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Previous BotM--DISCUSSIONS > 2012-03 OLD MAN'S WAR: finished reading (*SPOILERS*)

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message 1: by Candiss (new)

Candiss (tantara) | 1207 comments Here's a general topic for people who have finished reading Old Man's War by John Scalzi.

Warning: spoilers likely!


message 2: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) I read this last year. Loved it.


message 3: by Jon (new)

Jon (jonmoss) | 626 comments I read this back in December 2008. I loved it. And I have since bought every book published by John Scalzi (and I now follow his blog, Whatever, and Twitter feed).


message 4: by Ken (new)

Ken (ogi8745) | 1348 comments Same here Jon, actually today I order a special book that was created for a con he was guest of honor last month.


Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) Really liked it to. Wasn't as taken with the sequel...still have the third on my shelf...waiting. But, this is an excellent read.


message 6: by Nikita (last edited Mar 04, 2012 08:12AM) (new)

Nikita (nikita42) I also enjoyed this book. Although, it had a pretty standard plot and followed the formula of most military SF. A guy out of his league joins the "space" army, ends up doing well in training, standing out. Once out in the war, it's more likely you'll be a casualty than a survivor, but our main hero again stands out and seems to be in the right place to be quickly promoted. Then we get to the end and his greatness wins the day.

But, I think that's why I read a lot of military SF. I like that formula and Scalzi makes it unique by making the main character a 75 year old. It's an interesting idea and makes sense. If you can make someone a new body, don't use the young, as they lack experience.

The humour interspersed throughout the novel also keeps it light and keeps it moving. I smirked at most every sarcastic quip. I liked most of the characters but other than Perry, I wasn't too emotionally involved with them as we knew very little about them.


message 7: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) I found the idea that old folks were used as grunt soldiers intriguing. Having done time as a paratrooper as a young man & being a little closer to this hero's age now, it was very easy for me to project myself into this book.

I was an immortal idiot from 18-21 & did things that people thought were crazy, including me looking back. When you're young, stupid, & in the best shape of your life, they didn't seem so crazy, though. I had no sense of mortality. The possibility that I might break another bone or get some stitches never really held me back. I KNEW I'd survive & I'd heal quickly. I don't have quite the same confidence any more, so that could have been a real problem, but Scalzi solved that nicely by giving them new, better bodies & a sort of immortality that really fit in well with my 18 year old idiocy.


message 8: by Maggie (new)

Maggie K | 298 comments I enjoyed it too, and thought their reactions to the young bodies extremely hilarious!


message 9: by Mike (new)

Mike (mikespencer) | 48 comments This was the fist book I got from Audible when I signed up last year. I really enjoyed it. The concept was amusing and the characters were very genuine.

I'm not sure if I'll dive into the other books in the series though. The story felt very complete to me.


message 10: by Ken (new)

Ken (ogi8745) | 1348 comments I liked the build up from the civilian John Perry to the Soldier he becomes. I spent the beginning of the book trying to figure out why they wanted senior citizens and how the heck are they going to use them to fight a war


message 11: by Jim (new)

Jim Mcclanahan (clovis-man) | 480 comments A couple of non sequitur comments in advance of more thoughtful comments:

1. Turns out that John Scalzi is better known to me than I ever imagined. He was a columnist for the Fresno Bee, my local rag, several years ago. My first clues were the ships named after Cental California towns (The Modesto and the Bakersfield) and the recruit from Fresno having an Armenian name (Fresno is a major Armenian community).

2. I was a little disappointed by his characterization of the drill sergeant. After going to great lengths to intimate that he would be much tougher than anyone could imagine, he ended up being a cookie-cutter template of every DI I've ever known, including the one I had in the 1960s.

While the story was intriguing, I find that military SF is just not my thing as a sub-genre to pursue with any regularity. About the closest thing to it that I will come back to repeatedly is the series of space operas by Neal Asher, esp. The Skinner, The Voyage of the Sable Keech and Orbus.


message 12: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Jim, I liked the DI because he was so much like every other DI, including those I had in the 70's. Haven't DI's always been the same? It's easy for me to imagine Roman legions having that sort. They have the same job & people haven't changed that much.


message 13: by Bill (new)

Bill (kernos) | 334 comments Jim wrote: "Jim, I liked the DI because he was so much like every other DI, including those I had in the 70's. Haven't DI's always been the same? It's easy for me to imagine Roman legions having that sort. ..."

Exactly what I was thinking.

I enjoyed these a lot, esp being only 3 years from 70 (egads!). I decided early in the book that I would do it, probably. I'm just not sure I would make a good grunt. I'd spend too much time 2nd guessing superiors or considering the right and wrong of a situation. It's a lot harder to brainwash a 70 y/o than an 18 y/o. I don't remember the details, but IIRC Scalzi handled that rather well.

