Book Review: Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

We’re many years in the future when humanity has conquered space travel. We now live in a society where on your 75th birthday you can enlist to become part of a program to support humanity’s efforts in space. This program sees you become an elite army to both defend and conquer planets on behalf of humanity. Old Man’s War is a fascinating concept and is delivered in a very satisfying way.



Old Man’s War’s concept from the blurb had me very intrigued. Why does John Perry join enlist for the army on his 75th birthday? Is he simply going mad or is this some sort of government scheme? The CDF (Colonial Defense Force) wants people with decades of experience, with the knowledge of life and the wiseness that can only come with old age. I was hooked.

Plot – 4.5/5

John Perry visits his wife’s grave one last time and enlists for the CDF on his 75th birthday. When you enlist to the CDF you lose your identity on earth, everything you own or have legally agreed is no longer true – all you really keep is your name and your birth date. You start a blank slate. John finds himself on a ship with a fellow group of OAPs and finds himself enjoying his time with them.

Without too many spoilers, John quickly comes to realise that not everything is at it seems and he has to adapt quickly if he’s going to survive. The rest of the book, once John is fully enlisted, sees him taking part in different battles on different planets against different alien species with one final battle to finish the story arch.

I must admit, I loved the first 150-200 pages and found the second half of the book a little less interesting. Some of the personality fell out of the book and it seemed a little like Scalzi had a great idea for a book but then wasn’t quite sure how to execute the idea once that bit had been written. Though I continuously enjoyed it and so can’t fault it too much.

Characters – 5/5

Absolutely loved them. I found at least three of the characters in this book ‘laugh-out-loud’ funny. Scalzi clearly wanted to write characters who knew they were at the end of their lives – they no longer worry or have anxieties about life like the younger do. They’re there to simply enjoy the ride and see where it takes them. There are a band of companions that join John for the first third of the book whose friendship and interactions become a joy to read.

More characters join John on his journey as he ventures through the politics and adventures that come with signing up for a space army. Despite the light-hearted humour that is evident throughout, Scalzi isn’t afraid to swing the punches and make some huge calls in this first novel. I feared this book would be too fluffy but it certainly wasn’t and actually has some quite gruesome moments too which I adored.

Old Man’s War summary – 5/5

I was surprised by how much I loved Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. It’s a science fiction novel that’s not afraid to be nerdy but funny at the same time. Scalzi clearly has a good sense of humour himself and has written a wonderfully enjoyable science fiction novel and one I’m thoroughly looking forward to exploring the rest of the series of.

It ticked all of my boxes for a science fiction novel: it was nerdy, the technology is explained well, the aliens and cultures are detailed and there’s a great dash of humour to accompany these ticks. I loved this book, far more than I thought I would. Did it die off a tad towards the latter half of the novel? Yes. Did it affect my opinion of the overall? No. If you like science fiction and you want an easy enjoyable read, get Old Man’s Ward by John Scalzi.

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