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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 aliens willing to fight for them are common. The universe, it turns out, is a hostile place.

So: we fight. To defend Earth (a target for our new enemies, should we let them get close enough) and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has gone 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, which shields the home planet from too much knowledge of the situation. What's known to everybody is 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 your time 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.

Published: Macmillan Publishers on Apr 1, 2007
ISBN: 9781429914710
List price: $7.99
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"Old Man's War" starts with a different take on the standard military sci-fi - the interstellar war is being fought by old people, 75 year-olds at the end of their life who sign up to - they hope - start over, young again. The book follows widower John Perry as he joins, trains with, and fights for the army.Given the setup the tone is usually understandably humorous, and Scalzi's technique is fine. The book can't keep up its early solid pace, however; after Perry starts training, "Old Man's War" slips into generic territory and mostly stays there. The R. Lee Ermey-esque drill sergeant, the gun battles with humanoid aliens, the standard ethical questions; Scalzi plays them with a wink and a nod, but doesn't manage to make them interesting. The drill sergeant may mock the idea that's he's straight out of central casting, but, well, so would one that was out of central casting.One later plot thread works better, starting when Perry runs into the special forces of the "Old Man's War" universe, "The Ghost Brigades." Any detail would spoil things, but the idea and its consequences are fascinating to the extent they are explored in the book. This is Perry's book, however, and the exploration of the Ghost Brigades is necessarily limited.Old Man's War is still solid military sci-fi, and it's an enjoyable enough read, even if Scalzi's strengths are not in some of the more well-worn territory the book covers.read more
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This is an odd sort of book. Scalzi has a really neat central premise -- but the story gets lost up against it. The story is told in an oddly clinical fashion that leaves a sort of feeling that you're being given a report on the story instead of the story itself. The story moves along briskly enough, but I'm left oddly unmoved by the protagonist's experience. It doesn't help that while the premise requires that the protagonist excel at warfare etc., he surpasses all expectations -- stuns his drillmaster, saves the day in a battle as a private, is the only survivor of an inescapable attack, forces his way onto an elite squad and impresses them too ... The protagonist himself is so unmoved by these achievements that it is only on looking back that I start to wonder if the guy has purple eyes and red hair (he doesn't *g*). The whole thing is done with a sort of detached air of nonchalance that doesn't really engage.Briskly paced, entertaining, cool world building (if a little lacking on detail) and oddly clinical. I'm not entirely sure I *liked* it. But it was a good read.read more
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Scalzi's 'Old Man's War' is a military/science-fiction story takes place at least a century or so into the future -- the particular time is indeterminate -- but despite that the story starts out on an Earth that feels very familiar. The book is generally in the same category as Joe Haldeman's "The Forever War' and Robert Heinlein's "Starship Troopers". Very quickly as we follow the protagonist from Ohio into space Scalzi adds more and more details to mankind's expansion into space and the conflicts that take place there. He adds just enough detail to set up how things work without spending too much time in the mechanics of his universe. His narrative flows very well, is fast-paced, and doesn't really ever get bogged down. I wouldn't say that there is a lot of character development in the book -- there are some aspects of that but the narrative doesn't really get into that in a lot of depth I would say. This isn't necessarily especially detrimental though given the nature of the story.read more
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Scalzi's acknowledgement of Heinlein's Starship Troopers is appropriate. This was a quick and entertaining read without Heinlein's repugnant heavy-handed browbeating.read more
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Vivid characters. Very funny, especially the first half of the book, where Perry joins the army as an "old fart" and gets acclimatized to his new body. Fast-paced scenes of combat, with an end that leaves you wanting more.read more
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If you liked Heinlein, you have to try Scalzi.read more
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An interesting story, but it took a long time to get going. I also found myself wishing for more character development, as supporting members of the cast start to die off.read more
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Very good stuff, as you would expect in a novel that made the finals for a Hugo.read more
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I'm not normally a fan of military SF, so I might be missing some of the books the other reviewers believe this riffs on, but I enjoyed Old Man's War quite a lot. This book rips along--I read the last 3/4ths of it on a long plane ride, a great way to spend the time--and a lot of it is just fun. No mysteries of the universe being solved here: it's fun and weird and a little sinister, exactly the way I like it.It's a well-known problem that spec fic protagonists tend to be characters far outside the bell curve: the most talented, the most skilled, the Ones With Destiny, etc. This is an extreme example of the form. There's no reason the main character should be so good at the things he's good at, but he is. Something to be aware of, if you're the kind of person who's bothered by that. (The rest of the book is good enough that I didn't mind a whole lot, though.)Still, the book is imaginative, pulling the best aspects of pulp scifi into a better plot structure, and it has some surprising moments of humor. Probably not the best book I'll read in 2012, but among the most entertaining.read more
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"I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife's grave. Then I joined the army." I was grabbed by this first sentence and by the end of page three, I was absolutely hooked with no way of wriggling free. This story is set in the not too distant future where life on Earth seems to be fairly similar to what you and I are used to. Life away from Earth is another story entirely. The universe is Star Wars-like, filled with myriad intelligent species with body types and customs vastly different from our own, all vying for the scarce colonizable planets. The only way for an American citizen to get off Earth and into the stars is to join the Colonial Defense Forces--the army that fights for new planets and protects the colonies we already have. But the CDF doesn't want young, inexperienced recruits, they want soldiers who already have the experiences of a lifetime--you can't join until you turn seventy-five. Oh, and once you leave Earth, you can't come back.Told from a first-person perspective, this is the rollicking ride of an old man leaving behind everything he's ever known to make his way through the ranks of the CDF towards hero-dom. Along the way he fights in every manner imaginable, from blasting giant spiders who hurl chunks of rock from planetary rings, to stomping beings only an inch tall with his boots, to trying to contain an intelligent slime mold that will digest you from the inside out given half a chance. It's fun and engrossing and I absolutely did not want to put this book down. It also had some deeper messages about love and marriage and what it means to be human, but it certainly never got too deep. This was a brain-optional good time!Now if you would please excuse me, I'm going to go add every other book ever written by John Scalzi to my wish list!read more
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If you live in the same city as me, be assured that the paper-and-ink copy of this book I read is going back to the library ASAP and you'll be able to borrow it after me. If not, I do have the PDF...

