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on 11 February 2018
n interesting and unusual concept. When coming to the end of their life individuals can sign up for the army - no not an earth-bound army of geriatrics, but an army, newly rejuvenated, defending colonies in the galaxy from the predations of many races whose prime objective is to massacre (and possibly eat) colonists who are occupying planets they want. (It seems that humanity hasn't actually discovered any peaceful alien species.) The Colonial Defence Force gets young, fit soldiers with mature minds. When it comes to looking age-related illness and death in the face these good citizens of America (I don't think any other country's individuals are mentioned) overturn their pacifist beliefs and take a leap of faith. And leap of faith it is, because though they know there's a rejuvenation process, they don't know what it is or how it works, and they don't know what horrors they're going to be facing out there. It turns out things are way more extreme than they ever imagined, both in terms of their bodies, and in terms of the likely death rate amongst recruits.

John Perry and his wife sign up at the age of sixty-five for service ten years hence. His wife, unfortunately, drops dead with no warning, so John, a few years later, goes off alone, knowing that he'll never see earth again. If he survives he'll be given a homestead on a colony planet. On board the transport he meets up with a bunch of similar individuals and they bond, calling themselves the Old Farts. But they don't stay old for long. The reality of their rejuvenation is stranger than they could have imagined. They are mostly split up, but they keep in touch and a series of skirmishes against enemy aliens takes the lives of some of them. Things get even stranger when John is injured and sees his wife in the rescue party…

I really enjoyed reading this though I did wonder about the logic of it all, especially when the rational for the Ghost Brigades came into play. Why did they need all those mature minds when eighty percent of them were likely to die? As it turned out John Perry's mature mind comes in handy and he's a likeable main character. The pacing is great. It's a real page-turner. I heartily recommend this despite my old fart misgivings about the logic of old people abandoning the beliefs of a lifetime to go to war against aliens.
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on 3 April 2018
Interesting concept poorly executed. The old people are written like horny teenagers and have all the character of potatoes. Friendly, chummy potatoes. You can tell who's going to die because they're the unfriendly potatoes.

So, basically on this Earth, when a person gets old they can choose to serve with the off-world military and get a replacement body, specifically made to be perfect for battle. Instead of dying a lot of people do this, but it comes at the cost of never being able to return to earth and the families they leave behind.

There was the potential for the characters to bring a lot to the story. These people, all being around eighty years old, have lived whole lives, yet they bring nothing to the story from these old lives. They have no hang-ups, no problems, and they're quite happy to dump their whole lives (including children and grandchildren) to get new bodies. The protagonist mourns the loss of his whole life and everything that he had used to define himself and his whole existence for about ten minutes before he starts bumping uglies with some other old people who had also just sacrificed their entire existences.

Show me the pain of losing everything to gain a new life! The psychological problems this would cause. The anger of the families they leave, and the guilt and shame of doing so because they fear death. The challenge of leaving old attitudes behind and loss of identity. Put them into battle while trying to deal with these things and have them rebuild themselves into something new. That would be a really great story and I had hoped that's what I would get, but no. Potatoes with new wangs and muscles.
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on 18 November 2017
Flipped the book open yesterday evening with the honest intent of passing the odd idle hour with a chapter or two. Problem is that Scalzi sucks you in and delivers you neatly from one chapter into the next. Just a few more pages. Just read on a little to find out what happens to x, y or z...

Next thing you know the hours have passed and the end of book acknowledgements assault your eyeballs with the cruel taunt of offing you the next book in the series. Go on....just a bit more...

Quite seriously, I enjoyed this book from start to finish and am eager to move onto Ghost Brigade. I read End of All Things first which was more a compilation of novellas with a common thread, so returning to where it all began with a full length novel was very pleasing.

Highly recommended. Maybe look for the Old Man's War box set if you intend to read the series.
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on 30 October 2013
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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on 26 July 2015
In a brief break from reading the things I don’t normally read, I took a moment to read something of the type that I used to read all the time. Fast paced, high energy science fiction that doesn’t slow down till you hit the end. Read through a bunch of reviews and the name John Scalzi kept coming up, so I picked up his first book and gave it a shot.

