My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Having recently enjoyed REDSHIRTS by the same author, I went “to the back of the rack” and picked up a paperback that had been hanging around on the bookshelf for a long time now, ignored, covered with dust mites, ignored and sad.. seriously, I do enjoy John Scalzi‘s prose and thought highly of Reshirts, I had just forgot I had bought this book, and it got buried. OLD MAN’S WAR is the first in a tetrology that doesn’t seem to have a nickname, so I’ll call it “the CDF-verse”. OLD MAN’S WAR starts off with some interesting premises. The Colonial Defense Force operates off of Earth. They recruit from very old people who are 75 plus, promising a new life and restored youth and vigor. The CDF is clearly of a much higher level than the Earth of this era, suggesting that the CDF has obtained higher weapons and bio tech from alien sources– Earth certainly can’t rejuvenate the elderly in this setting. John Perry, the protagonist of OLD MANS WAR, signs up for the CDF (on Earth) on his 75th birthday. His wife Kathy having passed away, he feels disconnected to Earth and is willing to try a new life and youth as a CDF trooper. Perry joins the CDF and endures rejuvenation (or perhaps rebirth), in a much younger, slimmer and enhanced, GREEN version of himself. In the world of the CDF-verse, alien cultures aren’t as rare as they seem to be in a lot of modern Science Fiction. They are plentiful, and they are constantly scrapping over real estate.. thus, the need for a very large army of genetically enhanced soldiers to fight humanity’s wars and defend its colonies. I won’t reveal any major plot spoilers, except to say that Perry does join up, we see an obligatory boot camp (STARSHIP TROOPERS style) and Perry’s first campaign experiences, which come back to impact the story later on. Perry even, after a fashion, is oddly reunited with his dead wife by the novel’s conclusion.
I rather liked OLD MAN’S WAR, for a lot of reasons– this is classic Space Opera here, and is chock full of odd alien races, weird technologies, an a cadre of military heroes to keep humanity safe. This is not so much a unique story or theme but a rehash of classic SF tropes. I enjoyed Scalzi’s prose, characters and setting. Perry, in particular, is a very likable, human and sympathetic character trying to get by in a very harsh and hostile. I certainly will get to the bottom of my stack of Paperbacks in this series, now that I have finally started it. Recommended. Not a classic, but very entertaining.