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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life Begins at Seventy-Five
After reading about ten pages of this, I had to go back and check the title page for the author, sure that it would read Robert Heinlein, not John Scalzi. Mr. Scalzi has obviously spent some time and effort analyzing Heinlein's methods and style, and the result here is an excellent novel that reads just like a brand new Heinlein.
The opening paragraph grabs: "I did...
Published on 5 Feb 2005 by Patrick Shepherd

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15 of 17 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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15 of 17 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
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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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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent space opera, 18 Jun 2007
By 
M. J. Farncombe "m_farncombe" (Guildford UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Old Man's War (Paperback)
Faced with a choice between dying of old age and being given another life, what would you do? What Perry, the hero of "Old Man's War" does is to take the new life and be reborn from a sick 75-year-old body into a new, young fit one. The little catch is that he has to enlist for 10 years in the military where his mission is to explore the universe, meet strange new life and civilistions... and then blow them to bits.

The personal stuff to do with his enlistment into the military is well-handled, the combat excellent and the tone of the book darkly funny. The best bit is the diversity and sheer alien-ness of the aliens. The book plays out well, and although it ends a bit abruptly, there is a sequel.

Don't understand why this isn't topping the sci-fi best seller lists - it's really very good.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life Begins at Seventy-Five, 5 Feb 2005
By 
Patrick Shepherd "hyperpat" (San Jose, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Old Man's War (Hardcover)
After reading about ten pages of this, I had to go back and check the title page for the author, sure that it would read Robert Heinlein, not John Scalzi. Mr. Scalzi has obviously spent some time and effort analyzing Heinlein's methods and style, and the result here is an excellent novel that reads just like a brand new Heinlein.
The opening paragraph grabs: "I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife's grave. Then I joined the army." Simple, direct, and immediately intriguing. And from this idea of geriatric soldiers the entire story unfolds: how these advanced age people are given new, enhanced bodies, interfaced with a remarkably effective internal computer, and sent to fight the baddies of the universe. Why they must fight. What the reasons are for living. Where the human race is heading. The problems with making assumptions about other life forms - and the effect that has on diplomacy.
Plot wise, this is a series of incidents and battles in the life of a soldier, without any strong goal or endpoint in mind. But as the scenes unfold, the person that is John Perry comes into clearer and clearer focus, a quiet, unassuming man who nevertheless can think on his feet, is not dismayed by radically new things, a natural leader with seventy-five years of experience to back up his decisions and actions, a man capable of deep love. Most of the people around him are not so well realized, but they really don't need to be.
Comparison is obviously invited with Heinlein's Starship Troopers with its similar theme and environment. But where Starship Troopers is very much a coming-of-age story, this is an adult trip into the land of survival. And where Starship Troopers had a large amount of philosophy directly exposited, Scalzi's opinions in these areas are much more muted, more shown rather than told. Replacement of Heinlein's powered armor with Scalzi's enhanced bodies doesn't cut down on the action, but does highlight the importance of the mind inside the body, its spirit, its willingness to fight not just for himself but for all of his compatriots and the race as a whole. Where Starship Troopers might be considered a treatise on government, civic responsibility, and military organizations, this has a somewhat less lofty goal, of showing why life is worth fighting for.
For anyone who loves Heinlein, this is a must. For those who like military science fiction, this is a must. For those who like a good story, powerfully told, this is a must. I fully expect to see this one on the Hugo nominee shortlist next year. It already has my vote.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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33 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life begins at 75, though you may not live to see 76, 28 May 2006
By 
David Roy (Vancouver, BC) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Old Man's War (Paperback)
John Scalzi's debut novel, Old Man's War has an intriguing premise, some interesting science fiction concepts, and a complete ability to ignore military SF cliches that usually turn me off from this kind of book. It's a wonderful little book, violent but not overly graphic (though there are a couple of scenes that go beyond that), and it's certainly worth all of the accolades that have been heaped on it. Only the fact that it's a bit slow to get to the meat of the action drags it down even a little bit.

Earth has reached the stars, and been slammed back into isolation. Humans are out there colonizing the galaxy, but Earth itself is cut off from it, becoming almost a backwater in comparison to everything else. The Colonial Defense Force (CDF) insures that this remains so. On the other hand, once you turn seventy-five, you can enlist in the CDF, go out and see the universe, and kill lots of aliens who are out to kill you too. You'll just never see Earth again. John Perry has decided to take this route, and Old Man's War tells the story of this decision, and what he runs into when he gets out there. What he learns when he gets there is beyond what he could ever have imagined. He gets a new, grown body (green and all) that will make him young again (even if he's not completely human any more) and the extreme possibility of dying out in the mean universe. But he could be dead in ten years anyway, in a broken down body, on Earth, so why not go out where his death means something? Will John be a successful soldier, not only surviving but rising in the ranks? Or will he just be more cannon-fodder for the human colonies?

Scalzi is on record (in a Usenet post when asked about his military experience) as saying that he wanted Old Man's War to be accessible by his grandmother, who has no interest in things military. This meant that he wasn't going to spend a great deal of time on infantry tactics, technology, and the jingoism that many military SF novels embrace. The weapon of choice for the CDF is an adaptable rifle that fires five types of ammunition and can change on the fly, and he spends a bare amount of time making any explanations for the science of the situations he presents, such as the "skip drive" that gets everybody from Point A to Point B. It's the military SF novel for those who can't stand the genre, and I loved it for that.