Old Man's War is sci-fi. Maybe not the most original sci-fi in the world -- I read it more or less alongside Ender's Game and noted some similarities -- but there are some more original things that raised my eyebrows and then got me interested. For instant, the biggest part: the main character enlists in the army on his seventy-fifth birthday.

Okay, then quite typically you get transference of consciousness between bodies, and specially modified soldiers, and Combat With Strange Alien Species, etc, etc. What makes Old Man's War fun, though, aside from that, is the humour. Sometimes it falls flat, but quite often I cackled appreciatively.

The ending is awesome. First I kind of wanted to punch John Scalzi, then I stopped, went oh, and sniffled just a little.

Definitely one I'd recommend. Easy reading, really, but that's not a bad thing. My main quibble is how dry the narrative is sometimes. That helps in some scenes, keeping it very cut down and straight to the point, but sometimes you want a bit more impact.read more
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(refers to audiobook)

"A pulpy, well-characterized and written story"
While it might be confusing to compare his book to "Starship Troopers" I do think that John Scalzi's "Old Man's War" owes much to Heinlein's story. Not so much in terms of politics or satire, but in charting an enjoyable course straddling hard/military SF and a more pulpy romp approach. Scalzi does a great job of bringing John Perry to life, creating the eponymous "old man" and, while not really giving the character a background which makes his later military exploits fully believable, giving Perry a rich history and populating his star-spanning world with well-detailed friends and comrades. Scalzi comes up with several distinct alien races, really driving home the differences in motivation that some (the Consu in chief) bring to the table which escape human understanding. One fault I might raise with the story is that while the human characters all have some depth to them (even Perry's drill sergeant at basic training has a fairly rich personal history) no alien characters receive this treatment. The closest comes in the form of a disgraced Consu negotiator, and perhaps this lack of insight into alien personality and personal history is more than forgivable as the story takes place from Perry's consistent point of view. For the most part, from skip drives to tachyon detectors, the tech livens the story, not dragging it down to detract from the main event: Perry's tale. Some scenes, as some of Perry's comrades lose their lives in mundane or bizarre ways, were heartbreaking. The ending left me wanting a little more, but I suppose it can be forgiven as sequels, both in the universe and for Perry's story, exist.read more
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This was a real thrill to read. Interesting world, aliens and ideas and truly sympathetic main character. Definitely interested in the sequel. What I didn't like was the finale, I thought the action was lacking and the descriptions of main character lost its inner sharpness which was around at the first half of the book.read more
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An interesting premise that leads into an homage to Starship Troopers is the best way to describe Old Man's War. I started reading this on my iPhone while stuck, bored out of my skull, in the American Girl store with nothing to do. The first chapter captured my interest so I promptly acquired a copy to read in a better format. The story is set several hundred years in the future (not quite sure how far; things seem very similar, but for interstellar travel) when the Colonial Defense Forces (who have a monopoly on said interstellar travel) ask 75 year olds to sign up to fight. The new soldiers are taken from Earth, knowing that they will never return to fight in a universe that they know very, very little about. Scalzi offers some interesting physics lessons, throws in a few discussions of morality and what it means to be human, and has a few good battle scenes. The aliens were alien and I look forward to learning more about Scalzi's universe in his next books. This was one of those books that I absolutely flew through once I focused on it. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys "space" or "hard" science fiction.read more
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Been a long time since I read a traditional science fiction novel that engaged and didn't seem stale. Scalzi is great: interesting concept, realistic and engaging characters, good pacing and the military/combat jargon doesn't drag. Good read!read more
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Wonderful classic scifi/war opera. A great first book. Can't wait to read the next one.read more
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After having read and enjoyed Zoe’s Tale, I thought I would try the first book in the series proper (Zoe’s Tale works well as a standalone, though some things from the series will be spoiled). It had a nice classic scifi-y feel to it, which I liked. [Nov. 2011]read more
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BEST book of 2005. A unique take on aging and the minds ability to compensate. I recommended it to every person I knew...and still do. I've read every book Scalzi has done and he is a star.read more
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I've heard a lot of good things about this book over the past few years. I had the opportunity to meet John Scalzi at Phoenix Comicon in 2011, and I bought Old Man's War for him to sign. It's taken me over a year to get around to reading it.This book is so good, it made me forget about a pulsing migraine. I don't think I can say that about any other book, ever.The protagonist, John Perry, is absolutely engaging, but the full cast comes across as human and diverse. The little details just work. Aliens are alien, and defy all stereotypes. Scalzi manages to make John Perry into a remarkable man without making him some over-the-top type of action hero. The actions, the emotions, all feel real, and the novel's effortless flow made it an extremely fast read--even in the midst of a migraine.It's been a while since I read a book good enough to make me need the sequel right away. I think I'll be placing an Amazon order tonight. The other 100+ books in my to-read pile can wait a while longer.read more
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After retirement Americans now have the choice to say they'll join the Colonial Defense Forces. At 75, if they're still willing and able, they leave Earth forever and change everything from their old body to their morality as they begin service, defending colonies they won't ever have seen before, against aliens they didn't know existed.This book follows one man through this journey. That's an excellent choice on the author's part because he illuminates so many fascinating ideas using a human being's curiosity, rather than boring exposition. And it's the humanity in the book that makes it interesting. If it weren't for Perry's sense of humour and intelligence this would be an all right book. With it, and with the clear writing and moral questions posed by what humans are doing through the universe, it's compelling, easy to read, and thought-provoking without pretentiousness.One weakness in the book is too many coincidences near the end regarding who is where and how it all turns out. But this doesn't ruin the story as a whole.read more
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I managed to almost entirely avoid Heinlein so I can't make that comparison, but Old Man's War is good fun on its own terms. A nice balance of humor and drama, some interesting takes on consciousness and personhood, and lots of fun little ideas - the gun is basically the video game shooter inventory solution (carry ALL the guns and ammo!) and the BrainPal and its various uses are neat. There's a strong streak of surprisingly affecting romance, too. Good stuff.read more
