Over and over I tell myself, “Emma, stop buying books. You’ve no time to read them all and you live a mere three blocks away from a library, no need to stock up in your apartment. Speaking of apartments, do you remember the last time you moved? Was it fun to carry all the books? No. No it was not.” Then on a trip I stop in at a bookstore or I accidentally (totally an accident…every time) click on a link to Amazon and more money leaves my bank account and more books enter my To Read Pile. But then, once in a blue moon, a totally legitimate justification for all future purchases of books presents itself. On Saturday, John Scalzi, author of Old Man’s War and many other books, came to the Madison Central Library for a reading and Q and A. I’ve known who John Scalzi is for a while now and have owned Old Man’s War for almost as long so I was delighted to have an excuse to sit down with his book all day before going to the reading.
Often when you pick up the first book a well written author has ever written you do so with a little bit of trepidation. It may not be their best. They may have learned a lot between the first and the second. I haven’t read any of John Scalzi’s other books, but I can say that his first is well worth reading and very well done. The story follows John Perry starting on his 75th birthday. He visits his wife’s grave and joins the army. More specifically he joins the Colonial Defense Forces or as I called it in my head sometimes while reading: Space Army. The rumor on Earth is that once you join up they make you young again so you’ll be in fighting shape. They’re fighting for planets that Earth wants to colonize or has already colonized and alien forces are trying to take.
Generally a book as out there as what I just described would have me a little worried going in if only because world building with these sorts of things has a lot of potential to go wrong. John Scalzi set it up in a way that eases the reader and our main character, John, into the world and the changes. It helps so much that it’s all done with a 75 year old man. Everybody knows a slightly curmudgeonly, sarcastic, wise cracker that’s about 75 years old. There is a very specific humor that comes with age and John Scalzi allowed himself to fully utilize it. This humor follows through a sort of transition period and all the way until John Perry is fully in the Colonial Defense Force (I genuinely wrote space army and had to delete it…old habits die hard unless you join up with CDF, then they may live to die another day).
The army days open up a lot of super interesting potential story lines and ethical problems within the society that John Perry is now immersed. This is not to say it’s all set up, the reader also gets pulled along for the fantastic war story Perry is currently facing. I was so relieved when I found out that Old Man’s War is just the first in the series because this book was a page turner and left me wondering so much about Perry’s future!
Common Place Book Entries:
“The problem with aging is not that it’s one damn thing after another—it’s that it’s every damn thing, all at once, all the time.”
-Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
Keep reading. Keep learning. Keep listening. Keep creating.