Book Review: OLD MAN'S WAR
Ever since the eighth grade, I’ve adored Robert A. Heinlein’s not-so-juvenile “juveniles.” So it’s not surprising that I’ve fallen absolutely in love with John Scalzi and his debut science fiction novel Old Man's War. The book is like a Heinlein juvenile written for more mature adult readers — perhaps more Starship Troopers than, say, Between Planets. But if you can recall the exhilaration of reading your very first sci-fi book as a kid, whether Heinlein or Bradbury or Asimov, you’ll have a kick-ass time with Old Man’s War.
From the back cover of Scalzi’s novel: “John Perry did two things on his seventy-fifth birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.” The Colonial Defense Forces (CDF), you see, don’t want young people for the fight against alien races in the ongoing struggle to homestead other planets. They want folks with skills and life experiences. So CDF offers old-timers new bods, complete with SmartBlood and intrusive “owners’ manuals.” Old Man’s War is told first-person by Perry, and we hear about his three lives and his adjustments to new bodies, new friends, dying friends, shitty officers, bureaucrats, and war. There isn’t a slow moment in the entire book, but it’s not all space battles. The story deals with identity, who we are, what makes us human — and every character, whether he or she exists for just a half-dozen pages or the length of the novel, is memorable and made of real skin and bone (or maybe not).
Since publication of this novel, nominated this year for a Hugo Award, Scalzi has already written two more stories set in the Old Man’s War universe — a short story chapbook, detailing a further tale of John Perry, and a second novel titled The Ghost Brigades, centered on the CDF’s Special Forces. I’ll be diving into both of them very soon, you can be sure.