While I typically don’t gravitate to military SF, I needed a change of genre after all of the YA and Urban Fantasy that I've been reading. I've seen several recommendations for Old Man’s War and John Scalzi floating around various SF book groups and several folks on my Booklikes feed have read it recently. My Dad, whose primary reading choice is military SF also recommended it, and my husband agreed that it was worth reading. So, I thought I would give something different a try. I’m glad I did.
Old Man’s War is in many ways just another coming of age story: The protagonist joins the military, gets shipped off to boot camp, then discovers that he is extraordinarily good at being a soldier and exceptional at surviving improbable circumstances. The premise that the soldier is a reborn “old-fart” who enlists in a one-way ticket to the stars as a Colonial Defense Force solider when reaching the age of 75 adds an interesting twist, as do the Ghost Brigades (though I can’t say much about them without spoilers). Despite occasional info-dumps, I liked how Scalzi tied together technologies and concepts familiar from other SF (e.g. micro-parallel universes, skip drives, personal shields). My biggest criticism, is that as often happens with novice writers, the book is a series of disjointed vignettes almost as if Scalzi wrote a number of linked short stories and called them a book. Taken individually, each section is full of nicely sketched characters, fascinating aliens, and interesting situations. Taken together you have a hopscotch story of a man who is implausibly good at surviving.
While the cover blurb heralds Scalzi as a worthy Heir to Heinlein, with photosynthetic people and the way multiple races/species were rubbing elbows in a densely populated universe, I kept thinking more of Jack Chalker’s Well World universe than my hazy memory of Heinlein’s books.
The choppy transitions and exposition are what kept this from being a 5-star book for me.