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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

Critic Reviews

  • Hugo Award nominee, Best Novel, 2006

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

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This is not good, it is GREAT!!!! It's Science fiction, it's Military Sci-Fi, it's a romance, it's witty, LOL at times, it is character driven, it is everything I ask for in a novel. I think the older you are and the longer you have been happily married the more you will enjoy this. It is so nice to listen to a novel, where elders are respected. The main character was married for around 42 years, if I remember right. They had some ups and downs, but they were in love. As a man who has been married for over 37 years and who is more in love now than when I was as a youth, I feel the pain and longing of the main character.

The science fiction is cool and this platform gives Scalzi, the ability to show off his imagination. The different aliens he comes up with and how they think different then us, makes for some thought provoking and funny situations. Some other reviewers have compared it to Star Ship Troopers and I see that, but I was thinking more of Forever War by Haldeman. It may have a little of both, but it is all Scalzi.

Dufris does a great job.

92 of 93 people found this review helpful

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Fun and Witty Military Sci-Fi

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi was the first book that I downloaded with my Audible subscription as I had heard from various sources (including the Sword and Laser podcast) that it was a great read. I have to say that, after reading the novel, I agree wholeheartedly. Old Man’s War was one of the best novels that I’ve read all year. I would even go so far as to say it’s one of my favorite science fiction novels period.

From the start, I really got a kick out of the conceit of the story. In some future United States, elderly people are recruited to enlist and serve in the intergalactic military. With so many novels following a young protagonist (even many adult novels), I found it to be a very refreshing experience to read a novel where the main character was 75 years old.

In addition to that, I really enjoyed Scalzi’s writing style. It had just right combination of dry wit and cynicism to really resonate with me. I should also extend that compliment to William Dufris, the narrator of the audio version that I listened to. I thought he did an excellent job. His tone was perfect for the main characters of the novel.

I don’t want to give anything away in my review so I won’t go into too much detail about the plot, but I really did enjoy the story line a great deal as well. The novel is very much a military story filled with battles and typical military life. In that way, it reminded me of Joe Haldeman’s Forever War, but what I liked about Old Man’s War was a bit lighter and more fun.

The novel really roped me and I had a lot of fun listening to it. In fact, I tended to listen on my iPod while running, giving me the perfect excuse to exercise regularly.

Overall, I really enjoyed the novel and I would recommend it to any science fiction reader.

86 of 88 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 11-14-11

As good as Heinlein

This book reminds me of Heinlein ??? which is about the greatest compliment I can give a Sci Fi author. This book has multiple levels. It blends humor with social commentary, politics with action. The Sci Fi is merely a framework for the story and characters (which is as it should be). The characters are multifaceted and change substantially as the story evolves. The story has a lot of funny bits, but the story includes nice emotional and intellectual content. This book made me want to read everything by this author.

61 of 65 people found this review helpful

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Science Fiction is Not Dead

I grew up in the 1950's in the hey day of Heinlein, Asimov, Norton, Dickson and other great hard Science Fiction writers. To a great extent the genre in trying to reinvent itself turned its back on the traditional Science Fiction Fan. John Scalzi's novels, like the juveniles of Charles Sheffield, have reinvigorated the old hard science fiction style. However, John Scalzi has gone Sheffield one better. Old Man's War, Ghost Brigade, etc have not only brought Heinleinian style Science Fiction back to life, but he has successfully put a modern spin on the style which gives a fresh perspective. Old Man's War is an amazing effort and like any good book it stands up to being read and re-read. The audio interpretation is very well done and the reader gets a 5 star rating to complement the story itself.

30 of 33 people found this review helpful

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A Keeper

The first part of this book, reminiscent of Heinlein's "Starship Trooper", is a worthy homage. The second part is also a love story with emotional depth. The technology is part of the plot and not simply window dressing. I will look for other works by this author.

44 of 49 people found this review helpful

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A welcome listening challenge

Audible’s editors thought it would be fun for each of us try a genre we haven’t listened to before, and for me it was sci-fi. Our resident expert on the topic, Steve, recommended John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War as a place to start—and what a start it was! Filled with space battle, technology of the future (including new and improved bodies), characters you’ll care about, and even a heart-tugging love story, this book was a great way to ease into the category. One of the things I loved most was Scalzi’s insights into what makes us human. Or as he says, “Part of what makes us human is what we mean to other humans and what they miss about us.”

28 of 31 people found this review helpful

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  • Katherine
  • St. Johns, FL, United States
  • 03-28-12


"In this universe, experience counts."

"Guns don???t kill people. The aliens behind the triggers do."

John Perry is 75 years old, his wife is dead, and he has nothing left to live for. It???s a perfect time to join the army, and the Colonial Defense Force is recruiting. They need a lot of loyal human bodies to maintain the universe colonization project, so their preference is to recruit old people, rejuvenate their bodies (nobody on Earth knows exactly how this happens), and train them to fight for the human race. Most of them will be dead within a few years, but that???s all they were expecting on Earth anyway. The Colonial Defense Force gives them something valuable to do for humanity, and a chance for a new life.

Old Man???s War is one of the most enjoyable novels I???ve read this year. The premise ??? old people being rejuvenated ??? makes for an excellent twist on the usual alien-fighting theme. The elderly, as opposed to the usual young heroes we find in so many speculative fiction novels, have had a lifetime to accumulate knowledge, skills, wisdom, and experience. I found John Perry and his cohort to be mature heroes whom I could admire and enthusiastically cheer for. I cried for them, too, as they lost each other or ruminated on past loves. Perry???s explanation of why he missed being married was moving and reminded me of my graduate school days when I would have felt lonely and unsupported (and maybe quit) if it hadn???t been for my husband???s presence.

Scalzi???s villains, on the other hand ??? all those alien creatures ??? are absolutely horrifying! The humans usually have no idea what they???ll find on a new planet, which is why their mortality rate is so high. It could be an insectoid creature with razors for hands, or a jumping slime mold, or a virus... The diversity of alien life that Scalzi has created adds suspense and terror to his story.

Old Man???s War is not a comedy, but it???s often funny ??? very funny. I laughed hard and out loud many times. William Dufris, the narrator of the audiobook version I listened to, contributed to the humor by reading the funny parts in a perfect deadpan voice. Dufris was outstanding and I highly recommend Macmillan Audio???s version.

I will definitely be reading John Scalzi???s other books in this series. Old Man???s War was excellent.

44 of 51 people found this review helpful

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good find

I really liked "Old man's War". This book has everything I wanted. Sci-fi, aliens, fighting, humor. I enjoy the type of book where you have a person who starts a new situation, learns about the univers and becomes a hero. Ussually it is from the perspective of a young person coming of age, going through bootcamp or some like training. The unique thing about this, is that it is from an old man's perspective.
The writing is well done, the book goes quick. The alien races are an interesting mix. Good book.

31 of 36 people found this review helpful

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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.

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • John M
  • Lafayette, CA USA
  • 03-17-09

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.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful