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Reviews of Old Man's War (2005)

Review by johnafair (2008-01-12)
I have been ignoring this series for a while as the blurb made it sound too much like Robert Heinlein's 'Starship Troopers', with which, to be fair, it shares quite a lot of look-and-feel with.

However, I finally fell prey to the cover :-) and found a neat story in which humanity is fighting a series of wars against a series of threats from alien and colonial attackers. The particular twist in Salzi's series is that the combatants aren't impressionable, know-nothing youths, but people of more mature years who have the experience to adapt to a variety of differing scenarios.

John Perry finds all his previous experience and equanimity put to the test as he goes to war against the enemies of the CDF.

The book is in three parts - pre-enlistment when the protagonist and his companions are all 75 year olds and have just enlisted and discuss what is going to happen. This is possibly the slowest part of the book. The second part involves John and his peers in the CDF's basic training and getting used to the capabilities of their new bodies. The third part sees the newly minted soldiers actively engage the enemies. This part sees the more interesting part of the book where we get to see the enemies in action. It's true that these are not highly developed in this book, but there is an interesting thread that may be developed in later books.

(This review refers to the 2005 version titled “Old Man's War”)

Review by clong (2006-12-31)
In many ways an impressive first novel from Scalzi. The pacing is nicely managed; there are a several intriguing ideas, a bit of occasional humor, and a couple of nice moments of tension. Scalzi gives us an interesting range of characters, even if none but the protagonist is given much depth. And the denouement is touchingly effective.

Of the three sections, I thought the second, which covered basic training of our new soldiers, was the strongest.

But there were also things I wasn't crazy about: the string of coincidences that led to Perry to meet with a key figure from his life on Earth, and some awfully strange alien behavior (I kept expecting the Vorlons from Babylon 5 to make an appearance). The world and civilization building felt thin, cool ideas but not especially thought through.

This is third book I read this year in which old people, upon being restored to an adolescent body, universally found one thing and only one thing upon which to focus: sex with the nearest stranger of the opposite (usually) sex. This despite gender, marital status, religious orientation and fervor, any and all other values, priorities, mores, etc. Somehow, this feels an awful lot more like hormone driven male fantasy than any kind of accurate observation of the human condition.

Still I'm glad I read it and I will be interested to read more by this author in the future

Review by ropie (2006-04-19)
What can I say? A thoroughly enjoyable book with some really great ideas, convincing technology and some reasonable characters.

Part one is fascinating as the main protagonist, John Perry, joins the army and is transformed into a soldier. Part two dipped for me as it contained a lot of military and tactical nonsense that just didn't interest me, but was far from a write-off. Part three adds some surprises and helps reinforce the 'old' part of the title that I felt waned a little in part 2.

Really I felt this was a strong read from beginning to end, with nicely weighted prose. The only aspect that let the novel down was some really steamingly hammy conversations between the new recruits in part 1. Topics involving ball games, mom's apple pie, etc, etc. That, and everyone individually names their personal computer 'Asshole' -- what's that about then?!

Aside from these minor stylistic points, Old Man's War is a highly recommended book. It's nothing to shout about from a literary point of view, but it remains a solid, easy read.

Review by fastfinge (2006-02-23)
This book is wonderful! It's one of the few modern books that has managed to make me really excited about current SF. Some have complained that this author sounds a little bit too much like Heinlein (Starship Troopers, especially), but I don't at all see how that's a complaint; the world needs more Heinlein's. Anyway, Old Man's War is better written and pased than Starship Troopers ever comes close to being. Yes, it starts slow, but come on. It starts out with a bunch of 75 year olds; how fast do you expect things to move? Anyway, it needs the slow start to build up important ideas that relate to the rest of the plot. The characters are all interesting, the plot has some original twists, and the writing is as good as Heinlein's. What more do you want? I look forward to seeing much more from this author in the near future.

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