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On John Perry’s 75th birthday, he did two things: he visited his wife’s grave, and he joined the army. The Colonial Defense Force, to be precise. When humanity reached the stars decades previously, they found that the universe is a very crowded place. Countless other intelligent species fight to colonize the same planets humans want, and some of those species have developed a taste for human flesh along the way. Thus, the Colonial Defense Forces were formed to protect those colonies humans have already secured and to toss the aliens off planets humans want to colonize. The CDF only takes fully mature adults, however, age 75 and up. Everyone assumes they have some secret rejuvenation technology to make the old young again, but no one knows what it is…no one but the CDF soldiers themselves, that is.John quickly makes friends with a group of the other 75-year-old new recruits and they manage to stay in touch through training and beyond, from battle to battle with strange and diverse alien species. But when John encounters a Special Forces supersoldier who looks exactly like his long-dead wife but has none of her memories, he realizes that there is more to this endless war and to the CDF than he or anyone on Earth ever suspected.Riffing on such sci-fi classics as Starship Troopers and Time Enough for Love, Scalzi’s Old Man’s War is nevertheless a fully-realized and unique view of humanity’s future among the stars, and was voted one of the Top Ten most influential science fiction books of the last decade by poll respondants on popular speculative fiction blog Tor.com.read more
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This is classic space opera in the tradition of Robert A. Heinlein (which is by no means a bad thing). John Perry is an interesting and engaging character. He is sharp, sarcastic and willing to try something very new. At age 75 and knowing that he doesn't want to get older, he enlists in the Colonial Defense Force not knowing what is in store for him. No one on Earth has ever met anyone from the CDF. John is changed and becomes a soldier. He manages to survive numerous battles when 3/4 of his fellow recruits do not and he is promoted from Private to Captain in a very short time. What is the male equivalent of a Mary-Sue story? This would seem to qualify if only because John always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He lost his beloved wife before they could both enlist. Yet he is rescued from a massacre by someone wearing her body. He comes up with a unique firing solution that turns a battle from defeat to a victory. He manages to find the plans for a secret advanced weapon in the middle of a battle. There are probably more examples too. I very much enjoyed this book and am glad that the sequels -- The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony -- are sitting in my TBR stack too. The book was filled with adventure, interesting situations and characters, and even love.read more
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Humanity is fighting a war for survival on the edges of known space. Back on Earth, the effects of the war are minimal. The Colonial Defense Forces recruit from among the elderly Earth population with tantalizing rumors of eternal youth and promises of future colonization opportunities. The rule is, commit to the CDF at 65, and enlist at 75 or not at all. John Perry decides to take the plunge, severs all ties, and sets off for the stars. Along the way he makes a few enemies, a few good friends, has great sex, and rekindles a lost love all the while realizing that what makes us human isn't just our DNA.Scalzi is a bit heavy handed at times, and although John Perry is an entertaining character, most of the other characters felt sort of flat. It's definitely a book with an "us or them" mentality. If you're okay with that, it's not a bad read. Thought-provoking, if nothing else.read more
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First, it's a pleasure to find a science fiction novel that's under 400 pages these days. But since I tend to like novels that are longer rather than shorter because I hate saying goodbye to characters I love, that's not always a good thing.Second, Scalzi delivered in this relatively slim tale of a future Earth where retirees are recruited in a never-ending war against alien races in the outer reaches of the galaxy. The story follows John Perry, taking him from his first days as an enlistee at 75, including receiving a new, young, enhanced body built from his DNA, through his training, and finally, through battles with all manner of aliens. And upfront, he's told only a few survive. The reward at the end of the contracted term of service is a young body and the chance to start over on one of the colony worlds. John figured he had nothing to lose. His wife was dead, and the chance for a second life was one he couldn't pass up. He learns quickly that survival will be tough, but he's got the smarts, and the wit, to succeed.In John Perry, Scalzi has crafted a true survivor, who never loses touch with his humanity despite all the horror and gore he witnesses and participates in. At the end of this small, surprisingly moving book, I was reluctant to say goodbye to John, and really, what more can one ask of a book?read more
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In reading this book, one gets the impression that over a pitcher of beer Scalzi was given the dare he couldn't write a novel that was a synthesis of "Starship Troopers" and "The Forever War." Guess what, that's essentially what you have here, and if Scalzi doesn't quite rise above his sources he's still produced a fine first novel here. What really lifts the story above that of being just another military procedural/space opera is that Scalzi brings a bit of real poignance to the situation of his main characters. Where I do have to mark Scalzi down a bit is that I would have liked to have had a little more explanation of elements of his universe, particularly some sense of how Humanity survived long enough to get off planet and become players in a galactic culture described as being rather crowded and quite lethal.read more
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I picked up Zoe's Tale when it showed up on the new books shelf, and D informed me that it was loosely a sequel to the Old Man's War stuff, so we went back to the library to check it out to read first. Like his Android's Dream, he writes in a plain spoken, clear-as-a-bell style, just straightforward enough to plausibly make his protagonist, John Perry, seem like a real, normal human. Perry is a man looking back on his first couple of years of service in the Colonial Defense Forces, and he spins out his story simply, embellishing with the details of everyday life rather than with exaggeration or high rhetoric. The retrospective timeline also serves to make the story work. Prospectively, the average story should end in a quick and gruesome death, but in this case history is written by those who are both clever and lucky: the winners, or at least the survivors.The book also has a nice amount of friendship and romance. I have to wonder about the romance part, because the protagonist is a writer, and I wonder if Scalzi is nodding towards how happy he is to have "gotten the girl" in real life. (8read more
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I’ve had my eye on this book for a long time, and when I got my Kindle it was one of the first books I got. I read it and loved it.

