Books: Old Man’s War

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

catwithhat.pngI finished reading Old Man’s War by John Scalzi last night. It’s another military sci-fi book. Yes, I know – this is not a healthy habit and I need to quit today. Maybe tomorrow.

The book’s interstellar politics can be easily described through the board-game monopoly: many alien species like planets similar enough to our own tastes that first contact typically occurs over territory disputes; humans are essentially boxed in from all sides by other species; if humans wish to remain competitive in a few centuries’ time they better start invading. It’s interesting how ethics are fundamentally based on self-preservation.

Earth is essentially excommunicated from all human colonies. This is to prevent disease as well as the culture shock of inter-species war of this scale. For example one encounter involved some bad aliens landing on an unarmed colony and enslaving all the colonists (enslaving in this case meaning caging everyone, milking the males, impregnating the females, and finally cooking up some human-flavored veal).

So the universe is a bad place where humans are not that popular. The military’s attrition rate stays around 80% mainly because every war they fight is completely different from the last. So enlistment takes place on Earth where no-one has a clue what they are in for. People sign up because it’s the only option to leave the planet. And that’s where the title comes from: enlistment is only accepted on the applicant’s 75th birthday. The recruit is then genetically modified to become a soldier who will (hopefully) be capable to compete with all the unknown alien badguys out there. I swear it makes more sense in the book.

The book is a quick read, about eight hours. It’s not “life-changing good” but still very enjoyable. The characters feel genuine and are hilarious which is what makes this book so much fun.

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