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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating premise backed up with really likeable characters
I read somewhere that the definition of art is the considered arrangement of elements in order to elicit emotion. With that in mind John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War is certainly a work of art if not a master piece.

I was reluctant to start this book as I am not a fan of war novels and I greatly prefer fantasy to science fiction so therefore no matter how...
Published 12 months ago by GOTTON

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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting but light read
It has taken me a long time to get round to reading this. It has an odd reputation, some regard it as a SF classic and yet others as piece of very superficial military SF. I fall between the two, I read it fairly quickly as it is a very easy and undemanding read with some interesting ideas. Having said that they are not necessarily fresh and it is not a pure classic...
Published on 12 April 2011 by Nick Brett


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating premise backed up with really likeable characters, 14 April 2014
This review is from: Old Man's War (Paperback)
I read somewhere that the definition of art is the considered arrangement of elements in order to elicit emotion. With that in mind John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War is certainly a work of art if not a master piece.

I was reluctant to start this book as I am not a fan of war novels and I greatly prefer fantasy to science fiction so therefore no matter how many recommendations I got to read this book I have put it off… now I wonder why.

The Old Man’s War is set in a future where mankind has mastered space travel and have started to colonise other worlds. Going to other worlds is available to all of mankind but there is a catch, you can not go before you turn 75 and once you have gone you have to serve a minimum of 2 years but more likely 10 years in a war that will claim 75% of people who enter it. These old age pensioners are rewarded by being given a new life including the ability to be young again but this is weighed off against a high likelihood of death in the war before they get a chance to retire.

From the start this book it had me smiling and I think there was a grin on my face for most of the novel. The concept itself is fascinating and it is so well told via the title character in first person that you can’t help but be drawn in right from the beginning. The main character has a great sense of humour, he is well rounded, incredibly likeable and somewhat refreshingly he is very capable. There is a trend in Science Fiction and fantasy to have the title characters be incredibly flawed, almost useless and bumbling figures who get carried through the novel via the help and sacrifice of others or sheer luck (I blame the genre’s fascination with the Lord of the Rings and Bilbo Baggins for this overuse of that hero archetype). In this case though the main character is very capable and doesn’t require a great deal of looking after, though he does this without ever coming off as an infallible or arrogant character.

The relationship characters were equally well rounded and likeable, each character vivid in their description and personality which adds an extra level of depth to the novel. The characters were so well created that it was easy to become attached to them so, even when you might have only been reading about them for between twenty and hundred pages, you still feel an emotional jolt when bad things happen to them.

What I really liked about this novel however and what made it so much a work of art was the sheer amount of emotion stirred up by the story. Comical moments were funny enough to make me grin and almost smile, times when the characters were in danger elicited genuine moments of tension and fear, times of exploration for the characters were genuinely fascinating and times when I needed to feel bad for the characters provoked real sadness from me. I read a lot of books and it is rare that I can find books written well enough to provoke any of these emotions so to find a novel that so easily triggers all of these emotions is a rare delight and a real find.

Overall this is a brilliant book and an excellent first novel in a new series. I am eagerly looking forward to the next novel in the series and on the back of this story alone I know that John Scalzi is an author I will actively follow in the future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid and fun and entertaiing but not a SF classic, 10 May 2013
By 
Chess Quant (Sydney, Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Old Man's War (Paperback)
Read on its own and not in the context of all the similar books that have proceeded it, this is a fun, military SF novel, about mankind in a universe filled with nasty aliens that in most cases MUST BE DESTROYED. The book is solidly written and entertaining, however I would comment on my 4 star rating in saying that I regard it as a low 4 stars in that I debated between 3 and 4 stars.

Essentially what seems to be lacking in this book is some really inventive and new SF ideas. Perhaps I've read too much and I'm a little jaded now! The novels that it clearly draws from are in short more original, more inventive and clearly better. For a book written in 2005 there is no real attempt to push out new ideas about how technology may impact on us in the future. The new tech in the book, skip drives, nano tech cloning dna splicing etc have all been explored before by other writers in the 90s.

However, the most disapointing feature I thought was that nothing was made of the difference between "old" soldiers and the very young soldiers that most Armies have fought with and indeed the characters seem to return to a near teen state of mind once they get their new bodies. I thought there was going to be some really interesting stuff there and it never appears sadly.

