Old Man’s War by John Scalzi is a science fiction book about war in space, a bunch of alien bad guys, and life as a soldier. Oh, and it’s also about how when a person turns 75, they can leave Earth behind, get a new body, and be young again. In other words, it’s awesome.
Without spoiling anything, the premise of the novel is that this guy John Perry decides he’s had enough of Earth and being old, so he decides to join the war effort on behalf of a mysterious organization called the Colonial Defense Force, which no one on Earth really knows much about except that they supposedly make you young again (somehow). Naturally, old people the world over are willing to run off and play soldier if it means they don’t have to put up with arthritis and bowel problems. John is quickly sent off to get his new body and start his training, and it only gets better from there.
The story is told through first-person narrative, similar to many other war novels, but with a sarcastic wit that fits the 75-year old John Perry quite well. In fact, it’s probably one of the best narrative voices I’ve read in a while.
Over the course of the book, a lot of interesting concepts are shown to the reader, and most of it is explained efficiently enough. Space travel, the new bodies, the guns, and even the religion of certain aliens. It’s a rich, thick world, and upon reading the novel it becomes clear that Scalzi did his research.
But the story itself is what ultimately matters. John Perry is a man looking for another life after the death of his wife, whom he loved more than anything, and this is the story of the search. We follow John on a ride of loss and renewal, of a second chance at happiness in a universe that’s not as bright or pleasant as shows like Star Trek have suggested. Mankind is a minority here, struggling for pieces of a galaxy with too much life in it, which means someone has to go.
There are a few hard to believe moments in here, with coincidences popping up that may raise a brow or two, but for the most part it’s a fantastic book with an amazing premise. If you haven’t read it yet, and you enjoy other science fiction stories like Ender’s Game or The Forever War, pick this one up today.
J. N. Chaney