John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday – first he visited his wife’s grave, then he joined the army. I had heard of this book a few years go, but it wasn’t until I read Scalzi’s introduction into the new edition of The Forever War by Joe Haldeman that I decided to add Mr. Scalzi to my ever-growing “to read” list. Every couple of months I find myself caught up on reading for both of my book clubs and I can read something for pure pleasure – and boy, did I make a good pick with this one!
Perry joins the army – actually it’s the Colonial Defense Forces, or CDF – because it’s either that or remain on Earth, grow even older and become a burden on the rest of humanity. Although Scalzi is barely entering middle-age (he’s just a couple of years older than me) he seems to have been able to get inside the head of a septuagenarian very well. Early on, Perry tells us that “getting old isn’t one damn thing after another – it’s every damn thing, all at once, all the time.” So, why not join up with the CDF? After all, they promise the elderly a second chance at life in a new body. The only catch is that well over half of the new recruits will die in combat within a couple of years (of course, that fact is not advertised on the recruitment brochures). It turns out that there’s very little habitable real estate out there in the galaxy and that it’s every race for itself, which means constant war to both protect the existing Earth colonies and grab more land for us away from those nasty aliens.
In his foreword to the newest edition of The Forever War, Scalzi relates the story of when he first met Joe Haldeman and his wife at Worldcon in 2005. Mrs. Haldeman told John Scalzi that she had read and enjoyed his book. Joe then told John that he had not yet read his book, but that he’d heard good things. John then told Joe that was okay because he hadn’t read his book yet, either. John then goes to say how three seconds later he realized that he’s made a huge gaffe because The Forever War was a classic, as opposed to his newly published forray into military SF. So, Scalzi’s whole foreword was a cleverly disguised open letter to say, “Hey Joe, I finally read your book. Everyone was right about it.”
Fans of The Forever War, as well as Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, Card’s Ender’s Game, or military SF stories in general will want to be sure to give this one a try! Scalzi also has a pretty cool and very active blog that he’s been running since 1998, called “Whatever.” After discovering this talented author, I can’t wait to read the other books in this series, continuing with The Ghost Brigades, as well as Scalzi’s other stand-alone novels.
Find the very entertaining Old Man’s War in our catalog.