That said if read purely as an military adventure novel, then its a fairly gripping read. Similarly to someone less well versed in SF then they might not have the "seen it all before" response that I had to parts of it.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting but light read, 12 April 2011
By 
Nick Brett (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Old Man's War (Paperback)
It has taken me a long time to get round to reading this. It has an odd reputation, some regard it as a SF classic and yet others as piece of very superficial military SF. I fall between the two, I read it fairly quickly as it is a very easy and undemanding read with some interesting ideas. Having said that they are not necessarily fresh and it is not a pure classic like Forever War that has stuck in my head years after having read it.

So, here we have geriatrics being recruited to undertake some changes and regain their youth provided they become soldiers in wars being fought a long way from Earth, an Earth they will never return to.

It's easy to be critical because this does lack real depth, but it does remain an easy and entertaining read. It explores some issues about youth, love, marriage and policies of aggression but within a fast moving environment packed full of action.

So I quite enjoyed it and may pick up the sequals, but I am in no rush to do so,
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars MISSING TEXT ON KINDLE VERSION, DO NOT BUY., 4 July 2014
This review is from: Old Man's War (Paperback)
DO NOT BUY ON KINDLE... There is a problem with the kindle version where words are randomly missing from the text. About one word in every 200 is missing and it's extremely annoying to have to stop and guess the word to make sense of the sentence.

The book itself seems interesting, fairly well written, missing words aside. I'm not very far in on account of the missing text.

I will amend this review once the issue has been resolved.

Edit: Amazon are aware of the issue and so is the publisher but still no fix. The missing text gets worse further into the book with entire lines of dialogue just missing entirely.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Old Farts Go to War, 30 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Old Man's War (Kindle Edition)
I don't really like military science fiction. Or at least it doesn't really appeal to me, I probably haven't read enough to really pass judgement. I just think that while military concerns play an important part in a lot of science fiction, particularly space based science fiction, it is just one of many facets of a good story. That said, I've been hearing a lot about Scalzi recently and I enjoyed his Hugo award winning 'Redshirts', so thought I should give it a go.

In Old Man's War, the only way for most people to get off earth and explore the galaxy is to join the army - the Colonial Defence Force (CDF). However the CDF doesn't take recruits until their 75th birthday. Everyone knows the Colonial Union and the CDF have much more advanced technology than Earth, including some sort of rejuvination treatments for the elderly. They much have, because what use would aching, arthritis ridden geriatrics be in an army?

The book follows John Perry and his new found friends (the "old farts" as they christen themselves) as he joins the CDF and leaves Earth behind. He gets his training, and then is sent on a series of assignments round the galaxy against various different unusual and horrific aliens (one alien race sent its celebrity chefs with its invasion force to explain how best to cook and eat humans).

The book is fairly short and is an easy read. As I suspected, it does concentrate on the military aspect, and you are left wondering about the politics of the galaxy, what life is like for colonists, what the motivations of the aliens are like etc etc. However the characters, particularly Perry, are appealing and Scalzi writes in an easy, fun style with lots of humour and subtle jokes scattered throughout. In the hands of another author this novel would probably be quite boring, but Scalzi makes it a really fun read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but has some issues, 10 Mar. 2013
This review is from: Old Man's War (Kindle Edition)
"I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife's grave. Then I joined the army."

Isn't that a great way to open a book? Intriguing, it draws you in. I guess there's nothing in it that isn't implied by the book's title but still, I like it.

Old Man's War is the story of John Perry who, as we've read, enlists on his 75th birthday. The army he enlists with is the Colonial Defence Force and involves him leaving earth, and his former life - he becomes legally dead, behind. The CDF recruits exclusively from 75-year-olds and there are rumours of rejuvenation technology, which is why so many enlist. The truth is slightly more disturbing.

The book follows John through the process step by step - leaving earth, initial induction, the treatment, military training, military campaigns. In fact for the first third of the book it's pretty much one thing after another rather than a plot per se. Then there's a section when we get to see John and the CDF battling various alien threats. This seemed mostly just to illustrate the variety of aliens and how they need to adapt tactics to fight them. The final section has something more of a plot.