To me, this was the perfect science fiction tale. It featured a likable hero, the 75 year old John Perry. It involved a twist that I never saw coming, but sure should have. And it involved really, really ruthless enemies, and aliens that are just about as strange as one can imagine.

John Perry is celebrating his 75th birthday by joining the army. He intended to join with his wife, but she unfortunately died before the requisite age. He joins for a ten year term, and knowing that he can never return to Earth.

Before actually being able to join, he undergoes a rigorous series of physical and psychological exams. One of my favorite parts was when a doctor tells him that he has testicular cancer. The doctor is unconcerned about it and is totally uninterested in treating it.

“Why wouldn’t you cure it?” I asked. “If you can ‘shore up’ an affected region, it sounds like you could probably fix it completely if you wanted to.”



“We can, but it’s not necessary,” Dr. Russell said. “You’ll be getting a more comprehensive overhaul in a couple of days. We just need to keep you going until then.”



“What does this ‘comprehensive overhaul’ mean, anyway?” I asked.



“It means that when it’s done, you’ll wonder why you ever worried about a spot of cancer on your testicle,” he said. “That’s a promise …”

By this time, I was in total suspense about this “comprehensive overhaul” and dying to find out what it meant. And I never expected what it turned out to be.

For the entire first half of the novel, this suspense was more than enough to keep me turning the pages. The only real conflict was between the recruits and the military’s medical personnel, and even then, it was like the above. And the usual conflict between recruit and drill sergeant.

So what’s missing? A girl. And yes, there is a girl. Several, in fact, but really, the only girl for John is his dead wife, Kathy. She has an impact on the story in a big way. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Through most of the book, the other character drift in and out of the story and then die off. The story focuses on John exclusively and almost to its detriment. However, toward the end, it starts focusing on a core group of characters, especially one named Jane Sagan. She is a lieutenant in the ever-intriguing Ghost Brigades, the subject of the second novel in the series. (Which I read as well.)

