Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

Old Man's War paperback cover Old Man's War (2005)
2006 Hugo Award nominee

Tor trade paperback
cover art by John Harris
316 pages (left)

Tor hardcover
cover art by Donato
320 pages (right)
Old Man's War hardcover cover

From the inside flaps of the hardcover:
       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.

Read for group discussion on March 14, 2007

How we each rated this book
Dan 8 Amy 7 stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
Cheri 8 Barb -
Aaron 7 Cynthia -
Jackie - Ron 7
Christine - Deb -
Mike - Stephanie 8
Patty 7.5 Shannon -

Aaron's Commentary  John Scalzi - Old Man's War

Old Man's War is easy to read and very entertaining.  It does not have quite so much humor as Scalzi's The Android's Dream, but is witty throughout and has a few hilarious moments - the scene with Willie Wheelie was my favorite.

Scalzi nicely develops John Perry's sense of camaraderie with his fellow recruits.  It is to Scalzi's credit that he also pauses to consider the darker implications of being a soldier in such a bloody conflict, although there is not much depth to his resolutions of Perry's moral dilemmas.

Scalzi does a great job of emulating Robert Heinlein, perhaps to a fault.  Old Man's War is replete with convenient but unlikely plot turns and rather unimaginative future military tactics, and I suspect Scalzi is trying a bit too hard to put us in mind of Heinlein.

What do you think? Your comments are welcome. Please send them to

Our book group has read the following books by John Scalzi
-- Zoe's Tale  in July 2009

John Scalzi (1969-    ) is a US author of science fiction and online web writer.

2006 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
2008 Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer
2009 Hugo Award for Best Related Book for Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008

Old Man's War Universe novels:
-- Old Man's War (2005)
-- The Ghost Brigades (2006)
-- The Last Colony (2007)
-- Zoe's Tale (2008), a retelling of Scalzi's The Last Colony from the viewpoint of ZoŽ Boutin-Perry

Other novels:
-- Agent to the Stars (1997 online shareware novel, 2004 freeware, 2005 hardcover)
-- The Android's Dream (2006), humorous futuristic spy thriller

Novellas and Novelettes published as books:
-- The Sagan Diary (2007)
-- The God Engines (2009)

-- The Rough Guide to Money Online (2000)
-- The Rough Guide to the Universe (2003)
-- The Book of the Dumb (2003)
-- The Book of the Dumb 2 (2004)
-- The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies (2005)
-- You're Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing (2007)
-- Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 (2008)

Aaron's review of The Android's Dream by John Scalzi on Fantastic Reviews
Our book club's page for Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi -- The online home of writer John Scalzi
Whatever - John Scalzi's blog
John Scalzi - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
SF REVIEWS.NET: Old Man's War / John Scalzi
The SF Site Featured Review: Old Man's War

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This page was last updated August 08, 2010