I do know that upon becoming conscious, the 1st thing I'd do is get naked, find a mirror and check myself out, from every angle ;-)

I didn't really think of this as a military SF (though it is in many senses); I thought of it more as cultural or sociological. The Forever War to which it is often compared and Honor Harrington are more what I'd consider military SF.


Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides (upsight) | 187 comments Now that someone else has brought up The Forever War ... I read that recently and (having read Old Man's War previously) thought that the postcard from Jane might be a homage to the note from Marygay.

I'd agree that this is SF about the uses of military force. Maybe kind of like an inversion of Ender's Game.

About characters ... I don't know if I would call Scalzi's characters shallow or two-dimensional per se. But there is a certain reliance on stereotypes or archetypes, maybe. They seem very real but ... narrow, in a way? Though certainly entertaining, and the banter helps here. Definitely characters and not people. Am I making any sense here?


Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) I sort of disagree with one thing you said Jim...sort of. I liked the DI at least a bit because of the reason you disliked him. He put me in mind of a DI, LOL.

This is a theme that a lot of us have not only thought of but some (including me in my unpublished work) have written about. The idea of older adults being able to use their experience and even wisdom in younger more fit bodies. (view spoiler)


message 16: by Jim (new)

Jim Mcclanahan (clovis-man) | 480 comments More general comments:

I thought the premise of the story involving 75 year old recruits was fascinating. It had me compulsively page turning right up to the transference of John's persona from his old body to his new one. That moment was at once profound and a little creepy.

From that point on (at least from boot camp on) it seemed to just be another G.I. Joe story, alien enemies notwithstanding. Even the concept of old soldiers in young improved bodies seemed to fade into non-significance. A well done story, but not all that unique, which is to say, it does not inspire me to seek out more of the same.

All in all, a good read but not transcendent.


message 17: by Random (new)

Random (rand0m1s) | 830 comments Ah, but this is so much more than just a soldier story. It raised a definite question about the use of force and the ease of that use. It also brings up points of humanity, what makes us human, and identity.

For example, we have the obvious point in the battle with the Covandu. Inch tall beings who could be slaughtered just by stepping on them. And its all being done by these super soldiers. Or when they attacked the Whaid system. Surely I'm not the only one who had the word 'bullies' floating through my head for that entire portion.

He has an interesting cynical view of the universe where xenophobia and aggression seem to be the default setting for all species out there, or at least all of the ones we met.

My only complaint is that I don't believe Scalzi went far enough and leaves a lot for the reader to piece together. The up side is that this also forces the reader to draw his/her own conclusions instead of being fed a certain view point.


Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) I think his view is not a universe based on xenophobia (though it may be somewhat cynical) but an opinion informed by what we know of history. In the book (view spoiler)

***Spoiler below about the next 2 books in series***
(view spoiler)


message 19: by Bill (new)

Bill (kernos) | 334 comments Mike (the Paladin) wrote: "... There is a large school of thought among "scientists" that humanity might not survive "first contact".t..."

It certainly makes a lot of sense considering human history. I'd propose war making is built into human genes and am not sure, as a species, we could think any other way about aliens. But, aliens will likely be very different. How can humans evaluate them in non-human terms? Our brains are limited by their structure and function in what we can perceive and understand.


message 20: by Philip (new)

Philip Athans (philathans) | 67 comments This is another book that just didn't resonate with me. The cover blurbs compared it to Heinlein, but to me it read a bit more like Asimov: characters who only seem to come to life when they're discussing otherwise inconsequential technical considerations. All the stiff, expository dialog of the first few chapters turned me right off, though I think this is a book that had I read it when I was a junior high-aged Asimov/Clarke freak I would have LOVED for just that reason. I think he had a really interesting short story here, padded out to novel length.


message 21: by Mike (the Paladin) (last edited Mar 07, 2012 09:05AM) (new)

Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) True Kernos in a way. But I still think it logical that aggression is a survival trait and that any species that has survived and advanced of the point of interstellar travel will probably be aggressive. Most of us here have probably read a variety of fiction depictions of first contact. Writers have tried to imagine different types of Alien from hive minds to silicone based life forms so alien as not even to be recolonized as life forms.

For now it all boils down to what each of us thinks is most logical. I have a friend I go to science fiction/fantasy/superhero movies with (his wife doesn't like them so it gives us each a nerd or geek or whatever to share the movies with LOL). He and I take opposite views on a lot of things (he likes the later Matrix movies...I don't get that). When we talk robot science fiction I don't think it's far fetched at all that a "sentient" robot or computer mind will come to the conclusion that humans need to be controlled or even eradicated. He's a techie guy and holds the more benign view that artificial intelligence will always be "good". Self-replicating robotics is something I see as a mistake, but not my friend.

