moment did I find myself bored while reading this piece of military sci-fi. I barely even checked to see how much of it I have left while reading it on my Kindle. I can't even say that for most books I like a lot better than Old Man's War. Yet...

Ok, let's do a brief plot synopsis first. An old man enlists into a space army instead of dying. Before beginning boot camp, he is rejuvenated to the age of 20-something, using technology only available to the Colonial Defense Forces.

The problem, though, is that this guy is just too annoying to be true. Why this 75-year-old former advertising writer should become the biggest star in the hundred-plus year history of the CDF is anyone's guess. He doesn't seem to be any different at all from any other enlisted old fart, he had had no military training in his pre-space-army life and lived a perfectly ordinary, even boring life, which is a fact that he admits to freely on several occasions. Yet, in just about a year after enlisting, this genetically enhanced advertising writer manages to (WARNING, SPOILERS AHEAD, I GUESS):

1. Impress the hell out of his right-out-of-Hollywood-movie drill instructor who hasn't been impressed with anyone since the Big Bang.
2. In his first live battle situation, figure out an ammo configuration sequence that is very efficient in killing the attacking alien brigades, something that apparently was beyond reach of army's experts until this n00b showed them all up.
3. In the same battle, figure out the significance of pre-battle ritual performed by the alien race, again something beyond the reach of Colonial experts who have been studying this race for years.
4. Become the sole survivor of a disastrous battle that kills ninety-five thousand Colonial soldiers (that is, everyone involved into the assault, except for him).
5. Become the only "realborn" member of super secret Special Forces.
...
99. SAVE THE UNIVERSE FOR HUMANITY. NO, SERIOUSLY.

Now you may not have a problem with all of this, but this stretches my credulity a bit far, in addition to making it more difficult to identify with or like the guy. It's just not very evident from the premise and the development of the story that he is capable of doing all that and it would be even more improbable if it were just by sheer luck.

In addition, I found the universe to be a bit too unimaginative. Apparently, most planets out there are just like Earth, except there may be some mold infestations that kill off an entire colony of humans now and then. Most alien races are pretty much like humans, too, except maybe they have feathers. Or lobster claws. Maybe they have this samurai-like code of honor or else they just like to eat humans. I guess what I'm trying to say is, they're pretty much different aspects of human nature transplanted to a body of animal-like parts. Eh.

Most of the recruits die, of course, but you don't really feel that sad about it, or even involved. Characters other than our superstar soldier just aren't developed enough to evoke a strong emotional response on the reader's part. I wouldn't count that as a downside, though, as that is clearly not something that Scalzi was even attempting to do. Rather, it is a mechanism of presenting to the reader just how harsh the space out there is. That is why the Colonial Union must always be at war.

Despite all of that, I would, and do, recommend Old Man's War to sci-fi lovers. Like I said in the intro, it is an extremely easy read and contains the right mixture of action, politics, emotion and (fairly) witty dialogue to keep you interested. Just do not look for grand, horizon expanding ideas, for there are none to be found. Which is a shame, as in the beginning it seems that the notion of how to make (very) old people useful to society again will be explored more thoroughly and be one of the central themes of the book. Well, not quite. ( )
  matija2019 | Jan 8, 2019 |
John Scalzi is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors: after enjoying Redshirts I'm glad I started on this series, as I'm glad to have other books of his lined up and beckoning at me from the depths of my e-reader.

The premise of the series is that Earth citizens who reach the age of 75 can enlist in the Colonial Defense Force to assist in humanity's expansion through the galaxy in exchange for a new lease on life that comes from a second youth. How this is made possible is something I'm not going to reveal: suffice it to say that it adds an interesting twist to a trope explored in well-known books as Heinlein's Starship Troopers or Haldeman's Forever War. The twist comes from the fact that these are mature (and probably wise) people, not adventure-seeking youths, which gives and added layer to their personalities and actions.

What the C.D.F. requires of John Perry (the book's main character) and his friends is to sever their ties with Earth, dedicating their lives (and more often than not sacrificing them) to the seemingly endless strife engaged with alien races for the colonization of viable planets. Here lies the most puzzling facet of this book, at least for me: the black-and-white conflict with these alien cultures that are unfailingly depicted as warlike, aggressive and bloody-minded.

I say it's puzzling because the overall tone of the book makes it quite different from the openly militaristic examples of the genre, and because this is not a pamphlet about the supremacy of Earth people over other cultures. The almost unthinking ease with which these mature and thoughtful people become killing machines is quite unsettling. Reading a few comments over the Internet I found that the true face of the C.D.F. might be revealed in the course of the following books, which means there will be some surprises along the way. A further reason to keep reading, if I ever needed one.

