Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
On his 75th birthday, John Perry joins the military. The Colonial Defense Forces only take people from Earth when they turn 75. The people who join volunteer up to 10 years before their birthday. They can choose to live out their life on Earth. But the promise of the CDF is the return of youth. Old people cannot be soldiers or fight wars – it takes a young body and reflexes to do that. The CDF patrols and defends the people from Earth who have immigrated to new worlds in the galaxy.
So John visits his wife’s grave, then reports to the local Ohio CDF office to start his new duty. He knows very little about what will happen once he leaves Earth, but being young in the space military beats dying old on Earth. But what he doesn’t know CAN hurt him.
Once John and his new friends who joined at the same time start adjusting to the changes in their bodies, they learn the danger of being in the military. The CDF protects the planets claimed by Earth from other beings in the galaxy who would like to claim the same planets. They are told that at the end of the original two years almost 40% of them will be dead. Their stint could then (and probably will) last up to 10 years, by which 75% of them will be dead. But if they survive ten years, they can retire out of the military and start new lives
Normally I’m not big on war novels, whether they are science fiction or not (I’m one of those people who is not enthralled with Heinlein’s Starship Troopers). But this novel appeals to me. I skimmed over the battle scenes, with the unbelievable aliens. Instead I liked the human interactions and feelings of this war. These soldiers are not young men who are learning about life. These are seasoned people (men and women) who have a lot of experience with life. They know their capabilities – or did until they received their redesigned bodies. They are better judges of situations.
At times the battles are exaggerated and John Perry is one very lucky man when it comes to battle situations. But it’s not just battles and chest pounding. The relationships John has with his dead wife’s memory, his new friends, and special colleagues make this a novel that I can relate to.
Notice: Non-graphic violence, Suggestive dialogue or situations