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Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi (Books 2008, 3)

I’ve been reading Scalzi’s “blog (Whatever…)”: on and off for a few years, and he comes across as one of the good guys: certainly on the side of light, a good laugh, and someone you imagine would be fun to meet. So I’ve been meaning to read his SF for a while.

My thanks to his publishers, Tor, then, for making his debut available via their free ebooks programme. I read most of it on the Eee PC, with some bits on my phone (when I was standing up on the tube).

In short, I loved it; though I have some doubts, or reservations.

It’s a curious universe (or at least, galaxy) that he describes: it is teeming with life, intelligent life; but nearly all of it is antithetical to nearly all of the rest of it. Certainly, it is a book about war (the clue’s in the title); but it’s not one war between humanity and another alien race. Instead it’s a series of small wars to defend human colonies from alien attackers, and to attack alien colonies and capture the planets for humans. And once our hero joins up, he is constantly at war; there is no respite, at least that we hear of.

And only one, minor, character questions this state of affairs (though others do express their doubts).

I have a feeling, though, that these questions may be addressed in the sequels, which I’m keen to read (more proof, were it needed, that giving things away can be a good thing for authors and publishers alike).

The ‘old-man’s‘ bit is that you can only join up when you reach 75 years of age. You relinquish your Earth-nation’s citizenship and are legally considered dead. Members of the Colonial Defense Force can never return to Earth.

But to make up for that, you get a new youthful body, and (if you make it through your tour of duty) the opportunity to have a new life on a colony planet. The Colonial powers being technologically far in advance of Earth (which has become a bit of a backwater), there is not similar life-extension technology available to those on Earth.

So you can see the temptation. Peaceful soul that I am, I can imagine that I might take up the offer. Life is better than the alternative, you know?