It starts with an interesting premise. People sign up for the military aged 65 and are inducted into the military aged 75. John Perry, the main character, lost his wife to a stroke a short while ago, and has now come to the point where it’s time to fulfil his obligation.

Two days later and I was done with the book and looking for book two...

It’s not about old people going off to war, the recruits get new bodies with which to fight (Avatar style, but long before Avatar came out...), and while those bodies are state of the art and well beyond the abilities of normal humans, they are the bare minimum required to fight in the wars of the universe.

The book doesn’t focus on the combat aspect of things, rather painting the picture that the world is different out there, and that a person of 75 with a whole lifetime of experience to draw on, would be a far more dangerous person to deal with if you just gave them their youth back. There’s also the psychological aspect, that if a person was at the end of everything and you offered them a decade in service in return for a new life, most would at least consider it.

There are a few action scenes, wars on different worlds with different creatures, but the story doesn’t linger on them at all, using them as a punchline that the wars are deadly and most don’t make it through them. There is a little character building for the expendables, but the story belongs to John Perry, a man of senior age who speaks and thinks far more like young men should speak and think, and that’s what captured me.

Here’s a writer who understands that it’s not the mind that gets old, it’s the body, most people in senior years still want to be every bit as active (if not moreso) as they were when they were younger, it’s just their body that doesn’t let them...

The story does feel more like it’s been set up to lead into other books, it’s really just getting interesting when the first book finishes, but the first book is self contained. It would be possible to leave it where it finishes and draw your own conclusions, but I am interested in seeing where it will go, so expect a review of the second shortly...

Excellent book, this is the reason I read stories...
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on 25 August 2014
I really enjoyed this book. Normally I avoid military sci-fi, as I dislike the endless round of battle descriptions with little plot in between. This book did have some war manoeuvres and battle scenes, which were mercifully, relatively short and to the point. I loved the sense of humour in the story and found it difficult to put the book down as there were lots of twists and turns and good plot lines, which is the meat of a good book. I also liked the idea of using old people, who'd outlived their bodies. Being oldish myself, I could really relate to that. Some of the twists in the plot were excellent and I just didn't see them coming. Scaltzi has written well here. On the down-side. The book seem to lose it's sense of humour towards the end a little, which is a shame as the author seems to excell at this and this is one of the things that sets this book apart from the myriad of other sci-fi mediocre books that are out there. Also I must admit to being a tad disappointed with the ending. I have purchased the second in the series though and I'm hoping that it's at least as good as the first one as this is one is a difficult act to follow.
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on 29 August 2012
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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on 27 April 2018
A good read. Flows well. Humorous. A story. But alas, it lacks any edge to test the reader.

So, although I’ve grown to like the main character, he seems to exist in a universe of improbable cliches and safe, contrived situations.

I’m sure the author will make lots of money with it and I will, no doubt, be one of those who buy the next instalment to read on the beach......
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on 10 October 2017
Scalzi cannot write a bad book, it seems. The Old Man's War series is just.........excellent.
Engaging stories, well told. Great ideas. Believable characters. Consistently good writing.
Loved these books. Sad to have finished them.
Sad to have now finished reading my way through all of Scalzi's novels to date.
Somebody please ask him to write some more. Soon!
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on 18 December 2014
Brilliant bit of sci fi, scalzi writes a good book with original ideas and older themes given a new twist. I loved the idea of the ghost brigades and their more evolved com speed. The book should be read cold with no idea of what happens to the old people at their induction to the army, it is a great intro to great story. I had thoughts of Harrison's 'make room make room' when I started reading this! What's going on here?......., brilliantly done sir!. The human psyche and its ability to overcome is well played. That there is a love story at the heart of this book made it just a little special in the genre of military sci fi, easily a classic!
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