You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Old Man's War

John Scalzi's Old Man's War is a science fiction novel about a future where humanity is at war against many other species in the galaxy. Aliens and offworld humans are not allowed on Earth due to quarantine laws, but Earth and the rest of humanity are protected by the Colonial Defense Force. Humans are given a choice to enter the CDF when they turn 75. They are made young again and given training, then sent off to fight aliens.

John Perry joins the CDF in the beginning of the story. Perry's wife Kathy had died years before of a stroke. Perry is taken to orbit with other seventy-five-year-olds where they get on a ship headed for their training. They are given new bodies, genetically engineered and improved with special options like a BrainPal. Thrilled with their new bodies, they all begin having sex with each other.

When they reach the training camp the fun is over. They explore the limits of their new bodies. After training they are sent on missions to protect humanity. Except that in many cases, they are really the aggressors. The CDF drives off the residents of planets that humans find attractive. Perry comes to the realization of the ridiculous and violent nature of their attacks while stomping on one inch tall aliens on a planet they had colonized. Such a situation exaggerates the vicious nature of some of the human's attacks. Perry and some of the other soldiers question the strategy of violence, but in the end they follow orders. The one soldier who tries to make a truce with an alien species is blown to bits. This drives in the message that the galaxy is very different from anything the soldiers knew in their previous lives.

On a mission to defend a human colony from an alien attack, Perry's ship is blasted with a missile and his shuttle barely makes it out of the ship. The pilot gets the shuttle to the planet but it is blown up before it reaches the surface and Perry barely survives. He is rescued by two members of the CDF Special Forces, and realizes that one is his wife. He discovers that the soldier was created from his wife's DNA after his wife died before she could make her commitment to join the CDF. He and the new soldier have a bit of trouble at first but soon they get along well. She wants to get to know the person where her DNA came from and he wants to know the person created from Kathy's DNA. The story ends with a battle to retake the planet they lost to the aliens, and Perry heroically saving the soldier with his wife's DNA.

I enjoyed reading the book. It was full of action and humor. It is easy to join with John Perry as he discovers his new body and enjoys its new abilities. The battle scenes are pretty good though not great. I appreciated that there was some examination of the war on the part of the main character, even if it wasn't explored very deeply. There are certainly a variety of aliens and tactics and battles.

The novel is part war story and part love story. In the end Perry gets a sort of reunion with his wife, or at least a woman with her body. It makes a difference to him when he realizes he might have something better to live for. But most of the story is taken up with the new life Perry has chosen and the changes he and his fellow recruits go through. The dialogue is strong, and the characters are varied and well-drawn. As usual, the technology is whiz-bang, and often used for laughs. The book was fun, and I really felt for Perry through the story. B+


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