Some things will remain subjects of disagreement, till it happens. LOL


message 22: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Mike, your mention of the robots reminds me of a series of stories &/or a book or two about robots that we created that basically locked men up so they couldn't harm themselves - killed us with kindness. It's been too many years for me to remember the name, though. I found it quite chilling & all too believable. Anyone remember the name?

Humanoids?


Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) That name is I believe The Humanoids. The synopsis sounds like your description a bit.


message 24: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Yes, that's it. I only vaguely recall it. I think I read a story in an anthology. I remember it as being quite good, but it's probably been 20 or more years since I read it.


message 25: by Suzanne (new)

Suzanne | 98 comments Personally, I thought of Heinlein when I was reading this book - it kind of reminded me of Tunnel in the Sky, maybe because of the mix of adventure and humor (and its probably been like 20 years since I read Tunnel, so I may not feel at all the same today! I really enjoyed the whole 75-year-old attitude the first half of the book, and the setup creating soldiers out of them!

So given what you know about what happens when you sign up (view spoiler) would you enlist? I THINK I would, but I'm not 100% sure. I definitely would like to have my own (view spoiler)


message 26: by Mike (the Paladin) (last edited Mar 07, 2012 08:02PM) (new)

Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) I'd have to consider it from the point of view of my own morals and so on but reading it even (view spoiler)


message 27: by Suzanne (new)

Suzanne | 98 comments Interesting Mike - I'll have to check out those books. Those slightly different circumstances (view spoiler)

I have to say, possibly my favorite part was the pamphlet around the middle of the book (view spoiler)


message 28: by Bill (new)

Bill (kernos) | 334 comments Mike (the Paladin) wrote: "True Kernos in a way. But I still think it logical that aggression is a survival trait and that any species that has survived and advanced of the point of interstellar travel will probably be aggre..."

I completely understand what you say Mike, and find it hard to disagree, but still we're coming from a human POV. There are other ways of surviving besides aggression. Take butterflies or chameleons, eg, or from the world of SF the Organians who are so powerful they ban war and aggression to the horror of Kirk and the Klingons who felt enforced peace was aggression itself. Perhaps it is. I am only human ;-)

Jim wrote: "Yes, that's it. I only vaguely recall it. I think I read a story in an anthology. I remember it as being quite good, but it's probably been 20 or more years since I read it."

I liked The Humanoids a lot. There is a sequel The Humanoid Touch I've not yet read, lost somewhere in my TBR mountain range. OTOH, there are the sentient AI's from the Dune prequels which resulted in the Butlerian Jihad since they almost wiped out mankind.


message 29: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jennyc89) | 127 comments I loved this book and I'm so happy I read it. Parts of it reminded me of Starship Troopers except Old Man's War actually went more into background information. The philosophy didn't seem as preachy as Starship Troopers, either. I really liked how we saw different points of view on the army and the wars. I also liked how we got some background information on why the army is the way it is. I'm hoping we get even more explained to us in the rest of the series, which I plan to read.

I thought Part 1 was hilarious and a lot of fun. I enjoyed the way the Old Farts interacted. I really like the sense of humor Scalzi brings to his novels.


message 30: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) It is interesting to compare Old Man's War to Starship Troopers, The Forever War, & Armor. The similarities of the stories make for a great contrast in the messages & the way it was handled.

---------

Aggression & selfishness are often associated with the young who need to learn the rules & establish themselves within a species. A certain amount of both are needed to survive. I wonder how much curiosity & drive are associated with them, even in an alien life form. If the jungle is our little planet or the universe, would it really matter, in the long run?


message 31: by Banner (new)

Banner | 46 comments I appreciated his expressions of grief with the protagonist. I thought he developed this very well. Made me kind of wonder if he had experienced any such feelings in real life.


message 32: by Ric (new)

Ric (ricaustria) | 28 comments Finished the book last January and was impressed enough to give it 5-stars (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...). John Scalzi gives this a light touch with much tongue-in-cheek hilarity. Perhaps, this was called for given the darkness of the story he was telling. (Somehow this thought reminds of Ghostbusters and how it was made a comedy to get a PG rating, when otherwise it might have been a middling scary horror flick).

The sequel, The Ghost Brigades is much more somber, perhaps less frivolous.




message 33: by Ric (new)

Ric (ricaustria) | 28 comments Jenny wrote: "I loved this book and I'm so happy I read it. Parts of it reminded me of Starship Troopers except Old Man's War actually went more into background information. The philosophy didn't se..."
Yes, I had the same thought about Starship Troopers while reading this. Later, I saw that
Robert Heinlein lauded this book.


message 34: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Ric wrote: "Yes, I had the same thought about Starship Troopers while reading this. Later, I saw that
Robert Heinlein lauded this book."


