After watching Prometheus, I decided I needed a dose of good science fiction. This was a problem for me as I have not kept up with the genre and had no clue where to begin. It was a face-palm moment when I realized that I was following a great science fiction author already.
I found John Scalzi’s blog Whatever about two years ago and had made it one of my daily visits when I hit the internet. I enjoyed his insights on varied topics and his Big Idea series had introduced me to several authors that I now read religiously. I was sad to realize that I had not picked up any of his books and this was the perfect time to do so.
I decided the best place to start was with his first book Old Man’s War which was published in 2005. This was the story of John Perry. On his 75th birthday he did two things. He visited his wife’s grave and he joined the army. Now, I know that may sound kind of crazy but it becomes clearer as the book eases you into the setting.
We learn, along with John, that the earth is actually a backwater planet. Progress has slowed to a crawl. The promise of an extended life draws people to join the CDF at 75 years old. By joining, the person becomes legally dead on earth and promises never to return. The question that plagues John is how they will utilize a septuagenarian as a raw recruit to defend humanity. The answer is astounding but makes perfect sense. They are going to transfer his consciousness into a technologically advanced younger version of his own body. The CDF needs people with a depth of life experience as it makes for a smoother transition to the new body and they are more prepared to deal with the variety of challenges they are soon to face.
At its heart, this book is about two things. It is the story of John Perry’s beginnings in the Colonial Defense Force and an exploration of what it means to be human. We follow John during his time in training and throughout his rise through the ranks. We are given a clear picture of the capabilities of the new body that he has been given and the extent of the technology that humanity has at its disposal. We get to watch as John has to learn the capabilities of his new body. Each new piece of information takes him farther from the man he remembers. After to coming to grips with his new reality, an even bigger wrench is thrown into life when he is rescued from a failed mission by a soldier that looks just like his dead wife.
I really enjoyed this book. The pacing was wonderful and made for a quick read. John Perry is an affable protagonist making it easy to identify with him. The themes that are explored throughout the book are handled deftly without ever sacrificing character to make a point. All in all, a book well worth your time to read.