My only complaint about Old Man's War comes from the (few and scattered, granted) conversational info-dumps that are yes necessary but nonetheless manage to distract me from the story. It's a minor nitpick, true, but when that happens I'm taken out of the story flow, and my main complaint comes from the fact that I don't want to come out of it, because it's the kind of read that truly takes you elsewhere while keeping you entertained.

Thumbs up and on to the next one...
( )
  SpaceandSorcery | Dec 25, 2018 |
Old Man’s War by John Scalzi was clever, humorous, exciting and interesting. The intriguing story line caught my attention immediately and the author’s excellent writing and realistic characters kept me glued to it’s pages. In this author’s futuristic world, people have a decision to make upon their 75th birthday, to enlist in the interstellar combat force or not.

Told through the perspective of a new enlistee, we are introduced to this universe and how it works, there are battles with strange and fascinating aliens and uncountable problems that need resolution. These many problems are important as Old Man’s War is the first book in a series, so the author has many directions in which to explore with future books. As with all very good science fiction, this book ultimately explores what it means to be human and issues about aging, maturity, identity are included along with questions about sharing the universe with diverse creatures and whether war is the right way to go.

For me there were many things to love about this military sci-fi story but the best thing was knowing that Old Man’s War is just the first in the series and that I have more John Scalzi in my future. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Nov 29, 2018 |
This is one fast paced space opera with a bit of a twist. I'm not that into military adventure SF so it's not going to be one of my favorites, and the narrator is so straight up that he is pretty flavorless, but for some wiseguy humor, but that is pretty much a given, though I treasure the exceptions. The complete disconnect between the people being protected and the soldiers who mostly die for them feels odd too, but this is an interesting and lively read. ( )
  quondame | Nov 22, 2018 |
I enjoyed this book a lot. The story is intriguing, action-packed, staightforward yet thought provoking. The writing is very fluid, the story moves at a good pace, and the heaviness of the subject matter is balanced by the witty dialogue. The main theme of the book is what makes us human, and how much our life experiences shape us versus our biological bodies - and what happens if the two are out of sync. It is the perfect summer read, quick and thought provoking. ( )
  Gezemice | Oct 29, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 296 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Scalziprimary authorall editionscalculated
Chong, VincentCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dufris, WilliamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Emerich, BernadetteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Giancola, DonatoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harris, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hayden, Patrick NielsenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kempen, BernhardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
To Regan Avery, first reader extraordinaire, And always to Kristine and Athena.
First words
I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday.
Quotations
There has never been a military in the entire history of the human race that has gone to war equipped with more than the least that it needs to fight its enemy. War is expensive. It costs money and it costs lives and no civilization has an infinite amount of either. So when you fight, you conserve. You use and equip only as much as you have to, never more.
The reason we use force...is that force is the easiest thing to use. It's fast, it's straightforward, and compared to the complexities of diplomacy, it's simple. You either hold a piece of land or you don't. As opposed to diplomacy, which is intellectually a much more difficult enterprise.


. . . "There has never been a military in the entire history of the human race that has gone to war equipped with more than the least that it needs to fight its enemy. War is expensive. It costs money and it costs lives and no civilization has an infinite amount of either. So when you fight, you conserve. You use and equip only as much as you have to, never more."

He stared at us grimly. "Is any of this getting through? Do any of you understand what I'm trying to tell you? You don't have these shiny new bodies and pretty new weapons because we want to give you an unfair advantage. You have these bodies and weapons because they are the absolute minimum that will allow you to fight and survive out there. We don't want to give you these bodies, you dipshits. It's just that if we didn't, the human race would already be extinct."

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0765348276, Mass Market Paperback)

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife's grave. Then he joined the army.
 
The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce--and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.
 
Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity's resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don't want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You'll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You'll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you'll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.
 
John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine--and what he will become is far stranger.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:21 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife's grave. Then he joined the army. The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce - and aliens willing to fight for them are common. The universe, it turns out, is a hostile place. So: we fight. To defend Earth (a target for our new enemies, should we let them get close enough) and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has gone on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.""Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity's resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force, which shields the home planet from too much knowledge of the situation. What's known to everybody is that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don't want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You'll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You'll serve your time at the front. And if you survive, you'll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets." "John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine - and what he will become is far stranger."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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