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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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  •  
    Bart WICHITA, KANSAS, United States 09-20-13
    Bart WICHITA, KANSAS, United States 09-20-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
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    4
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    "He said, she said, Harry said, we said, Joan said."
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    The story ark was well done. I almost stopped listening twice however. In the first few minutes of character dialogue I almost lost my mind, I said. Almost every line is followed with... said. Ex. Let's go out side, Harry said. Ok, I said. But it's raining, he said. I like the rain, I said. I'm not exaggerating. Very poor choice in voice in style. I had just finished listening to Enders Game where I felt like it was real and I was just observing to this SAID sh@t.The second near stop was with the characters when they were old. Fart jokes and piss commentary just sucked. Here and there of course but it was closer to listening to a bunch of Tweens. Thank goodness I muscled through that to get to know the characters.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    Before my dad died I asked him what it was like, being old. He said his mind was the same as when he was five and he always forgot his age until he tried to move quickly and failed. He would forget the years. I wish the old characters had been written and performed better.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    Said, said and said. Also his transitions from character to character need work but the said thing might have thrown that off.


    Did Old Man's War inspire you to do anything?

    No, but the ending surprised me and I'm glad I finished it.


    Any additional comments?

    No, I said. You've been warned, he said.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael S. Johnson 02-26-09 Member Since 2011

    Netguyz

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Unique and entertaining"

    I've enjoyed a lot of sci-fi genre books recently that were only a variation on one familiar theme or another. This one was completely new to me and what a read (listen!) I found it funny and thought provoking and completely entertaining! Highly recommended - as a matter of fact this is the first time I've been moved to write a review and my library includes about 75 audiobooks.

    16 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lore SAN JOSE, CA, United States 11-23-13
    Lore SAN JOSE, CA, United States 11-23-13 Member Since 2008

    Fantasy/Sci-Fi Fan

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "Would you join the armed forces at age 75?"

    Would you do it if they could make you young again? In the future, the Colonial Defense Force recruits 75 year olds to fill their ranks. Rumor has it that if you sign up, they will make you young again, but since nobody that joins the CDF ever returns to Earth, it's hard to know for sure. It is a minimum 2 year commitment that can be extended for up to 10 years and many people decide to go for it. Are your next 10 years on Earth worth passing up for 10 years of combat in space? With the chance you might be young again many think it is.

    This interesting concept, and the technology behind it, forms the core of this futuristic tale. It starts with 75 year old John Perry, whose wife has recently passed away. It is John’s 75th birthday and after a visit to his wife’s grave he is off to the recruiting office, after all, what does he have to lose? I won't spoil any of the facts after that for you, but I will say that I enjoyed finding out what awaited John after he took the plunge. The book did have its ups and downs and I enjoyed the beginning and the end a lot more than the middle, but overall the future tech was interesting enough to carry the day.

    William Dufris is ok as the narrator, but I didn't think he was a great fit for this; however, the story was intriguing enough for me to give the second book a listen as well.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John M Lafayette, CA USA 03-17-09
    John M Lafayette, CA USA 03-17-09 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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.

    9 of 10 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
  •  
    03-17-08
    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
  •  
    Casey odenton, MD, USA 02-20-08
    Casey odenton, MD, USA 02-20-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carl Oregon City, OR, USA 11-01-07
    Carl Oregon City, OR, USA 11-01-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    11
    5
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    "Waiting for the Sequel"

    This book impressed me. I thought the plot was very original, the characters well drawn and interesting and the reading nicely done. There are a lot of he said's as is usual with a new writer but you quickly get used to them. Overall the book was very enjoyable. The sequel is is the bookracks now, can't wait for Audible to get it.

    4 of 4 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 2014

    ummm.. hi.. be my friend..

    HELPFUL VOTES
    11
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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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Washington, DC, United States 04-25-12
    David Washington, DC, United States 04-25-12

    Law student currently in D.C.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    "Not a bad story, but annoying dialogue & narration"

    If you want a book about the moral implication of interstellar marines and the governments that deploy them - read Heinlein's Starship Troopers.

    If you enjoy the _movie_ Starship Troopers, then you will probably enjoy this book.

    As an action, sci-fi, military adventure, this story is not bad at all. It has interstellar human and alien empires, talk of skipping into alternate universes, genetically altered soldiers, and intriguing new weapons (not relying on imitation M-16s is a definite plus.) You also get to see a good range of alien life-forms, from the biggest and the baddest who can create Dyson's spheres, to feisty ones only a couple inches tall. I was certainly entertained by the plot.

    Now the bad. The dialogue...oh the dialogue. The dialogue problems may have been compounded by the delivery of the narrator, I especially disliked some of his over-the-top accents. Every single line of conversation outside of training/battle is intended to be some smarmy quip or sarcastic remark. I wonder if perhaps it would be more tolerable in written form where I would not have to listen lines actually read in a sarcastic manner. Surprisingly I didn't notice the "he said/she said" that many others are complaining about, but that's just another annoyance you can tack on to the poor dialogue.

    I would not necessarily steer people away from this book, but I might recommend it in paperback form over the audiobook.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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