John Perry turns 75 and leaves Earth to join the army. The Colonial Defense Force doesn't take young recruits, only 75 year olds. With his wife dead, John heads away from Earth knowing he will never return to his home planet. With old bodies, and the rumours of what the CDF can do to make you young again, it is a choice favoured by thousands.
The CDF have a monopoly on space travel and the only ones that leave Earth are those that join up to fight for them or people from over crowded countries. The colonists are shipped to various worlds and the recruits protect the colonies against the many alien species fighting for the same resources.
We follow John's story, told through his eyes, as he leaves Earth behind and embarks on a new life, one where he'll be lucky to stay alive to see the end of his CDF service.
The only way I can stress how much I enjoyed this book is to tell you how I came to read it. On my lunch break on Thursday I was stuck for something to do - I hadn't bought anything in with me to read and had no interest in browsing the internet. So, I went to my email inbox and choose this one to read for the short time I had before having to get back to work. To say I was hooked would be an understatement. I dropped by the library to get this one the way home (I was going to get the sequel too, but someone had loaned it between me leaving work and getting there...). By the time my eyes wouldn't focus that night I was over halfway through. I finished it last night and can't remember the last time a book hooked me so much. So why was that? Well, read on...
To start off with, although this isn't too complicated on the surface it has quite a lot going on. The universe that John Scalzi has created here is both intriguing and vast. We get little snippets here and there about the other alien races that really add depth to the story. It's clear that there has been a good deal of thought put into all of this, and boy does it show. The story flows very well and we aren't subjected to the mundane stuff that you get from many other authors. This builds up the characters (which are truly excellent) and then it hits the ground running, from scene to scene it just doesn't give in at all. At times I had to struggle to put it down, if only from two minutes, simply because the story urges you to go on, it doesn't want you to stop until you've heard it all.
The characters, as I said above, are amazing. Each having a full life of experiences adds a nice depth to them, it's like the moment you start reading you just know they're fully formed and are going to be so entertaining to read. And the dialogue... wow. I think I can honestly say I haven't read any dialogue better than this to date. There is always a great humour to each of the characters, little jokes between friends and a genuine warmth to them. Even the ones that you may not like (and there won't be many of those, trust me) you can quite happily read and enjoy, because they bring something to the story.
Bad points? To be honest, very few. There are a couple of times when it's glaringly obvious what's going to happen, bu it doesn't detract at all from the events. Old Man's War is straight to the point, follows events that are entertaining and is a genuinely enjoyable read. If you haven't read this I suggest you make it one of your priorities. I'll be buying this one and all sequels as soon as I see them and eagerly await reading and enjoying them.