Old Man's War by John Scalzi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
We all have regrets and things we wish we could do differently if life would allow it. What would you be willing to do to have an honest chance to live life over again? In Old Man's War that's not a philosophical question it's a real choice and one that many senior citizens take gladly. One such senior citizen is John Perry who on his 75th birthday chose to live his life over again.
In order to get that second chance John joins the army, well the Colonial Defense Force (CDF) to be exact. The CDF only takes the elderly for recruits and the elderly are only too happy for a shot to do things over again. No one knows exactly what to expect short of a 2 year minimum term in the CDF fighting aliens over planets to colonize. Anyone who survives their term gets the opportunity to colonize one of the planets they and their brethren bled to claim.
Old Man's War has a remarkable concept in which the CDF only recruits the elderly to fight for them. The opportunity for a second chance is amazing as the recruits find out, but the work they're required to do is far deadlier than anyone could have imagined. As one of the military personnel so callously stated that after 10 years three quarters of the recruits would be dead, "But remember back home, you most likely would have been dead in ten years, too frail and old, dying a useless death." There are tons of encouraging pep talks like this, in all honesty this was one of the more encouraging pep talks of the book.
The first third of the book in many ways read like a comedy. A bunch of 75 year olds who just said and did what they want came together laughing, joking, and having a good time all while wondering how everything would go. This was the best part of the book to me.
The remainder of the book focuses on the former geriatric recruits as they've been transformed into warriors. I don't want to get into details of the change because that is easily one of the most interesting parts of book. The rest of the book reads like any other generic sci-fi story. People fight aliens, aliens fight people, and when many of the aliens win they eat the people.
Old Man's War has tons of creativity jammed into it starting with their remarkable concept. Some parts of the overall story don't make a ton of sense to me though. For example I don't understand why it's so crucial that the CDF goes around colonizing planets at all. At no point does the author inform us that the Earth has become dangerously over populated or that the natural resources have been exhausted so new resources must be found. One additional plot point made the concept seem a bit pointless, but as it's an important part of the end of the story I won't spoil it.
All in all Old Man's War was an interesting story that kept me intrigued from beginning to the end.
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