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John Scalzi’s OLD MAN’S WAR

As I wrote in my Redshirts review I am a big fan of watching sci-fi but haven’t ever really read the genre. I’m not sure why that is. Some of the reasons that come to mind are that generally the big space operas from the likes of Iain M. Banks and Peter Hamilton are quite daunting; in size, scope and concept. There’s also preconceptions of what the genre is. And also fitting a new genre into an already jam-packed reading life isn’t necessarily something I’m looking to do. But probably the main reason, and this would apply to any new genre, is knowing where to start.

I remember when I first got into crime. I had a preconceived idea that crime novels were all formulaic with little literary merit and were just books for entertainment. And yes many are but there are also a vast number that are mind-blowing, thought-provoking, strikingly original and some of the damn best writing I’ve ever read. So I wasn’t going to let any preconceived notions of sci-fi novels get in my way.

Old Man’s War was the perfect book to kick-start me reading more sci-fi. A brilliant concept drawing on classic sci-fi conventions but told in a really original and engaging way. Humans are colonising the universe and coming into contact with many new life forms, some friendly, many not so much. To protect these colonists is the Colonial Defence Force (CDF). Rather than sacrifice the lives of young men (which is what most armies do) the CDF recruit people when they turn 75. Using technology acquired from other colonies the CDF are able to restore these 75 year-olds to their youth in exchange for ten years service.

The hero of the novel is John Perry. Recently widowed he signs up with the CDF and so his adventure begins. We follow John through basic training and into many battles with strange and varied alien life forms on various planets and solar systems. Not only has John been given back his youth but he’s also been given improvements to make him a better soldier including an internal computer he affectionately names “asshole”. Life in the CDF takes its toll on John and the friends he makes. As he becomes battle-hardened and war-weary he struggles to hold on to his humanity and the memories of his past life and existence. But when he uncovers one of the CDF’s many secrets he must confront the past and make some tough choices in an already tough universe.

This book sucked me right in from start to finish and I’ve already got the next book, The Ghost Brigades, ready to go! Looks like 2013 might be a year of new genres.

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ISBN: 9780765348272 ISBN-10: 0765348276 Classification: Science fiction Format: Paperback / softback (173mm x 107mm x 23mm) Pages: 318 Imprint: Tor Books Publisher: St Martin’s Press Publish Date: 3-Feb-2007 Country of Publication: United States

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