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Review: Old Man’s War, John Scalzi

I love the synopsis on the back of this book, so I’m just going to quote it, especially since I am utterly horrible at science fiction summaries:

“John Perry did two things on his seventy-fifth birthday.  First he visited his wife’s grave.  Then he joined the army.

The good news is that humanity finally made it to the stars.  The bad news is that, out there, planets fit to live on are scarce – and alien races willing to fight us for them are common.  So, we fight.  Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

Earth itself is a backwater.  The bulk of our resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Forces, and everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join up.  The CDF doesn’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living.  You’ll be taken off Earth, never to return.  You’ll serve two years in combat.  And if you survive, you’ll be given a homestead of your own, on one of our hard-won planets.

John Perry is taking that deal.  He thinks he knows what to expect.  But the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine – and what he will become is far stranger.”

Ever since masses of bloggers received Zoe’s Tale for review last year, I have wanted to read something by John Scalzi.  It seemed to appeal to even those who don’t read science fiction, and I’m not a fan of science fiction.  Saying that, I was really swayed by all the positive opinions floating around, especially given that his books had great characters.  That’s my problem with science fiction, lack of great characters.  So, where else to start with the first book in that series?

(As an aside, look, I bought books because of bloggers, it does work!)

I was not at all disappointed with Old Man’s War.  The characters are fabulous.  John, the narrator, is capable of eliciting such emotion from me, especially about his deceased wife Kathy.  He’s so real I could almost touch him.  His bonds with the other characters are strong, believable, and interesting.  This book brings up questions about war, kind of like Ender’s Game, and does it extremely well.

The technology in this book, while present, was not scary or hard to understand.  It didn’t make me want to rip my brain out, like some science fiction books have with their explanations.  It’s explained, and some of it is not explained and taken on faith; one of the characters says to another, “You don’t have the math”.  To be honest, I like taking things in books on faith better as long as they follow their own rules, kind of like in fantasy.  And we can pretty much guarantee that I will never have the math to figure even modern technology out, so I was quite happy with that!

I really enjoyed this book.  I closed and immediately thought that I wanted the next.  It was the Read-a-Thon, so I’m only adding it to my Amazon cart now, a few hours later.  I’ll be continuing with this series.  It’s awesome.

Buy Old Man’s War on Amazon.

Side note: I’m not alone in this one; my fiance loved it too, read it in a week (amazing given he works full time and is taking 3 classes), and was so disappointed that I didn’t have the next in the series that I proceeded to buy it for him.  This book has our rare joint recommendation.

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