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Old Man's War [Mass Market Paperback]

John Scalzi
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 15 2007
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 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.

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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Though a lot of SF writers are more or less efficiently continuing the tradition of Robert A. Heinlein, Scalzi's astonishingly proficient first novel reads like an original work by the late grand master. Seventy-five-year-old John Perry joins the Colonial Defense Force because he has nothing to keep him on Earth. Suddenly installed in a better-than-new young body, he begins developing loyalty toward his comrades in arms as they battle aliens for habitable planets in a crowded galaxy. As bloody combat experiences pile up, Perry begins wondering whether the slaughter is justified; in short, is being a warrior really a good thing, let alone being human? The definition of "human" keeps expanding as Perry is pushed through a series of mind-stretching revelations. The story obviously resembles such novels as Starship Trooper and Time Enough for Love, but Scalzi is not just recycling classic Heinlein. He's working out new twists, variations that startle even as they satisfy. The novel's tone is right on target, too—sentimentality balanced by hardheaded calculation, know-it-all smugness moderated by innocent wonder. This virtuoso debut pays tribute to SF's past while showing that well-worn tropes still can have real zip when they're approached with ingenuity.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

With his wife dead and buried, and life nearly over at 75, John Perry takes the only logical course of action left him: he joins the army. Now better known as the Colonial Defense Force (CDF), Perry's service-of-choice has extended its reach into interstellar space to pave the way for human colonization of other planets while fending off marauding aliens. The CDF has a trick up its sleeve that makes enlistment especially enticing for seniors: the promise of restoring youth. After bonding with a group of fellow recruits who dub their clique the Old Farts, Perry finds himself in a new body crafted from his original DNA and upgraded for battle, including fast-clotting "smartblood" and a brain-implanted personal computer. All too quickly the Old Farts are separated, and Perry fights for his life on various alien-infested battlegrounds. Scalzi's blending of wry humor and futuristic warfare recalls Joe Haldeman's classic, The Forever War (1974), and strikes the right fan--pleasing chords to probably garner major sf award nominations. Carl Hays
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars First rate debut novel. March 22 2014
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
John Scalzi has come up with a space-war tale with a unique twist: live your normal life span to old age then sign up for another life in a new and better body. Too good to be true? Of course there's a catch. You have joined up with no choice but to leave Earth forever to fight a war against superior alien forces. One more catch, you have very little or no chance of surviving.

A good read and worth passing on to a friend.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling Aug. 15 2013
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a mix between Starship Troopers and Altered Carbon. Excellent stuff. Page turner. A very fun and very well written book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting story about future war June 21 2013
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Old Man's War is really the old person war as both men and women from the distant future are invited to leave Earth and join the Colonial Army. Earth is a relatively technological backwater, largely thanks to the Colonial Government not sharing its alien-related technology. As humanity discovered faster-than-light travel they also discovered a host of alien species. Some were friendly, most were not as habitable planets became resources to compete over. One advantage of that has been the gain of technology, and it is this technology that the Colonial Army offers to old Earth humans. Join up and become young again.

The recruits aren't sure how this happens, but they sign up largely because the alternative (getting even older and dying) is less appealing. Well, the book does describe a way of making them younger that's quasi-realistic. In fact, it can make them even healthier than ever. Unfortunately, it also means participating in military service with only a 10-25% chance of survival. If they live, they get to "retire" in young bodies as colonists on some distant planet.

The strength of the book lies in the details of how John Perry interacts with the people around him. At 75 years of age he's a widower with only one child whom he leaves behind on Earth. He meets fellow seniors and quickly forms a bond with them. There is a fair bit of Starship Troopers-type discussion of what military service means and entails. There's also a reasonable exploration of what it means to be human. Finally, there's also quite a bit of action which keeps the book moving along at a good pace.

The weaknesses of the book is that the rapid body count keeps you from getting too attached to anyone other than John.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual concept May 2 2013
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Most unusual story .... I thought it a bit slow at the beginning but later realized it was necessary. Good read.....
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By fastreader TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
John Scalzi has a wicked sense of humour. Although this is a space opera, and all about fighting aliens, it also is whimsical and funny at times.

Humanity is out and about in the universe and establishing colonies anywhere it can. However, there are other races that have the same idea and just like in real estate it's all about location, location, location. Every race is after the same great planets, and they are willing to do whatever it takes.

In a turn around to the traditional sending the young men off to fight, Scalzi envisions a system where when you reach 75 you join up and go off planet to fight. You are regenerated as a younger physically enhanced version of your self but still have your memories of the first 75 years of your life.

Technology off Earth is superior in all respects to what you can get on Earth, however that's just a rumour as after you sign up for military duty you can never return to Earth.

Great action scenes, great humour, great character development and overall a GREAT read.

Highly recommended as is Scalzi's latest Redshirts, another irreverent space opera novel.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Like Heinlein--Good and Bad Feb. 16 2013
By John M. Ford TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Reviews which compare Old Man's War with Robert Heinlein's classic science fiction--not the kinkier, later stuff--are on the mark. Like Heinlein's Starship Troopers, this book takes us on a coming of age journey as the protagonist joins the military and leaves the familiar atmosphere of Earth. In this case the age-coming is in reverse, as a senior citizen is restored to youthful combat-readiness. The "BrainPal" computer implant and physiological enhancements are recognizable Heinlein influences, but different enough to be engaging. The reader will enjoy discovering other similarities without becoming distracted by them.

Some Heinlein weaknesses are there, too. I say this with affection, because they are sentimental reminders of Heinlein's voice. The gadgetry and action are stronger than the characters, who sometimes seem shallow in emotionally complex situations. In the first chapter, there is a well-written melancholy to the protagonist's description of his late wife. This depth does not transfer well to his later reactions to her memory. And this isn't credibly due to a change in the character. It's worth exploring for yourself, though. If you have lost a spouse, I suggest comparing Scalzi's grasp of your experience with Stephen King's in Bag of Bones or Lisey's Story.

Never mind the impefections. :) It's a good story you can enjoy while remembering Heinlein. Buy it, read it, and keep it around to read again right after Thanksgiving dinner.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Loved this book, very easy to get into and a very tight, well written story. Recommend to anyone who loves a light sci-fi military adventure
Published 15 months ago by Carl
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Fun!
This one is a great ride! Clever concept, well thought out details and great fast paced action. You can't help but cheer for the heroes and enjoy the journey. Read more
Published 17 months ago by C. Kalangis
5.0 out of 5 stars A Breathtakingly Fresh Take on Military Space Opera Science Fiction
John Scalzi's "Old Man's War" is indeed a "Starship Troopers" for our time, but one replete with echoes from the 1960s New Wave and 1980s cyberpunk literary movements in... Read more
Published on April 3 2012 by John Kwok
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent: Treat yourself - read all four in this series!
I was searching the Sci-Fi bestsellers list here on Amazon a few months ago and came across this book: Old Man's War. Read more
Published on Aug. 1 2009 by David W. Wildeboer
5.0 out of 5 stars An Entertaining Page Turner
I read Old Man's War a few years ago but I have to admit, I really loved this book. The characters were enjoyable, the concepts portrayed are fresh and interesting, and the plot... Read more
Published on July 28 2009 by Daiken
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story, Great book
Well I really liked this book, and I'm reading the sequel (Ghost Brigade) now.

I'm not much for words, sorry.
Published on July 27 2009 by Stefx
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Classic Science Fiction Adventure
I really enjoyed some of the original ideas in this story, found the characters and writting compelling and have already bought the sequals. I plan to read more from this author. Read more
Published on Nov. 14 2008 by D. Jones
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