Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. Tor Books. 318 pages.
I had heard of John Scalzi for a long time, mostly for his presence online. His web journal, The Whatever (www.scalzi.com/whatever) is very, very popular. So when a writing student of mine recommended the book, which I had also heard of but not read, I had to pick it up. I did my usual thing and bought it for a penny on Amazon, and sat down to read.
The story is about a military organization called the Colonial Defense Force. They are responsible for defending off-planet Earth colonies from alien attack. Because it is a job that has a 75% mortality rate, they hire 75 year olds to fight their battles. Those who sign up are given new, enhanced bodies, trained and sent off to war.
This is a book with actually two stories, and the way they are weaved together is what makes the book unique. The first part, theme, or whatever you want to call it, is about old age. Scalzi does a good job of getting into the head of a 75 year old, and my favorite part is when a group of 75 year old men and women get together, calling themselves The Old Farts. This was my favorite part, and not because every day I am getting closer to their age. What was exceptionally funny was their typical interaction as senior citizens, and then the way they reacted immediately after receiving new bodies. My biggest criticism of the book was simply that once the seniors became young again, the concept of being older was completely lost. One of the reasons they recruited seniors was to take advantage of their life experience, but you don’t see that showing up much at all.
The second part of the story is, of course, the military part. The main character, John Perry, is well developed, and ends up being a hero, not because he has a heroic streak, but because he instinctively uses his brain, which leads to some fortunate situations.
This is a great book, and I was pleased to learn that it is the first of a trilogy. When I find another penny, I will be buying the next book in the series.
I give it four and a half stars out of five.