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.
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:
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.