OLD MAN’S WAR by John Scalzi

Space opera about old farts who become new farts.

Official description:  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.

OK, that’s the official plot.  What happens is you can sign up on your 65th birthday to join the Planetary Forces on your 75th birthday to go fight aliens in outer space.  At the time of your sign up, they take your DNA sample, etc., and then when you are 75, if you still want to join, men and women alike, you take the A Train  hahaha up the space elevator to the station where the Planetary Forces give you a bunch of new super body parts, and gene therapy and put a computer into your brain, and you become a super soldier. Of each group of 1000 new recruits, 400 will die in six months, an additional yada yada yada.  Kinda sounds like one of those Marine speeches on the eve of a big mission.

Well, John’s beloved wife of 42 years dies 8 years before his 75th birthday.  He misses her deeply and figures what has he got to lose, he gets to be young again and maybe will even live long enough to tell about it, so off he goes.

I was going to say it was a teenage boy’s wet dream, but I am wrong.  It is an old man’s wet dream, of being young, and virile and strong, and all that, of getting to live your misspent youth all over again.

Although the sci part of the sci fi wasn’t all that impressive, more along the lines of  …. and then magic happened…, but the point of the series is not the science but the idea of humanity, its hubris, its wishful thinking, and of our desire to live forever.  There were some really great aliens, so that redeemed it mightily, because who doesn’t like a niftily crafted alien?  One bunch is only one inch high, and their best weaponry was actually numbers.  You know, like bees or wasps.  One is an annoyance, a hundred of them can kill you.  So wearing protective gear, the Forces land on the planet and annihilate the buggers by stepping on them, crunch, crunch, crunch, like cockroaches.   See, not every alien looks like lizards or worms or goo.

Lots of fighting, battles, torn off body parts that get grown on again.  Stuff like that.  Basically, if you don’t get your head chopped off, you can be repaired to go out and fight anew.

Nice characterization, although frankly you could tell it was written by a man, because in spite of all his lamentations over his late wife and how much he loved her, it turned out that he had an affair at one time, for which she forgave him, but it was all right because she had one herself a few years later, and it was all right.  See, women never think that shit is all right, and although they may say they forgive you, they never do, really.  Only a man could think like that.

There are like at least six in this series, and yeah, I intend to read them.  In spite of my criticisms, I liked it, and found it a fun read.

Written in 2007, it was a Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (2006), Locus Award Nominee for Best SF Novel and Best First Novel (2006), and received the Geffen Award for Best Translated Science Fiction Book (2007)


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