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old man’s war by John Scalzi

January 25, 2009

The inspiration for me to read this book came from Stainless Steel Droppings: SciFi Experience 2009.  I don’t read much science fiction any more, but I figured I would go with the mood this month.  I am so glad I did.  Otherwise, I probably would never have read Old Man’s War.  I was sufficiently pleased with it to immediately read the second in the series, The Ghost Brigades.  I was pleased and inspired enough by that to name the new puppy in our house Zoe, and to put the third and fourth in the series, The Last Colony and Zoe’s Tale, on hold at the library.

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Old Man’s War starts out in a world I could recognize, which really made the segue into the science fiction part of it an attractive and realistic possibility for me.  The first sentence in the book is,  “I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday.”  How could you not continue at that point?

The basic story is that humans have discovered the method of interstellar space travel: skip drive.  Humans have also discovered that we aren’t “the only ones” out there, and planets we can live on are attractive to inhabitants from other worlds.  Thus, we have to fight to take them and make them colonies, and fight to protect the colonies once we have them.

So on John Perry’s seventy-fifth birthday:

First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army. 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. (Review from my library’s catalogue.)

The concept of what makes a human being is really stretched and reshaped in this story. There are actually all different kinds of “humans”, which makes for interesting philosophical discussions.

I would definitely recommend this book if you have even a mild interest in science fiction.  I enjoyed the second in the series, too, but it got a little too scientific for me, so I probably won’t review it.  You can read Carl’s review of Old Man’s War here, and a review of Zoe’s Tale here.

And here is our Zoe:

zoe

John Scalzi also has a great blog, called Whatever.  I think you should check it out – he talks about his cats, his daughter, and books, and music, and Barack Ohama, and etc. like he’s a real guy!  Very refreshing, and a great sense of humor.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 25, 2009 3:52 am

    Oh, I love your Zoe!!! I wish I could hold (her?) for just a minute!

    She is just a little sweetie – and loves to play and play and play, and be held when she is tired. She is a “purse” dog right now! Although it’s my daughter’s dog, she let me name her.

  2. January 26, 2009 2:41 am

    Yes, I’ll check out OLD MAN’S WAR but wait a minute – what? A new puppy? OMG, I go all ridiculous and corny over puppies. (and dogs, and horses). Zoe is a doll – what a great little face … and be sure to keep us current with pictures of her if/when possible!

    Oh, I won’t be able to resist posting some pics and a story about Zoe! She is my daughter’s pup… does that make her my granddogger? Terra is not happy about the interloper, I can tell you that. There is a little tension in the house these days…..

  3. January 27, 2009 10:52 am

    Yay!!! I’m so thrilled that you are so thrilled about this series! That is exactly what happened to me when I picked up Old Man’s War a couple of years ago. I was just blown away by it and am still excited about John Scalzi and his work. Since you are waiting for The Last Colony, now is a perfect time to read the novella that I recommend everyone read before Last Colony. It is called The Sagan Diary and Scalzi put it out in limited release but it is available free online here:

    http://subterraneanpress.com/index.php/magazine/fall2007/fiction-the-sagan-diary-by-john-scalzi/

    It is so worth reading before you continue with the other novels as it adds a nice dimension to the relationship of John and Jane. I’ll be curious as to what you think about it. I cannot recommend highly enough that you check it out.

    I’m so happy that you read this and enjoyed it. And I’m happy for your cute new family member as well, with her inspired name!!!

    Okay, Carl! I will read the highly recommended Sagan Diary. I have time to do that this week. I did pick up The Last Colony but I promise not to start it yet!! I also checked out The Android’s Dream…. did you like that?
    I’m taking a class this semester, so it has proven difficult to fit in all the reading, writing, and puppy-sitting. 😉

  4. January 28, 2009 4:12 am

    I’ll probably give the book a pass, given that I get frustrated by sci-fi. But oh, that Zoe! What a charmer!

    I understand what you mean, Jeanie. Some kinds of reading frustrates me, too. But you are right – Zoe is a charmer. She is a little devil, too, into everything and looking for trouble in all the right places!

  5. January 31, 2009 2:22 am

    Your Zoe is absolutely adorable, and your review makes me even more eager to get my hands on this book.

    Hi Memory. Yup, Zoe is a little doll – and a big trouble maker!
    Definitely get your hands on this book; I am sure you will enjoy it.

  6. January 31, 2009 11:18 am

    Oh, a puppy!! How perfectly wonderful! And her name suits her, doesn’t it?? Congratulations!

    Hi Pamela. Her name does suit her! And she is such a clever puppy – only 8 weeks old and already paper trained. My daughter is making a great pet owner. Terra terrorizes poor Zoe, chasing her around the house, but Zoe fits under furniture and Terra doesn’t, so there is always somewhere to hide. She teases Terra unmercifully from under the sofa!

  7. February 9, 2009 12:56 pm

    What a darling puppy; great ears and sure to bring you much joy. I enjoyed reading about your creative process in your post.

    Thank you, Princess. And she is a little sweetheart!

  8. February 17, 2009 3:46 am

    I read this today and I could hardly have loved it more!

    I really enjoyed it too. I’ve read the second one in the series – which was a little less than perfect for me, but still good. I’m going to take a little break before I read the next one, but it is definitely on the list.

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