Old Man's War

Old Man's War

4.5 327
by John Scalzi, Vincent Chong

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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 alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to


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.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Bifocals, denture fixative cream, and an AARP membership card are definitely not required to read John Scalzi's brilliant debut novel, Old Man's War -- a story about a group of septuagenarians (a.k.a. the Old Farts) who, with the promise of a new life, join the Colonial Union army and leave Earth forever to do battle against the many enemies of humankind.

When John Perry turns 75, he does two things: He visits his wife's grave and he joins the Colonial Defense Force. The CDF's enlistment contract is incredibly tempting. When a person reaches retirement age, all they have to do is give up all their worldly possessions and promise never to return to Earth. In return, elderly recruits get to take advantage of the Colonial Union's secretive therapy, which somehow reverses aging. In essence, the soldiers exchange a few years of military service for a new life on one of the Union's many colony planets. Without the faintest clue of what he's really getting himself into, Perry realizes quickly that he has just signed up for "an all-expenses-paid tour of hell." With a brand new, tank-grown, super-modified body -- green skin, cat's eyes, built-in cranial computers, etc. -- Perry and his ultra-human cohorts travel from planet to planet leaving dead aliens in their wake. All's well until Perry sees a very real and very familiar ghost…

The overly obvious comparisons to Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers aside, Scalzi's first novel is reminiscent of another genre master: Ben Bova. Effectively blending hard science concepts with powerfully moving interpersonal intrigue, Old Man's War is both a compelling pedal-to-the-metal science fiction thriller and an endearing love story. Paul Goat Allen
Library Journal
When humanity reaches the stars, it discovers that it must defend its claim to new planets against alien races with similar expansionist tendencies. To ensure the expertise of its soldiers, Earth creates the Colonial Defense Force, an army of men and women otherwise classified as senior citizens, who give up their lives on Earth for an uncertain and perilous future among the stars. Scalzi's first novel presents a new approach to military sf, boasting an unusual cast of senior citizens as heroes. A good choice for most libraries. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

“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...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.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Solid…[Scalzi] sidesteps most of the cliches of military science fiction, delivers fast-paced scenes of combat and pays attention to the science underpinning his premise.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Thought-provoking!” —Entertainment Weekly

“Smartly conceived and thoroughly entertaining, Old Man's War is a splendid novel.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Gripping and surpassingly original. It's Starship Troopers without the lectures. It's The Forever War with better sex. It's funny, it's sad, and it's true.” —Cory Doctorow

“John Scalzi is a fresh and appealing new voice, and Old Man's War is classic SF seen from a modern perspective--a fast-paced tour of a daunting, hostile universe.” —Robert Charles Wilson

“I enjoyed Old Man's War immensely. A space war story with fast action, vivid characters, moral complexity and cool speculative physics, set in a future you almost want to live into, and a universe you sincerely hope you don't live in already.” —Ken MacLeod

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Read an Excerpt

"In this room right now are 1,022 recruits," Lt. Colonel Higgee said. "Two years from today, 400 of you will be dead."

Higgee stood in the front of the theater, again. This time, he had a backdrop: Beta Pyxis III floated behind him, a massive marble streaked with blue, white, green and brown

"In the third year," he continued, "another 100 of you will die. Another 150 in years four and five. After ten years — and yes, recruits, you will most likely be required to serve a full ten years — 750 of you have been killed in the line of duty. Three quarters of you, gone. These have been the survival statistics — not just for the last ten or twenty years, but for the over two hundred years the Colonial Defense Forces have been active."

There was dead silence.

"I know what you're thinking right now, because I was thinking it when I was in your place," Lt. Colonel Higgee said. "You're thinking — what the hell am I doing here? This guy is telling me I'm going to be dead in ten years! But remember that back home, you most likely would have been dead in ten years, too — frail and old, dying a useless death. You may die in the Colonial Defense Forces. You probably will die in the Colonial Defense Forces. But your death will not be a useless one. You'll have died to keep humanity alive in our universe."

