Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Old Farts Go to War... a review of 'Old Man's War' by John Scalzi

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.

If you enjoyed this book, as I did, there are several sequels that continue the story and also continue following the main character John Perry. The next one is 'The Ghost Brigades'.

I'd give this book 8/10.