One final thing–although this book is quite gritty, the gritty portions made me wince only because I was so taken with the main character. More importantly, the author did not overwhelm the story with grit– it is also full of humor and heart. I will be giving this novel a rare five stars at Amazon and GoodReads.read more
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Mankind has started to spread out in the galaxy, and so have a lot of other races. The available real estate is scarce, which leads to near-constant war for land.The only way for Americans to get into space is to join the Colonial Defense Force (CDF). They guard human colonies, and go to war over disputed planets. The CDF only takes people who have reached their 75th birthday. A vague promise of being made young again is a pretty strong incentive to sign up. The catch is that joining the CDF is a one-way trip. If you survive your tour of duty, hardly a sure thing, you will spend the rest of your life on some colony planet; returning to Earth is not an option.John Perry signs up. He just turned 75, his wife, Kathy, died several years previously, and his one adult son lives on his own. On the spaceship taking him, and several hundred others, to basic training on another planet, he learns just what the becoming young part is all about. His consciousness is transferred into a cloned body, in its mid-twenties, made from his own DNA, which was extracted from him several years previously. It's very much of a new and improved body with a green skin color. He also has a computer implanted in his brain, which can talk to him and communicate with anyone else.After basic training, Perry and his squad travel from planet to planet. Friends die, and new friends are made. During one disastrous operation, Perry crash lands on a planet, and is rescued by. . . his wife. She too is green, but the resemblance is way too close to be a coincidence. She (her name is Jane) is part of the Ghost Brigades, actually clones of dead people. Having no conception of what life is like as a realborn, they are kept far away from the rest of the CDF. Perry is made part of a Ghost Brigades squad, and begins to tell his squadmates what it's like to be married, and to love another person.Here is an excellent novel. It has space travel, it has weirdness, it has heart and it has a lot of great writing. This is highly recommended.read more
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Pretty good, but ultimately disapppointing.This is the first book I've read from John Scalzi, and I'll certainly be on the look out for more. But that said, I was ultimately disappointed by this book, perhaps mainly because it set its sights so high.The overall territory for this book is that of Starship Troopers, and it's an area that has been visited many times by different authors. It's a tricky area, because the procedural aspects of the story can quickly overwhelm the innovative aspects.I think that's basically the problem here. Despite an innovative setting, with good science and some interesting developments, the story gets bogged down in the same old army story stuff we always see in these novels. There's the grizzled old sergeant who ultimately softens somewhat (even if he claims he won't), the squad mates who die messily, the rapidly promoted protagonist, and so on.The first half of this book sets up some interesting possible directions, but they're never really followed up. For instance, the first half sets up brutal combat against nearly unstoppable aliens, but in the second half most of the fights are cakewalks, unless the aliens are armed with McGuffin-tech. That's my main complaint about this book: if the first half had kept going, I'd have enjoyed it a lot more. But instead it seemed to become another novel halfway through.(It also seems to wrap up well short of the end, but that may just be setting things up for the sequel).Overall 3 1/2 stars, but could so easily have been five.read more
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"Old Man's War" starts with a different take on the standard military sci-fi - the interstellar war is being fought by old people, 75 year-olds at the end of their life who sign up to - they hope - start over, young again. The book follows widower John Perry as he joins, trains with, and fights for the army.Given the setup the tone is usually understandably humorous, and Scalzi's technique is fine. The book can't keep up its early solid pace, however; after Perry starts training, "Old Man's War" slips into generic territory and mostly stays there. The R. Lee Ermey-esque drill sergeant, the gun battles with humanoid aliens, the standard ethical questions; Scalzi plays them with a wink and a nod, but doesn't manage to make them interesting. The drill sergeant may mock the idea that's he's straight out of central casting, but, well, so would one that was out of central casting.One later plot thread works better, starting when Perry runs into the special forces of the "Old Man's War" universe, "The Ghost Brigades." Any detail would spoil things, but the idea and its consequences are fascinating to the extent they are explored in the book. This is Perry's book, however, and the exploration of the Ghost Brigades is necessarily limited.Old Man's War is still solid military sci-fi, and it's an enjoyable enough read, even if Scalzi's strengths are not in some of the more well-worn territory the book covers.
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This is an odd sort of book. Scalzi has a really neat central premise -- but the story gets lost up against it. The story is told in an oddly clinical fashion that leaves a sort of feeling that you're being given a report on the story instead of the story itself. The story moves along briskly enough, but I'm left oddly unmoved by the protagonist's experience. It doesn't help that while the premise requires that the protagonist excel at warfare etc., he surpasses all expectations -- stuns his drillmaster, saves the day in a battle as a private, is the only survivor of an inescapable attack, forces his way onto an elite squad and impresses them too ... The protagonist himself is so unmoved by these achievements that it is only on looking back that I start to wonder if the guy has purple eyes and red hair (he doesn't *g*). The whole thing is done with a sort of detached air of nonchalance that doesn't really engage.Briskly paced, entertaining, cool world building (if a little lacking on detail) and oddly clinical. I'm not entirely sure I *liked* it. But it was a good read.
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Scalzi's 'Old Man's War' is a military/science-fiction story takes place at least a century or so into the future -- the particular time is indeterminate -- but despite that the story starts out on an Earth that feels very familiar. The book is generally in the same category as Joe Haldeman's "The Forever War' and Robert Heinlein's "Starship Troopers". Very quickly as we follow the protagonist from Ohio into space Scalzi adds more and more details to mankind's expansion into space and the conflicts that take place there. He adds just enough detail to set up how things work without spending too much time in the mechanics of his universe. His narrative flows very well, is fast-paced, and doesn't really ever get bogged down. I wouldn't say that there is a lot of character development in the book -- there are some aspects of that but the narrative doesn't really get into that in a lot of depth I would say. This isn't necessarily especially detrimental though given the nature of the story.
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Scalzi's acknowledgement of Heinlein's Starship Troopers is appropriate. This was a quick and entertaining read without Heinlein's repugnant heavy-handed browbeating.
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Vivid characters. Very funny, especially the first half of the book, where Perry joins the army as an "old fart" and gets acclimatized to his new body. Fast-paced scenes of combat, with an end that leaves you wanting more.
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If you liked Heinlein, you have to try Scalzi.
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An interesting story, but it took a long time to get going. I also found myself wishing for more character development, as supporting members of the cast start to die off.
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Very good stuff, as you would expect in a novel that made the finals for a Hugo.
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I'm not normally a fan of military SF, so I might be missing some of the books the other reviewers believe this riffs on, but I enjoyed Old Man's War quite a lot. This book rips along--I read the last 3/4ths of it on a long plane ride, a great way to spend the time--and a lot of it is just fun. No mysteries of the universe being solved here: it's fun and weird and a little sinister, exactly the way I like it.It's a well-known problem that spec fic protagonists tend to be characters far outside the bell curve: the most talented, the most skilled, the Ones With Destiny, etc. This is an extreme example of the form. There's no reason the main character should be so good at the things he's good at, but he is. Something to be aware of, if you're the kind of person who's bothered by that. (The rest of the book is good enough that I didn't mind a whole lot, though.)Still, the book is imaginative, pulling the best aspects of pulp scifi into a better plot structure, and it has some surprising moments of humor. Probably not the best book I'll read in 2012, but among the most entertaining.
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"I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife's grave. Then I joined the army." I was grabbed by this first sentence and by the end of page three, I was absolutely hooked with no way of wriggling free. This story is set in the not too distant future where life on Earth seems to be fairly similar to what you and I are used to. Life away from Earth is another story entirely. The universe is Star Wars-like, filled with myriad intelligent species with body types and customs vastly different from our own, all vying for the scarce colonizable planets. The only way for an American citizen to get off Earth and into the stars is to join the Colonial Defense Forces--the army that fights for new planets and protects the colonies we already have. But the CDF doesn't want young, inexperienced recruits, they want soldiers who already have the experiences of a lifetime--you can't join until you turn seventy-five. Oh, and once you leave Earth, you can't come back.Told from a first-person perspective, this is the rollicking ride of an old man leaving behind everything he's ever known to make his way through the ranks of the CDF towards hero-dom. Along the way he fights in every manner imaginable, from blasting giant spiders who hurl chunks of rock from planetary rings, to stomping beings only an inch tall with his boots, to trying to contain an intelligent slime mold that will digest you from the inside out given half a chance. It's fun and engrossing and I absolutely did not want to put this book down. It also had some deeper messages about love and marriage and what it means to be human, but it certainly never got too deep. This was a brain-optional good time!Now if you would please excuse me, I'm going to go add every other book ever written by John Scalzi to my wish list!
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If you live in the same city as me, be assured that the paper-and-ink copy of this book I read is going back to the library ASAP and you'll be able to borrow it after me. If not, I do have the PDF...