Still, Scalzi doesn't completely avoid the science, and there are a couple of "theoretical" (as in, one of the characters who doesn't really know a whole lot about it is theorizing) explanatory scenes that seek to get this sort of thing out of the way. I found this appropriate given the situation that Scalzi presents. The humans that are enlisting don't know any of this stuff. The CDF keeps humans ignorant of it intentionally, so Scalzi is able to gloss over it a bit. While I did find it appropriate, I also thought that these occasional theorizing scenes slowed the book down much more than they should have (though certainly much less than they would have if they had been fully explained, and yes, I'm speaking to you, Mr. Weber!)

Scalzi gets the characterization down perfectly, creating a great "hero" in Perry. He's intelligent and he rises through the ranks fairly quickly by using his brain. The friendships that Perry forms when he first enlists seem very logical, as these people have been thrown together into a strange situation with no visible support apparatus. Even the fact that the first thing these older people do when they get young bodies is to enjoy themselves with as many people as possible is certainly understandable, and Perry's first scene like this is hilarious (though none of it is actually shown, for those prudes among us).

There is only one characterization misstep, and I'd say the good and the bad of the character even out. Perry's drill instructor, Master Sergeant Ruiz, is hilariously portrayed by Scalzi, with all of the typical movie drill instructor attitude. Even better is that he acknowledges the drill instructor stereotype, insisting that the recruits get that stereotype out of their heads because he's not going to gain "grudging respect" for them. He doesn't like any of them. This is all refreshing, acknowledging the clichés and then moving beyond them. Unfortunately, after his brilliant opening scene, we don't see a lot of him, and the description of subsequent events make him seem like the drill instructor that we all are familiar with. Only his last scene with Perry really moves above this.

The other small problem with Old Man's War is that it takes a long time to get through the setup of the setting. This is mitigated by the entertaining way that Scalzi writes these sequences, but it takes almost half the book before Perry actually gets into the action. The rest is his journey to the CDF and the establishing of the galaxy and his place in it. It's only a small problem because Scalzi does make it interesting, but I wish some of it could have been condensed.

Overall, Old Man's War is a wonderful book, one that I raced through because I was loving every minute of it. If you absolutely hate the genre of military SF, then you may find that even this book won't be enjoyable. But if you're just annoyed with a lot of the military SF that's out there, give this one a shot. It's an excellent debut novel, setting up an interesting situation, with characters that are a lot more compelling than in others of the genre. This one's worth a shot.

David Roy
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I don't seem to have read the same book as everyone else!, 7 May 2006
By 
C. Johnston (Lisburn, Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Old Man's War (Paperback)
This novel begins brilliantly, setting up an intriguing situation and some likeable characters. But it fails to maintain this early promise and it turns into a very average shoot'em up with some very silly B-movie alien nasties. It reminds me a lot of that Starship Troopers movie. The idea that genocidal wars between races are natural and inevitable is rather unpleasant too (the only character in the book to disagree with this comes to a bad end, and it's pretty clear that the hero thinks this serves him right).

I hope I'll like this author's future books more. He is being compared to Heinlein, but I'd say he still has a lot of work to do yet before you can honestly compare him to the master.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining rerun of Starship Troopers, 22 Dec 2006
By 
Robert (Uxbridge, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I really enjoyed this book. Mr Scalzi has rightly credited Robert Heinlein and there are a lot of similarities. But it is still a really good read. The realism of the battle scenes and the reality of classmates dyining across a stellar arena had very slight echoes of Joe Haldeman. Again, nothing wrong with that. Where Mr Scalzi wins out is the fast pace of the story and by rightly keeping mystery to the alien foes. So they never become humans in costumes.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good read, well paced action..., 15 April 2014
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This review is from: Old Man's War (Paperback)
Scalzi's writing is very approachable (you don't have to be a hardened SciFi nut to get through it, yet there is enough to keep a SciFi fan interested) - I think its the way that Scalzi introduces and describes the future-technology without going into the whole 'Star Trek Universe' pseudo-science thing. That said, the Scalzi universe is still recognisably human and tech hasn't taken over - not at least until the story goes off-world, and even then the future-tech is there to support the story and not become the story in itself. Much like you probably don't know the intricacies of how the laptop/tablet/pc works, Scalzis soldier characters know enough to use their tech.
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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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5.0 out of 5 stars WOW!!!, 27 Feb 2014
By 
S. Beckett (u.k) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Old Man's War (Paperback)
This is one of the best sci-fi story's I have read in years (and I've read a few!).
The setting and idea is truly original, this whole idea of allowing the old folk on Earth the chance to 'live again', all in the name of advancing the cause of humanity's survival in space, is brilliant!
Scalzi's writing style is similar to Harry Harrison's and therefore moves swiftly along!
It's a good read, and definately one of Scalzi's best.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An exciting sci-fi war story, 23 Feb 2014
By 
Cpl Hicks (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Old Man's War (Paperback)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Scalzi's writing style is elegant and easy to read, and suited well to this sort of novel. I haven't read anything else by Scalzi, but I definitely will do so after Old Man's War.

The book compares well to the classics of Heinlein or Haldeman, but the characterisation and prose is better in my opinion. By the end of the novel, we really get into the narrator's head. Perry is a likeable and affable character - perhaps not suited to a violent cross-planetary war - but he grows over the course of the book.

The introduction of his deceased wife, later in the novel, felt a little contrived - after all, the universe is such a huge place, it felt unlikely that they would "bump into" each other like this - but Scalzi handles it well. In hindsight, perhaps this element was necessary to drive the novel towards some sort of conclusion, and it certainly allows a greater range of emotion from our narrator Perry.

I would definitely recommend this book, either to fans of sci-fi in general or war stories.
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Old Man's War
Old Man's War by John Scalzi (Hardcover - 28 Jan 2005)
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