I enjoyed this book, particulary parts 1 & 3. A common criticism and one I think I agree with is that you don't really get a sense of an older person. Once we get to the training and the battles John is just a character we're following and the fact that he has seven decades of experience doesn't seem to play into it. I'd've thought at least in terms of the training we'd've see that oldies have less patience for their drill sergeant's nonsense than your average 19-20-year-old.

I was also not a fan of the book's treatment of the morals of war. The CDF seem to believe in Manifest Destiny and the one character who was given anything to say against this was also a character shown to be stupid by his actions. It's true I suppose that there's a constant tongue-in-cheek tone so how much we're supposed to take any of this seriously is up for question. I'm told that this is dealt with again in the follow-up books. To be honest though I can't see myself reading them.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Old Man's War, 29 Aug. 2012
By 
Steve D (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Old Man's War (Kindle Edition)
In the author's notes at the end of this book Scalzi pays tribute to Robert A. Heinlein. And so he should, because this book wears its influences front and centre and doesn't care. This is pretty much Starship Troopers Mk II. Actually, mash together Starship Troopers and The Forever War, take out the things that made the latter special, and this is what you'd end up with. That's not necessarily a bad thing, in this case.

Getting over the fact that my neighbour is called John Perry (which became slightly disturbing considering some of the things the character gets up to in the book!), the story is told in the first person. Perry's wife died a few years ago, and he pays his last visit to her grave on his 75th birthday before heading off to complete his enrolment in the Colonial Defense Force. In signing up he is expected to say goodbye to everything and everyone he knew on Earth, because he won't be coming back. As soon as his allotted transport time has passed he will officially be 'dead', his estate will be divided as per his will, and he will effectively cease to exist - on Earth. He doesn't care. He wants to do something useful with the last years of his life, even if it means leaving his son behind.

Why would anyone do this? Why does the military only recruit people at 75? Why can they never come back? I don't want to answer any of these questions because it would spoil much of the fun. The first half of the book is taken up with Perry's training, and the friends he makes along the way. Scalzi's characterisation is pretty good, with a lot of humour coming through the zippy dialogue. You also get to meet a drill instructor ripped straight out of a Vietnam war movie (although I kind of imagined him as Clancy Brown out of the Starship Troopers movie). He shouts a lot, he swears a lot, but he's very, very funny, and through this he makes his points very well.

The action when it comes is brisk and brutal, and takes up much of the second half of the novel. There's not a lot of diplomacy going on here. Scalzi actually takes the time to make some points about growing old and how you live your life. Sometimes he does it subtly, sometimes he uses a hammer, but it does add a little depth to proceedings. There's also some actual science involved, which he dumbs down quite nicely so that it doesn't fry your brain.

Old Man's War is a solid novel. It's compact, streamlined, doesn't overstay its welcome, and left me wanting more. It's also pretty simple and straightforward. It's an easy, action-packed read that won't particularly stretch the grey matter. It's maybe not the space opera I was looking for when I got that craving a few days ago, but I'll certainly be picking up the next book in the series pretty soon.
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4.0 out of 5 stars If you have already read the classics of this genre, Old Man's War is a good read to turn to next, 2 Jan. 2012
By 
Mark Pack (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Old Man's War (Paperback)
John Scalzi's science-fiction novel enters a competitive and distinguished field of sci-fi books that tell the story of someone enlisting in a future army to fight aliens. Between the military gung-ho enthusiasm of Starship Troopers and the Vietnam influenced cynicism of The Forever War (S.F. Masterworks), the field has been covered by some of the very best sci-fi works. That provides a big challenge to the first time novelist (as Scalzi was at the time).

The book shows some early promise, with a nice twist on the usual military induction clichés by having a future where it is pensioners who get enlisted (medical advances can give them back their health and pensioners have years of experience to call on). Moreover, the secrecy, scale and advanced features of the military's technology evokes a sense of mystery about quite who the Colonial Defence Forces are, what they do and why.

However, these promising starts are not followed up. Most of the mystery quickly falls away and for much of the book it is just an incidental detail that enlistees are pensioners. They don't feel and sound any different from the characters in books where the military inductees are teenagers. The plot sees many of the standard clichés of this genre played out, though without the inventiveness of military tactics seen in books such as Ender's Game: Ender Series: Book One or Tactics of Mistake (The Dorsai trilogy No. 1). There are also a couple of very weak spots - the claim that "No army ever goes to war with more the bare minimum it needs to win" is particularly odd from an American author given that country's military doctrine - and the utterly implausible coincidence on which the later half of the plot hinges takes place not merely once, but twice.