Old Man's War is sci-fi. Maybe not the most original sci-fi in the world -- I read it more or less alongside Ender's Game and noted some similarities -- but there are some more original things that raised my eyebrows and then got me interested. For instant, the biggest part: the main character enlists in the army on his seventy-fifth birthday.

Okay, then quite typically you get transference of consciousness between bodies, and specially modified soldiers, and Combat With Strange Alien Species, etc, etc. What makes Old Man's War fun, though, aside from that, is the humour. Sometimes it falls flat, but quite often I cackled appreciatively.

The ending is awesome. First I kind of wanted to punch John Scalzi, then I stopped, went oh, and sniffled just a little.

Definitely one I'd recommend. Easy reading, really, but that's not a bad thing. My main quibble is how dry the narrative is sometimes. That helps in some scenes, keeping it very cut down and straight to the point, but sometimes you want a bit more impact.
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(refers to audiobook)

"A pulpy, well-characterized and written story"
While it might be confusing to compare his book to "Starship Troopers" I do think that John Scalzi's "Old Man's War" owes much to Heinlein's story. Not so much in terms of politics or satire, but in charting an enjoyable course straddling hard/military SF and a more pulpy romp approach. Scalzi does a great job of bringing John Perry to life, creating the eponymous "old man" and, while not really giving the character a background which makes his later military exploits fully believable, giving Perry a rich history and populating his star-spanning world with well-detailed friends and comrades. Scalzi comes up with several distinct alien races, really driving home the differences in motivation that some (the Consu in chief) bring to the table which escape human understanding. One fault I might raise with the story is that while the human characters all have some depth to them (even Perry's drill sergeant at basic training has a fairly rich personal history) no alien characters receive this treatment. The closest comes in the form of a disgraced Consu negotiator, and perhaps this lack of insight into alien personality and personal history is more than forgivable as the story takes place from Perry's consistent point of view. For the most part, from skip drives to tachyon detectors, the tech livens the story, not dragging it down to detract from the main event: Perry's tale. Some scenes, as some of Perry's comrades lose their lives in mundane or bizarre ways, were heartbreaking. The ending left me wanting a little more, but I suppose it can be forgiven as sequels, both in the universe and for Perry's story, exist.
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This was a real thrill to read. Interesting world, aliens and ideas and truly sympathetic main character. Definitely interested in the sequel. What I didn't like was the finale, I thought the action was lacking and the descriptions of main character lost its inner sharpness which was around at the first half of the book.
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An interesting premise that leads into an homage to Starship Troopers is the best way to describe Old Man's War. I started reading this on my iPhone while stuck, bored out of my skull, in the American Girl store with nothing to do. The first chapter captured my interest so I promptly acquired a copy to read in a better format. The story is set several hundred years in the future (not quite sure how far; things seem very similar, but for interstellar travel) when the Colonial Defense Forces (who have a monopoly on said interstellar travel) ask 75 year olds to sign up to fight. The new soldiers are taken from Earth, knowing that they will never return to fight in a universe that they know very, very little about. Scalzi offers some interesting physics lessons, throws in a few discussions of morality and what it means to be human, and has a few good battle scenes. The aliens were alien and I look forward to learning more about Scalzi's universe in his next books. This was one of those books that I absolutely flew through once I focused on it. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys "space" or "hard" science fiction.
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Been a long time since I read a traditional science fiction novel that engaged and didn't seem stale. Scalzi is great: interesting concept, realistic and engaging characters, good pacing and the military/combat jargon doesn't drag. Good read!
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Wonderful classic scifi/war opera. A great first book. Can't wait to read the next one.
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After having read and enjoyed Zoe’s Tale, I thought I would try the first book in the series proper (Zoe’s Tale works well as a standalone, though some things from the series will be spoiled). It had a nice classic scifi-y feel to it, which I liked. [Nov. 2011]
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BEST book of 2005. A unique take on aging and the minds ability to compensate. I recommended it to every person I knew...and still do. I've read every book Scalzi has done and he is a star.
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I've heard a lot of good things about this book over the past few years. I had the opportunity to meet John Scalzi at Phoenix Comicon in 2011, and I bought Old Man's War for him to sign. It's taken me over a year to get around to reading it.This book is so good, it made me forget about a pulsing migraine. I don't think I can say that about any other book, ever.The protagonist, John Perry, is absolutely engaging, but the full cast comes across as human and diverse. The little details just work. Aliens are alien, and defy all stereotypes. Scalzi manages to make John Perry into a remarkable man without making him some over-the-top type of action hero. The actions, the emotions, all feel real, and the novel's effortless flow made it an extremely fast read--even in the midst of a migraine.It's been a while since I read a book good enough to make me need the sequel right away. I think I'll be placing an Amazon order tonight. The other 100+ books in my to-read pile can wait a while longer.
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After retirement Americans now have the choice to say they'll join the Colonial Defense Forces. At 75, if they're still willing and able, they leave Earth forever and change everything from their old body to their morality as they begin service, defending colonies they won't ever have seen before, against aliens they didn't know existed.This book follows one man through this journey. That's an excellent choice on the author's part because he illuminates so many fascinating ideas using a human being's curiosity, rather than boring exposition. And it's the humanity in the book that makes it interesting. If it weren't for Perry's sense of humour and intelligence this would be an all right book. With it, and with the clear writing and moral questions posed by what humans are doing through the universe, it's compelling, easy to read, and thought-provoking without pretentiousness.One weakness in the book is too many coincidences near the end regarding who is where and how it all turns out. But this doesn't ruin the story as a whole.
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I managed to almost entirely avoid Heinlein so I can't make that comparison, but Old Man's War is good fun on its own terms. A nice balance of humor and drama, some interesting takes on consciousness and personhood, and lots of fun little ideas - the gun is basically the video game shooter inventory solution (carry ALL the guns and ammo!) and the BrainPal and its various uses are neat. There's a strong streak of surprisingly affecting romance, too. Good stuff.