Meet the Author

John Scalzi won the 2006 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and Old Man's War, his debut novel, was a finalist for science fiction's Hugo Award. His other books include The Ghost Brigades, The Android's Dream and The Last Colony. He has won the Hugo Award, the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for science-fiction, the Seiun, The Kurd Lasswitz and the Geffen awards. His weblog, Whatever, is one of the most widely-read web sites in modern SF. Born and raised in California, Scalzi studied at the University of Chicago. He lives in southern Ohio with his wife and daughter.

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Old Man's War 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 327 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Old mans war has to be the best book that i have ever read. I stumbled apon it in the airport on one of my journeys across the country the last summer. The book was marveing and i found it to be so interesting that i couldn't put it down. The story of John Perry giving up his 'old' body for a new military green one to fight for the CDF. As the book moves on you will became attached to the characters as they went on missions against alien species bent on destruction of mankind and the aquisition of planets that bare natural resources. I won't tell about the book because it would give away the book, but i will tell you that if your a sci-fi/action&adventure lover that this book is definently for you! Be warned that this book and the sequels to this book(The Ghost Bridgades, The last Colony) are extreme in detail to violence/gore and love/sex. But all in all one of my favorites along with the sequels. !!!Enjoy Them!!!
harstan More than 1 year ago
When he turned seventy-five, earthling John Perry visits the grave site of his wife of forty-two years Kathy interred in an Arizona cemetery. He reflects how much he misses her, how he hates coming here, and that her last words dealt with finding vanilla as she was making pancakes when she stroked to death. With nothing to keep him here, John abruptly decides to join the Colonial Defense Force struggling to defend or annex other worlds in deadly competition with alien races for control of the few hospitable planets....................... As a recruit, John receives standard gear to include a much younger healthier body that is beyond the ability of most non government citizens to buy except the affluent. Like his brothers and sisters in arms, he bonds with them as they are his family and his hope to survive one skirmish after another in many cases against superior aliens. As his comrades die and collateral damage devastate civilian population, John begins questioning the worth war that enables a few to economically gain a lot at the cost of others even as he begins to ponder whether he is still human.................... Paying homage to Heinlein (Starship Trooper the book not the movie), John Scalzi provides a tense anti-war military science fiction thriller that will leave fans pondering what is war good for. Readers will also wonder about who benefits from scientific advances and military operations and what actually a human is as science changes Homo sapiens. The story line is action-packed once John enlists as the audience get inside his head while he goes from ¿youthful¿ awe to experienced cynic. OLD MAN¿S WAR is a terrific tale of a belligerent future in space.......................... Harriet Klausner
LaKitteh More than 1 year ago
When I saw this book compared to 'Starship Troopers', I was skeptical. As a lifelong sci-fi reader I can honestly say that not many books can be compared to Robert A. Heinlein books... but this book, this ENTIRE series of books, is the exception! Once I picked it up I was unable to put it back down. Imagine a future where the OLD are encouraged to go into the army while the young stay behind... the lure? To be young again. Follow along as John Perry leaves behind Earth and old age, to be a soldier for the Colonial Defense Forces.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Way back when I read the classic 'Starship Troopers' as a sci-fi fan and always rated it one of the best. Old Man's War takes it's place as my favorite in this style. All of it is very believable which makes for great sci-fi. Especially the problems of traveling great distance in the universe. And how old men and women can live another life starting at age 25 with the wisdom of age 75.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a refreshing change for me after reading a couple of so-so (non-scifi) books from my favored authors. I rember reading scifi back in the 5th grade and had forgot how good credible scifi can be. I have to believe this one is among the better modern scifi novels availbale today - if you've been away for a while, here's a book that could bring you back - highly recommended!
BigLazyTomcat More than 1 year ago
Unique story with interesting concepts. If you like stories where the morality of the "Good Guys" comes into question, you'll like this series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I stumbled across this book about a month ago. This was an enjoyable read for me. I especially liked the way Scalzi explained how technology worked in his universe, without getting too technical. I have since read the Ghost Brigade and Lost Colony and I'm currently reading Zoe's Story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A fellow employee showed it to me and the first two sentences sucked me in. A very original story and the writing style made me really like the main character. I like scifi and this was pretty good. Looking forward to reading more by this author.
