Old Man’s War (Old Man’s War, #1)

By John Scalzi

Rating: 4 stars

In the far future, humanity has reached the stars to find them already occupied. It turns out that there are numerous alien races out there and competition for habitable planets to colonise is intense in an alien-eat-human (sometimes literally) world. The Colonial Defence Force exists to protect human settlements and to aggressively attack other races to gain new territory.

They recruit from an Earth that is shielded from this war and also not given access to the alien high technology that the CDF acquires (saying they should discover it themselves), but it’s their method of recruitment that forms the kernel around which this story is told. Rather than recruiting young people with no experience of the world, the CDF only recruits people over the age of 75, who are given new, young bodies and never allowed to return to Earth, but once their tour of duty ends are resettled on a colony world. Thus the CDF gains the experience of age and experience and ensures that a breeding population remains on Earth.

I had a bit of an issue with the concept behind this book: that diplomacy in interstellar space is impossible because of the demand of each race to propagate and expand, but I was able to mostly get through that because unlike, say, Robert Heinlein, it felt like he was using that background to tell an interesting story, not because he believed it :). There are also some great flashes of dark humour throughout the book, such as when an alien invasion force takes a Human colony, they bring a celebrity chef with them to describe the best way to cook Humans.

Our protagonist, John Perry, is likeable and a good narrator, although perhaps a little too competent, in that Heinlein-esque sort of way. He is the only one to be drawn out in any depth, with the other characters being mostly there to drive the plot forward or provide exposition but it never felt forced and you still feel a little sad at the inevitable deaths that a war-story will bring.

An enjoyable story set in an intriguing universe and I look forward to getting hold of the sequel(s).

Book details

ISBN: 9780765348272
Publisher: Tor Books
Year of publication: 2005

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