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On John Perry’s 75th birthday, he did two things: he visited his wife’s grave, and he joined the army. The Colonial Defense Force, to be precise. When humanity reached the stars decades previously, they found that the universe is a very crowded place. Countless other intelligent species fight to colonize the same planets humans want, and some of those species have developed a taste for human flesh along the way. Thus, the Colonial Defense Forces were formed to protect those colonies humans have already secured and to toss the aliens off planets humans want to colonize. The CDF only takes fully mature adults, however, age 75 and up. Everyone assumes they have some secret rejuvenation technology to make the old young again, but no one knows what it is…no one but the CDF soldiers themselves, that is.John quickly makes friends with a group of the other 75-year-old new recruits and they manage to stay in touch through training and beyond, from battle to battle with strange and diverse alien species. But when John encounters a Special Forces supersoldier who looks exactly like his long-dead wife but has none of her memories, he realizes that there is more to this endless war and to the CDF than he or anyone on Earth ever suspected.Riffing on such sci-fi classics as Starship Troopers and Time Enough for Love, Scalzi’s Old Man’s War is nevertheless a fully-realized and unique view of humanity’s future among the stars, and was voted one of the Top Ten most influential science fiction books of the last decade by poll respondants on popular speculative fiction blog Tor.com.
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This is classic space opera in the tradition of Robert A. Heinlein (which is by no means a bad thing). John Perry is an interesting and engaging character. He is sharp, sarcastic and willing to try something very new. At age 75 and knowing that he doesn't want to get older, he enlists in the Colonial Defense Force not knowing what is in store for him. No one on Earth has ever met anyone from the CDF. John is changed and becomes a soldier. He manages to survive numerous battles when 3/4 of his fellow recruits do not and he is promoted from Private to Captain in a very short time. What is the male equivalent of a Mary-Sue story? This would seem to qualify if only because John always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He lost his beloved wife before they could both enlist. Yet he is rescued from a massacre by someone wearing her body. He comes up with a unique firing solution that turns a battle from defeat to a victory. He manages to find the plans for a secret advanced weapon in the middle of a battle. There are probably more examples too. I very much enjoyed this book and am glad that the sequels -- The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony -- are sitting in my TBR stack too. The book was filled with adventure, interesting situations and characters, and even love.
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Humanity is fighting a war for survival on the edges of known space. Back on Earth, the effects of the war are minimal. The Colonial Defense Forces recruit from among the elderly Earth population with tantalizing rumors of eternal youth and promises of future colonization opportunities. The rule is, commit to the CDF at 65, and enlist at 75 or not at all. John Perry decides to take the plunge, severs all ties, and sets off for the stars. Along the way he makes a few enemies, a few good friends, has great sex, and rekindles a lost love all the while realizing that what makes us human isn't just our DNA.Scalzi is a bit heavy handed at times, and although John Perry is an entertaining character, most of the other characters felt sort of flat. It's definitely a book with an "us or them" mentality. If you're okay with that, it's not a bad read. Thought-provoking, if nothing else.
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First, it's a pleasure to find a science fiction novel that's under 400 pages these days. But since I tend to like novels that are longer rather than shorter because I hate saying goodbye to characters I love, that's not always a good thing.Second, Scalzi delivered in this relatively slim tale of a future Earth where retirees are recruited in a never-ending war against alien races in the outer reaches of the galaxy. The story follows John Perry, taking him from his first days as an enlistee at 75, including receiving a new, young, enhanced body built from his DNA, through his training, and finally, through battles with all manner of aliens. And upfront, he's told only a few survive. The reward at the end of the contracted term of service is a young body and the chance to start over on one of the colony worlds. John figured he had nothing to lose. His wife was dead, and the chance for a second life was one he couldn't pass up. He learns quickly that survival will be tough, but he's got the smarts, and the wit, to succeed.In John Perry, Scalzi has crafted a true survivor, who never loses touch with his humanity despite all the horror and gore he witnesses and participates in. At the end of this small, surprisingly moving book, I was reluctant to say goodbye to John, and really, what more can one ask of a book?
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In reading this book, one gets the impression that over a pitcher of beer Scalzi was given the dare he couldn't write a novel that was a synthesis of "Starship Troopers" and "The Forever War." Guess what, that's essentially what you have here, and if Scalzi doesn't quite rise above his sources he's still produced a fine first novel here. What really lifts the story above that of being just another military procedural/space opera is that Scalzi brings a bit of real poignance to the situation of his main characters. Where I do have to mark Scalzi down a bit is that I would have liked to have had a little more explanation of elements of his universe, particularly some sense of how Humanity survived long enough to get off planet and become players in a galactic culture described as being rather crowded and quite lethal.
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I picked up Zoe's Tale when it showed up on the new books shelf, and D informed me that it was loosely a sequel to the Old Man's War stuff, so we went back to the library to check it out to read first. Like his Android's Dream, he writes in a plain spoken, clear-as-a-bell style, just straightforward enough to plausibly make his protagonist, John Perry, seem like a real, normal human. Perry is a man looking back on his first couple of years of service in the Colonial Defense Forces, and he spins out his story simply, embellishing with the details of everyday life rather than with exaggeration or high rhetoric. The retrospective timeline also serves to make the story work. Prospectively, the average story should end in a quick and gruesome death, but in this case history is written by those who are both clever and lucky: the winners, or at least the survivors.The book also has a nice amount of friendship and romance. I have to wonder about the romance part, because the protagonist is a writer, and I wonder if Scalzi is nodding towards how happy he is to have "gotten the girl" in real life. (8
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I’ve had my eye on this book for a long time, and when I got my Kindle it was one of the first books I got. I read it and loved it.

