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Old Man's War | [John Scalzi]

Old Man's War

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First, he visited his wife's grave. Then he joined the army. The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce - and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So, we fight, to defend Earth and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.
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Publisher's Summary

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First, he visited his wife's grave. Then he joined the army.

The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce - and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So, we fight, to defend Earth and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity's resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don't want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You'll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You'll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you'll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.

John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea of what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine. And what he will become is far stranger.

©2005 John Scalzi (P)2007 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC

What the Critics Say

  • Hugo Award nominee, Best Novel, 2006

"Scalzi's imagined interstellar arena is coherently and compellingly delineated." (The Washington Post)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Samuel Montgomery-Blinn Durham, NC USA 05-05-10
    Samuel Montgomery-Blinn Durham, NC USA 05-05-10 Member Since 2015

    I'm a voracious audiobibliophile, mainly interested in speculative fiction, with the occasional mimetic fiction or non-fiction title sneaking in.

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    "A pulpy, well-characterized and written story"

    While it might be confusing to compare his book to "Starship Troopers" I do think that John Scalzi's "Old Man's War" owes much to Heinlein's story. Not so much in terms of politics or satire, but in charting an enjoyable course straddling hard/military SF and a more pulpy romp approach. Scalzi does a great job of bringing John Perry to life, creating the eponymous "old man" and, while not really giving the character a background which makes his later military exploits fully believable, giving Perry a rich history and populating his star-spanning world with well-detailed friends and comrades. Scalzi comes up with several distinct alien races, really driving home the differences in motivation that some (the Consu in chief) bring to the table which escape human understanding. One fault I might raise with the story is that while the human characters all have some depth to them (even Perry's drill sergeant at basic training has a fairly rich personal history) no alien characters receive this treatment. The closest comes in the form of a disgraced Consu negotiator, and perhaps this lack of insight into alien personality and personal history is more than forgivable as the story takes place from Perry's consistent point of view. For the most part, from skip drives to tachyon detectors, the tech livens the story, not dragging it down to detract from the main event: Perry's tale. Some scenes, as some of Perry's comrades lose their lives in mundane or bizarre ways, were heartbreaking. The ending left me wanting a little more, but I suppose it can be forgiven as sequels, both in the universe and for Perry's story, exist.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John M Lafayette, CA USA 03-17-09
    John M Lafayette, CA USA 03-17-09 Member Since 2007
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    "Terrific Read!"

    I am not a usual listener (or reader) of science fiction like this but I must admit this was a very enjoyable book. There is plenty of military-style action and aliens getting blown away but there is also a surprisingly interesting human story interwoven throughout (not to mention an interesting political subplot as well.)

    Scalzi has created a compelling universe full of characters that are worth caring about. This is a great read for fans of the genre, if they haven't discovered it already, but also for those looking for a break from their current reading list.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Casey odenton, MD, USA 02-20-08
    Casey odenton, MD, USA 02-20-08 Member Since 2015
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    "Pretty good fare"

    No spoilers in this review. I was a little apprehensive about this book, but I took the plunge anyway. All in all it's not too bad.

    Here's a fair description of it: take one part Starship Troopers and mix with one part Tekeshi Kovacs (by Richard K Morgan). Shake well, making sure that the Kovacs isn't as grim and and bitter as the original.

    It's not overly original, but certainly not overly derivative. This book relies on a few standard scifi conventions (quantum physics...mumblemumble...behold! Warp Drive!) that are standby devices, but the characters are well developed, the story entertaining enough and the produciton value high enough that it all works. It's exactly what it looks like: light, entertaining space battle fiction.

    I thoroughly enjoyed it and plan to get the sequel as well.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    william boulder creek, california, United States 06-07-12
    william boulder creek, california, United States 06-07-12 Member Since 2012
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    "expected something different, but was very pleased"
    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Let's go meet the new stellar neighbors, and kill them!


    Any additional comments?

