Old Man’s War

If you recall, the last time I tangled with sci-fi, it didn’t turn out that great. Well, I think I’ve made amends with the genre because this one turned out fine. Here is the route I took to the point of purchase:

  1. Read this article in the University of Chicago magazine about John Scalzi.
  2. Grabbed the feed to his blog, Whatever, in my Google Reader.
  3. Heard Dave Itzkoff talk about Scalzi on the NYT Book Review podcast.
  4. Purchased this book in paperback at Borders on Clybourn and Webster.

There was a lot of pressure on Mr. Scalzi because I was pumped about this book. His blog is fun to read and the accolades for the guy on all fronts are numerous. This is his first book and it was nominated for the ultimate award in sci-fi, the Hugo. I had very high expectations. Not to worry though, it was a trip worth taking and it exceeded my expectations considerably. It’s a great read and very manageable for someone who rarely reads sci-fi.

Here’s the plot. Earth is only one of many planets habited by humans. To protect all these humans, there is this interstellar group called the Colonial Defense Force (CDF). The main character, John Perry, joins the CDF when he turns 75. That happens to be the minimum age for joining up, but don’t worry, your body gets totally rejuvenated through some genetic mumbo jumbo. What ensues is a good amount of military sci-fi, but there is a heckuva lot more.

I just sit back in awe at Scalzi’s creativity. You can do stuff with sci-fi that you can’t do with regular fiction. Anything is fair game and it just makes for a ton of fun. For sure, it’s a lot more than hi-tech weaponry and virtually indestructible aliens. There is a lot of humor, a little romance, some physics, and a perspective on the victories and horrors of war.

Not that strangely, it’s part of a trilogy. What is the magic in a trilogy? All these sci-fi fantasy books seem to come in trilogies because I guess it beats writing a 1,000 page book. Plus, you charge pretty much the same for a 1,000 pager versus 300 pager, so you may make more money. But why doesn’t anybody do a quartet or a quintuple or something. It could be because the Dune trilogy really started to suck when Frank Herbert decided to do a second, follow-up trilogy. And look at Star Wars, that follow-up, pre-trilogy was kind of bad. I have a feeling that Scalzi will stay true to his trilogy because he just seems like the type of dude to do so.