John Scalzi, “Old Man’s War”

Ola’s out of town and we’re behind the schedule… so a filler from me 😉

There is a s/f series well worth reading, one heavily indebted to its predecessors. Heinlein and Haldeman were not reviewed here, but favourably mentioned. Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” is a great book, slightly problematic in its glorification of the citizen-soldier ethos, Haldeman’s “Forever War” reflects its author’s Vietnam experience and is one of the great anti-war novels. John Scalzi wrote “Old Man’s War”, and following novels (there are 6 so far), a great space opera where attitude towards war is much more balanced. Inspired by masters of the genre, he managed to retain his own voice, somewhere between their idealisms.

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And his writing is consistently good, not declining gradually like in some other recent popular s/f series.

Disclaimer – I’m up to book three, “The Last Colony”. Very good book that changes the tone of the series a bit, and I’m withholding my final judgement on the series for now. So far it’s great, though.

Well, it’s a middle of the week and not my turn 😛 and I want to read a chapter or two of “Last Argument of Kings”, so I’m not really going to review “Old Man’s War”. But I’ve found a very interesting article on tor.com that I want to share and comment on.

The G (author doesn’t reveal his name, but it’s tor.com, serious business 😉 ) looks at the awesomeness of “Old Man’s War” from the perspective that is close to my heart. Of course, it’s a fun read, a page turner, with action and emotion and all that, but what about the geopolitics of its Galaxy? The balance of power, the rules of engagement, strategy, operations and tactics?

Well, I’ve gone too far. This particular article doesn’t go into operations and tactics, but geopolitics and justification of war – definitely.

Disclaimer: I think that they were right to make Ender fight and win, that it was the course of action to take in the context of the knowledge at hand and that it was cute of him to feel bad afterwards. I will read the “Speaker for the Dead” one day, I promise.

I agree that the strength of “Old Man’s War” lies, among other things, in the duality of its approach to the topic of war and its necessity. It’s a Machiavellian universe out there, even if many noble beings regret that and si vis pacem, para bellum. War is terrible and many politicians – and generals – are far to eager to start it. It’s also often unavoidable and fatal to the unprepared. Cheap pacifism is ridiculed, but warmongerism is by no means glorified.

We get to see a space-army in action, enjoy it and not feel guilty about it. Delicious.

And it’s a very interesting universe, with diverse species, complicated history and many secrets to discover. We learn with the protagonist how complicated a world he lives in

Characters are likeable, prose is good, Scalzi knows his shit, give him a chance!

Score: 7,5/10 [volumes 1-3]

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One thought on “John Scalzi, “Old Man’s War”

  1. First of all, thanks for covering up for me 🙂 Secondly, since technically this should be my post, I feel obliged to express my opinion on Scalzi – which, sadly, is much less favorable than Piotrek’s. I liked Old Man’s War, but that’s it – Scalzi didn’t blow my mind with his literary prowess, imagination, or even characters and situations he created. It’s a decent book, I’d maybe give it even 7/10, but for me it was entirely forgettable. And derivative, Piotrek very precisely indicated main sources of inspiration for Scalzi. The problem I have with this book is just this – it’s medium, in every aspect. No strong emotions, no terrifying truths about humanity, no loud laughs or even a single tear. Good workmanship, but no artistry. I may not agree with Heinlein, but he was a master of words – and Haldeman was maybe slightly less talented literary, however, what he lacked in this aspect he definitely made up in knowledge of human souls. Scalzi’s neither – and IMO the saying of Bernard of Chartres about us dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants very aptly describes Old Man’s War.

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