Book Review: Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

Old Man's War by John Scalzi

Title: Old Man’s  War

Author: John Scalzi

Series: Old Man’s War #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce– and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding... -Goodreads

The Review:

I’m so glad I finally started The Old Man’s War series – it’s every bit as good as I’d hoped it would be. Filled with humor, action, exploration, and a touch of sentimentality, if you’re looking for your next great sci-fi read, this may be it! The book is essentially about John Perry, a 75-year-old man who signs up for the Army to fight an intergalactic war. John’s POV was my favorite element of the book. His “wisened” outlook on life and general mannerisms were a delightful contrast to the hard-assed whippersnappers who usually star in good sci-fi. The POV definitely elevated an already good story to a fantastic one, but lord save me from old-man jokes (okay, fine. I laughed at all of them).

I also really love to the type of science fiction the book was: a perfect blend of technological advancement, alien interactions, and militaristic elements. The best part is, I think Scalzi has only just scratched the surface of it’s potential in this first book. The first half of the novel moved at a significantly slower pace than the second half, which was great because it felt more organic, giving the latter parts of the book higher impact by contrast. So rest assured, if you pick it up and wonder if it actually goes somewhere, the answer is an emphatic yes – and hang onto your seats when you get there. Incidentally, the slower sections were my favorites.

I mentioned a bit of sentimentality at the beginning of the review. There is a, shall we say “softer” element near the end of the book that I didn’t necessarily care for. It’s the only thing that pinged against my rating, even though it really wasn’t a big factor in the whole scheme of things. I liked the idea, but thought it was a bit too heavy-handed. I’m hoping it will smooth out a bit in the second book (which I will definitely be reading ASAP).

Overall, Old Man’s War was one of the most interesting science fiction I’ve read. I think it fits the bill as both a must-read for seasoned sci-fi lovers and a great introductory novel for new readers of the genre. If you loved Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game as a young adult (as I did), Old Man’s War is its perfect evolution.

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by Niki Hawkes

12 comments on “Book Review: Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

  1. If you haven’t read Scalzi’s “The Android’s Dream,” DO IT. It’s how I discovered Scalzi. The humor in TAD is much more noticeable than in OMW, but maybe that’s just me, because I discovered TAD first. I enjoyed the geriatric protagonists, and I guess I had a different opinion about the ending than you did. (If we’re thinking of the same thing.)

    Scalzi is really great at getting the alien politics out there (TAD is mostly politics). I can’t wait to read the rest of this series, too, but I’m hoping our main protagonist, John, comes back for the rest. The preview at the end of my copy made it seem like he might not.

    I like how we ended up giving the book the same star rating.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t read it but thank you – I’m totally adding it! He had me at “find the one object that can save our planet… a sheep.” Haha it sounds great. :)
      And I’m sure we are talking about the same thing. It was a weird paragraph to write because I didn’t want to give spoilers lol. Also, alien politics is one of my favorite sci-fi elements, so I’m definitely going to be enjoying more of Scalzi’s work.


      • He had me by the first sentence: “Dirk Moeller didn’t know if he could fart his way into an international incident.” I listened to the audiobook first and was absolutely hooked! (it’s read by Wil Wheaton.) Rereading it myself gave me an advantage with the pronunciation, but it’s still an entertaining book all around.


      • Lol – that sounds awesome! And the fact that you reread it speaks to how good it is. I’ll definitely pick that up eventually after I finish this series.


  2. I really enjoyed this one as well. I have a special connection to this book. After I started reading considerably more 7-8 years ago, I only stuck to Fantasy, which is still my first love.
    But Old Man’s War was the first SF book I had maybe read in a decade and it rekindled the love for that genre. It’s also one of the only books I devoured within 24 hours, whuch rarely happens to me. John Perry is a really unique character.
    So far I’ve read up to book 4 in the Old Man’s War series and have also enjoyed Fuzzy Nations and Redshirts by Scalzi.


    • It’s so cool to find books that rekindle your passion for a genre. And I agree – it’s one of those books that begged to be devoured quickly! This is definitely not the last book I’ve read from this author. I’m really excited to continue on with this series, and check out a few of his others (I’ve had my eye on Redshirts for a while). Have you read Ender’s Game? I think you’d really like that one too. :-)


      • I tried reading Ender’s Game once and got to about a third, but then dnf’ed it. It wasn’t really gripping me. The older I get, the less I’m interested in reading coming-of-age stories and prefer more mature characters. Once in a while a book with younger protagonists can spark my attention, but EG didn’t do anything for me unfortunately.


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