To me, this was the perfect science fiction tale. It featured a likable hero, the 75 year old John Perry. It involved a twist that I never saw coming, but sure should have. And it involved really, really ruthless enemies, and aliens that are just about as strange as one can imagine.

John Perry is celebrating his 75th birthday by joining the army. He intended to join with his wife, but she unfortunately died before the requisite age. He joins for a ten year term, and knowing that he can never return to Earth.

Before actually being able to join, he undergoes a rigorous series of physical and psychological exams. One of my favorite parts was when a doctor tells him that he has testicular cancer. The doctor is unconcerned about it and is totally uninterested in treating it.

“Why wouldn’t you cure it?” I asked. “If you can ‘shore up’ an affected region, it sounds like you could probably fix it completely if you wanted to.”



“We can, but it’s not necessary,” Dr. Russell said. “You’ll be getting a more comprehensive overhaul in a couple of days. We just need to keep you going until then.”



“What does this ‘comprehensive overhaul’ mean, anyway?” I asked.



“It means that when it’s done, you’ll wonder why you ever worried about a spot of cancer on your testicle,” he said. “That’s a promise …”

By this time, I was in total suspense about this “comprehensive overhaul” and dying to find out what it meant. And I never expected what it turned out to be.

For the entire first half of the novel, this suspense was more than enough to keep me turning the pages. The only real conflict was between the recruits and the military’s medical personnel, and even then, it was like the above. And the usual conflict between recruit and drill sergeant.

So what’s missing? A girl. And yes, there is a girl. Several, in fact, but really, the only girl for John is his dead wife, Kathy. She has an impact on the story in a big way. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Through most of the book, the other character drift in and out of the story and then die off. The story focuses on John exclusively and almost to its detriment. However, toward the end, it starts focusing on a core group of characters, especially one named Jane Sagan. She is a lieutenant in the ever-intriguing Ghost Brigades, the subject of the second novel in the series. (Which I read as well.)

One final thing–although this book is quite gritty, the gritty portions made me wince only because I was so taken with the main character. More importantly, the author did not overwhelm the story with grit– it is also full of humor and heart. I will be giving this novel a rare five stars at Amazon and GoodReads.
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Mankind has started to spread out in the galaxy, and so have a lot of other races. The available real estate is scarce, which leads to near-constant war for land.The only way for Americans to get into space is to join the Colonial Defense Force (CDF). They guard human colonies, and go to war over disputed planets. The CDF only takes people who have reached their 75th birthday. A vague promise of being made young again is a pretty strong incentive to sign up. The catch is that joining the CDF is a one-way trip. If you survive your tour of duty, hardly a sure thing, you will spend the rest of your life on some colony planet; returning to Earth is not an option.John Perry signs up. He just turned 75, his wife, Kathy, died several years previously, and his one adult son lives on his own. On the spaceship taking him, and several hundred others, to basic training on another planet, he learns just what the becoming young part is all about. His consciousness is transferred into a cloned body, in its mid-twenties, made from his own DNA, which was extracted from him several years previously. It's very much of a new and improved body with a green skin color. He also has a computer implanted in his brain, which can talk to him and communicate with anyone else.After basic training, Perry and his squad travel from planet to planet. Friends die, and new friends are made. During one disastrous operation, Perry crash lands on a planet, and is rescued by. . . his wife. She too is green, but the resemblance is way too close to be a coincidence. She (her name is Jane) is part of the Ghost Brigades, actually clones of dead people. Having no conception of what life is like as a realborn, they are kept far away from the rest of the CDF. Perry is made part of a Ghost Brigades squad, and begins to tell his squadmates what it's like to be married, and to love another person.Here is an excellent novel. It has space travel, it has weirdness, it has heart and it has a lot of great writing. This is highly recommended.
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Pretty good, but ultimately disapppointing.This is the first book I've read from John Scalzi, and I'll certainly be on the look out for more. But that said, I was ultimately disappointed by this book, perhaps mainly because it set its sights so high.The overall territory for this book is that of Starship Troopers, and it's an area that has been visited many times by different authors. It's a tricky area, because the procedural aspects of the story can quickly overwhelm the innovative aspects.I think that's basically the problem here. Despite an innovative setting, with good science and some interesting developments, the story gets bogged down in the same old army story stuff we always see in these novels. There's the grizzled old sergeant who ultimately softens somewhat (even if he claims he won't), the squad mates who die messily, the rapidly promoted protagonist, and so on.The first half of this book sets up some interesting possible directions, but they're never really followed up. For instance, the first half sets up brutal combat against nearly unstoppable aliens, but in the second half most of the fights are cakewalks, unless the aliens are armed with McGuffin-tech. That's my main complaint about this book: if the first half had kept going, I'd have enjoyed it a lot more. But instead it seemed to become another novel halfway through.(It also seems to wrap up well short of the end, but that may just be setting things up for the sequel).Overall 3 1/2 stars, but could so easily have been five.
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