Jonathan_Stewart More than 1 year ago
The first of Scalzi’s series, Old Man's War, pays obvious homage to Heinlein, himself a master of the Science Fiction genre, but does so with such originality and such a careful touch of modernity that you don't feel like you're reading a retread of a classic, instead you see what it means for someone to stand squarely on the shoulders of a giant. The power of this book comes from the immense universe it imagines, one that goes far beyond the Star Trek universe, even the Ender's Game universe (which itself is paid clear tribute to in book two of this series). It supersedes those universes in its imagination of worlds and races -hundreds of them, not just dozens. And it puts humanity in a relative underdog position against the universe, rather than at the center. In sci-fi, we are typically governors or rebels against the invading force, but in this series we’re just on the periphery, exactly as our placement in the Milky Way Galaxy would suggest. It's a healthy bit of humility that sci-fi doesn't always force us to face Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think of it like a cross between "Avatar" and "Cocoon"! Characters are fun and the book seems to fly by. Wasn't quite sure what to expect, but the plot really drew me in. Enjoy!
twelve_gauge More than 1 year ago
The book started a little slow but picked up quickly, and I was totally engrossed for the first few chapters. Then suddenly, it became a chore to read. The descriptions of the aliens was a total turn off. Some were described as a cross between a bear/giant flying squirrel and deer like. Not what I would imagine alien species would resemble. I lost confidence in the book at that point, and almost stopped reading. Turns out I should have, because it got really boring toward the end.
Skylinesend More than 1 year ago
Gritty Military Sci-Fi. In the future, the Colonial Defense Forces protects the planets that have been colonized by humans from aliens that want to kill, or even eat us. (Humans are a delicacy in space.) The recruits come from Earth, and the only requirement for joining is that you are 75 years old. Fun and fast paced. I really enjoyed this book.
Drewano More than 1 year ago
“Old Man’s War” is a good old fashioned sci-fi book. Take 1 parts future, 1 parts spaced aged technology, 1 part aliens and mix well. Throw in a couple of twists and good characters and you’ve got yourself a winner, and that’s what we have here. The characters are well written (if a bit too fortunate at times) and easy to connect with despite being old. There is enough action to keep you interested and the overall story does well to pull you into this brave new world. Highly recommended for the Sci-fi lover in you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I want my SF/Fantasy hard, epic and spanning multiple books. This book delivers without getting long winded or depressing even though main characters die. The author takes a balanced approach to war and rightly takes a potshot at belliphobe and belliphile alike. The ending is paced well, satifying and wraps up optimistically.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just not good. Boring and stilted. Weak action.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Reminiscent of the sci-fi of old
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"The Old Mans War' is one of the Most Amazing & Wonderful War-type Sci-fi book that I've read in ages! The characters are deep & interesting. The plot starts at the beginning and successfully moves throughout the difficult lives of the new space soldiers as they grow & serve in "The Colonial Defense Force." It presents a fascinating view of what humanity really means. As well as, a discussion regarding why we engage in war. Its quite brutal in parts and emotionally challenging at times. Overall, I highly recommend this book. -AvidReader
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
But I guess I have to write something, too. I'll just put the same thing for all of Scalzi's work. Basically, funny dialogue and narration, completely lacking in pretension, and clever plot-writing to boot. I don't usually have favorites if anything, but Scalzi has earned the position of my favorite author.
scifi_fan_1973 More than 1 year ago
An excellent book. The author has done a great job in transporting the reader to a fascinating universe. The book is addictive....I could not put it down. As soon as I was done, I ordered a copy of Ghost Brigades (the second book in the series).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pretty good plot, but way too much foul language / cursing. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Harv_Rickman More than 1 year ago
This was by far one of the best sci-fi reads I have had the honor of reading. Mr. Scalzi is fantastic. It was hard for me to even consider putting it down! Superb character development. Rich, deep characters that you can really relate to, and thoroughly cherish in their interactions. Action sequences and resulting outcomes were detailed and very believable. I am looking forward to having the chance to read more of his work.