Old Man’s War – A Spoiler Free Review

You’re old, your loved ones are dead, and your body is failing you; but you have an opportunity for a new young life.

The catch?

A term of military service in an inhospitable and unending interstellar frontier.

Would you take that chance?

Old Man’s War is a Military Science Fiction novel written by John Scalzi and published in 2005. What was originally a cool Scifi recommendation from a friend turned into a gripping tale that not only kept me hooked until the end—but was actively reeling me in as I read on.

We start the story following an old man on Earth—John Perry—as he stands over the grave of his late wife who passed some years earlier. Today is a big day for John, because he is leaving Earth for good to join the Colonial Defence Force. No one knows why the CDF recruits from the ranks of the elderly, or how they make them combat ready, but as death and decay loom over the old, the CDF finds no shortage of volunteers for the secretive process.

The general feel among the people of Earth is that the CDF will make you young again, and all you have to do is protect the colonies for a term of military service.

John Perry quickly ingratiates himself to you in his interactions, carrying himself as a kind old man with a cheeky sense of humour and a deep rooted moral compass.

The story quickly progresses from setting up John’s enlistment and departure from Earth to discovering the mystery surrounding the CDF and their methods as he meets “The Old Farts” (as they call themselves). Soon, this new band of elderly friends are leaving the Solar System and quickly undergo “processes” which lead to their new, bristling, combat ready bodies.

What follows is a spectacular display of Military Scifi action that twists and turns your emotional heart strings while offering you just enough of a carrot to keep on wanting more.

Old Man’s War utilises the usual Sci-Fi tropes, introducing mind boggling engineering and a tapestry of antagonistic alien forces with their own unique forms, customs and technology.

But what this story does that a lot of Sci-Fi stories fail to do is to bring that human connection to the technology. Everything—and I mean everything—from the skip drive technology, to the recruitment process, to the battle hardened new bodies is developed organically as if it happened in the real world. With all of the draw backs and side effects that come with these technologies that a lot of writers often fail to integrate into their stories.

For one example out of the many: Why does the CDF recruit from the elderly of Earth? Because the colonies were becoming disenfranchised giving up their young people for conscription. The CDF now has a host of soldiers who are “expendable” in terms of the gene pool, but there’s the positive side effect that the soldiers have a deep seated sense of humanity due to their maturity.

The story then leans into this sense of humanity, how the soldiers struggle with their new strange lives of constant conflict and death even though it is their only purpose. But even among that, Perry still finds a way to hold on to what humanity he has left through the memory of his dead wife, which becomes his north star.

The way Scalzi set up this incredible universe leads from a “Hell yeah, this Sci Fi military action is great . . .” to “. . . I desperately need John Perry to succeed!”

And the best part is that when the emotional gut punches roll in, Scalzi leaves you pondering on multiple different possibilities and outcomes based on the solid groundwork he already laid out. The development of the technology, coupled with the circumstances of interstellar war and the innate nature of human psychology, becomes a powerful driving force that compels you to continue reading (even if you’re running late from work).

So if you’re after your next read and enjoy a Military Sci-Fi that has a bit of depth to it, I would strongly recommend you pick up a copy of “Old Man’s War” by John Scalzi.

It even starts off a series . . .

Check it out here

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