And yet... this is not a review that will conclude you should not read the book. Yes, it isn't a Starship Troopers or a Forever War and yes it has its weaknesses, but in between the story is lively, has some good jokes, moves along at a fast pace with some moments of real tension and keeps the military detail to the necessary minimum. It is a story set amongst the military, not a eulogy to military detail. And Master Sergeant Ruiz may fulfil every cliché of an officer put in charge of recruit, but he does so knowingly - making the character very funny and great fun. If the book is made into a film, the right actor in that role would completely steal the show.

Moreover, the plot does raise some deeper questions about colonialism and the role of the military. Superficially, the colonising military industrial complex are the good guys and it is right to kill aliens and colonise planets. But there are more than enough hints in the book to doubt their good guys persona (and indeed that is a theme returned to later in the series).

So all in all, if you have already read the classics of this genre, Old Man's War is a good read to turn to next.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great read, 26 July 2011
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This review is from: Old Man's War (Paperback)
John Scalzi has brought us a great new universe to explore in this trilogy, and the first book gets it off to an excellent start.

The premise is that Humanity has spread to the stars, and both Earth and a couple of dozen colonies are ruled by an interstellar government. It takes little interest in planetary affairs, but it does control all travel and information between human worlds. Earth is kept carefully isolated - people there are aware of other planets and aliens but know almost nothing beyond that. This is considered necessary because there are a great many alien races around, but very few uninhabited planets for them to colonise; thus, everyone is pretty much at war with everyone else all of the time.

The elderly of Earth are recruited as soldiers, given new cloned bodies and sent out to fight, and the book follows the exploits of John Perry, one such volunteer, as he fights his way across space. it's rather Starship Troopers-esque in nature, but there's a vein of irony and cynicism in the book which sets it apart from Heinlein's work.

One scene in particular comes when Perry takes part in a war against an alien race who are only one inch tall. The scene is described in a sort of "Godzilla comes to town" way, with Perry even making that comparison himself as he literally stomps on the enemy and knocks their skyscrapers over. It left me kind of conflicted - Perry's actions here make his start to question what he's doing with his life, and it kind of fells like this is meant to be a "horrors of war" sort of thing... but at the same time, it also comes across as hysterically funny, and I literally couldn't stop laughing through the entire thing. If it was intended to be straight horror then it missed badly... but if it was written deliberately as comedy, it's kind of an odd choice for what's really a pivotal moment.

Still, that's a minor quibble in the grand scheme of things. Overall, a great book and a great series.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Like Heinlein -- Good and Bad, 2 Jun. 2011
By 
John M. Ford "johnDC" (near DC, MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Old Man's War (Paperback)
Reviews which compare Old Man's War with Robert Heinlein's classic science fiction--not the kinkier, later stuff--are on the mark. Like Heinlein's Starship Troopers, this book takes us on a coming of age journey as the protagonist joins the military and leaves the familiar atmosphere of Earth. In this case the age-coming is in reverse, as a senior citizen is restored to youthful combat-readiness. The "BrainPal" computer implant and physiological enhancements are recognizable Heinlein influences, but different enough to be engaging. The reader will enjoy discovering other similarities without becoming distracted by them.

Some Heinlein weaknesses are there, too. I say this with affection, because they are sentimental reminders of Heinlein's voice. The gadgetry and action are stronger than the characters, who sometimes seem shallow in emotionally complex situations. In the first chapter, there is a well-written melancholy to the protagonist's description of his late wife. This depth does not transfer well to his later reactions to her memory. And this isn't credibly due to a change in the character. It's worth exploring for yourself, though. If you have lost a spouse, I suggest comparing Scalzi's grasp of your experience with Stephen King's in Bag of Bones or Lisey's Story.

Never mind the impefections. :) It's a good story you can enjoy while remembering Heinlein. Buy it, read it, and keep it around to read again right after Thanksgiving dinner.
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Old Man's War
Old Man's War by John Scalzi (Paperback - 1 Jun. 2007)
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