I thought Scalzi gave kudos to Heinlein for inspiring this book. Wasn't he long dead before it was published?


Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides (upsight) | 187 comments What Jim said.


message 36: by Ric (last edited Mar 16, 2012 07:30AM) (new)

Ric (ricaustria) | 28 comments Jim wrote: I thought Scalzi gave kudos to Heinlein for inspiring this..."

Jim, I stand corrected. Heinlein passed away in 1988, way before this book was published.
Robert Heinlein
I recall from one of John Scalzi's postings that this book was openly patterned (modeled?) after Starship Troopers. Thus, the similarities.


message 37: by Ric (new)

Ric (ricaustria) | 28 comments Snail in Danger (Sid) wrote: "What Jim said."
What I said to Jim. Thanks for helping keep the facts straight.


message 38: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Not a big deal, Ric. You just flipped it around. There is a big connection & I like that.

Heinlein was a favorite author of mine until 1970 or so when he got weird. He started to write what he really wanted, at least it seems that way from his first novel that went unpublished until after his death. While I liked some of his adult books, especially The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, I really fell in love with his juveniles & short stories. Scalzi's book has some of the best points of RAH's.


Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) Heinlein was a true libertarian. I agree with many of his political stands but socially I'm not often in agreement. However I think we would agree that as long as I'm not forcing what I believe on him and he's not forcing what he believes on me we'd be okay.

Did you see the Prophets of Science Fiction program on Heinlein?


message 40: by Ric (new)

Ric (ricaustria) | 28 comments Jim wrote: "Heinlein was a favorite author of mine until 1970 or so when he got weird. He started to write what h..."

Heinlein ws a personal favorite as well until The Number of the Beast and Friday, then I thought he lost his mind and had too much Cheerios.


Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) Oh yeah. I thought he went off the rails with Stranger in a Strange land. By the time we got to a lot of the later stuff we were in far different worlds. But he's still a good writer and I like a lot of his work. Ever read Glory Road?


message 42: by Ric (new)

Ric (ricaustria) | 28 comments Mike (the Paladin) wrote: "Oh yeah. I thought he went off the rails with Stranger in a Strange land. By the time we got to a lot of the later stuff we were in far different worlds. But he's still a good writer and I like a l..."
Glory Road wasn't so great for me.


Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) It's his one foray into fantasy (with some humor) I liked it. It's on my favorites list along with Starship Troopers, The Door into Summer and a few others. It's a matter of taste.


message 44: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) I loved the first part of "Glory Road", but it should have ended when they killed the bad guy. The last part ruined it. I didn't mind "Friday" & really liked 'Stranger'. Everything from "Number of the Beast" on was drivel.


Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) I didn't think it ruined it...but I know what you mean. Still it was an interesting ending (view spoiler)


message 46: by Bill (new)

Bill (kernos) | 334 comments Mike (the Paladin) wrote: "Oh yeah. I thought he went off the rails with Stranger in a Strange land. By the time we got to a lot of the later stuff we were in far different worlds..."

This is one of my all time favorite novels. Be sure to read the uncut edition. I have not ben able to get into the Lazarus Long novels, but have not tried since the 80's.


Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) I read Stranger many years ago. I know it's the novel many people consider his "magnum opus". I simply don't care for it. I don't like a lot of his work. It tends to be that way with a lot of people. Heinlein was his own person and believed what he believed. He was a sort of militaristic hippie. :)


message 48: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) If you're pointing to his free love attitude which extends to incest, then I'd just label it as weird. He & Theodore Sturgeon were friends, though. Belonged to the same nudist colony, apparently. Sturgeon did a much better short story on the subject of incest, "If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let Your Sister Marry One?" Ever read it? I remember telling my grandfather about it. I thought he was going to have a stroke.
;-)


Mike (the Paladin) (thepaladin) Yes I have and while I definitely find the concept distasteful my disagreement with the ideas behind the book isn't the only reason I dislike it. I just couldn't like Valentine Smith.

The entire outlook of the book is annoying to me. It's based on a part of Heinlein's personal ethos that I disagree with. While I have no problem with those who do like it (and Heinlein became the darling of the "Flower Child" community based on the book. Something he himself didn't get as he disagreed with them on so many other levels) I don't care for it myself.

I don't want to turn the conversation away from the book it's about here and going into details will definitely side track things. Suffice it to say I agree with the man on some things and not on others. I like some of his books greatly and not others.


message 50: by Ric (new)

Ric (ricaustria) | 28 comments Jim wrote: "If you're pointing to his free love attitude which extends to incest, then I'd just label it as weird. He & Theodore Sturgeon were friends, though. Belonged to the same nudist colo..."

Theodore Sturgeon, now there's another classic SF writer. I liked his Killdozer!. Remember that title you mentioned but not the story. Will have to look it up.


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