    Was well worth my time, good listen. Has a bit of a slow start, but the journey is fun and funny. If you are looking for some:
    human vs alien - its got it
    humor - its got it
    sex - its got it
    interstellar warfare - its got it
    romance - it got a bit too, but not enough to screw up the story
    other stuff worth checking out - yep its even got that to

    only thing that bugged me was the 'he said' and 'she said' the narrator does a good enough job of changing up his voice that you don't need it most of the time, but that not a big deal.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Raleigh, NC, United States 05-27-12
    Amazon Customer Raleigh, NC, United States 05-27-12 Member Since 2015

    ummm.. hi.. be my friend..

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Subtle and Subversive"

    I have a somewhat contradictory history with this book. When I first read this when it came out, I would have said it was a bit meandering but entertaining, a nice update to Starship Trooper. Three stars- like.

    Then I reread it on Audible because it was on one of those get the first book of a series for $5 sales. By now there were four books. This time I found it really entertaining and started to get the feeling something more was going on that I saw at first blush. I read through the rest of the series and, yes, there is a sweeping narrative that is going on across all four books. So I went to four stars - worth a read even if you're not me.

    Since then, I've made it a habit to pick up what Scalzi writes to see what his sarcastic self is going to say next. He's really good at sarcasm. He made me cry in public when I was grocery shopping and listening to Fuzzy Nation. I've never forgiven him for that. And don't get me started on that Wil Wheaton! Bastards!

    ANYWAY: On June 5th comes out Redshirts which looks to be very interesting indeed, telling the story of the starship away team from the cannon fodder's point of view. So I thought it would be fun to go back and re-read Old Man's War.

    This is one of the most subversive books I've ever read.

    Wow! It quotes quite a few tropes from SST and other military science fiction but takes an entirely different tack on them. There is a whole section rebutting the SST classroom screed about might makes right that is so right on that I wanted to stand up and cheer -- don't tell me I'm wrong, show me.

    A constantly recurring theme is the characters saying one thing while the entire background is completely contradictory to that. Its as if the characters are blissfully unaware of the irony of what they are saying. And it subtle like one of those optical illusions that you can easily just not see if you're not specifically looking for it.

    So I'm going to put this at five stars-- a must read. If you want to understand military science, you must read this book (along with SST, The Forever War, and The Warrior, among others). For me, this book is a modern classic.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kenneth Richmond, TX, United States 11-02-11
    Kenneth Richmond, TX, United States 11-02-11 Member Since 2010
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    "It was like an underdog sports movie."

    During the parts where you’re discovering the rest of the team and the training montage you’re pretty captivated. But once the team has gone through the montage the eventual outcome is inevitable. That's how this book was for me....Great until they were done training...then.....i don't remember what happens anymore....

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kent Springfield, VA, United States 01-27-11
    Kent Springfield, VA, United States 01-27-11 Member Since 2014
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    "This was way/Way/WAY better than I anticipated!"

    Great story - great narration!!! I ended up driving around the block a few extra times (or just sitting in my car) to hear more of this story! What a great way to minimize the frustrations of a long commute!

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Durango, CO, United States 12-11-10
    Michael Durango, CO, United States 12-11-10 Member Since 2015
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    "Don't Worry"

    Don't spend your time worrying about our country's multi-trillion dollar deficits, an Iranian nuclear weapon, or global whining. Instead, listen to this very well written, clever, entertaining, somewhat thoughtful, and even romantic novel. The narration by William Dufris is excellent. His characterization of the drill sergeant in Part 1 is a treat.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eric San bernardino, CA, United States 04-02-08
    Eric San bernardino, CA, United States 04-02-08 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Really Fun Read"

    The Dialoge in this book would be a delight even if the plot was awful. The plot is also fun. While reminicent of Starship Troopers it is still new and fresh. The characters are likeable. Excellent Military Sci-Fi.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karl Story 03-17-08
    Karl Story 03-17-08 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fun and entertaining"

    A bit Starship Troopers, a bit Forever War and a big chunk of originality. Scalzi doesn't bury you with the science(not that I personally have a problem with that), he just writes a good book.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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