Old Man’s War by John Scalzi was a step outside of what the Great Reads Book Club usually reads. Most people in our discussion group thought the book was “clever, engaging and filled with interesting concepts.” The book explores what happens when a 75-year old man decides to transfer his consciousness into a genetically enhanced, 25 year-old body and joins the Colonial Defense Force in a war effort against alien species. And, of course, what happens is not pretty.
Why would our protagonist John Perry decide to join a war that is almost certainly going to kill him? Well, the love of his life Kathy passes away and, with an aged body, there is just not much left for John to live for on Earth anymore. After visiting his deceased wife’s grave, John’s leaves the planet and his adventure begins. Old Man’s War is packed with action, cool scientific concepts and different alien species.
There was one important problem with Old Man’s War. The majority of characters in the book are old people, and yet all of them, without exception, talk and act like teenagers. In short – this is a missed opportunity. Old people are interesting because they have years and years of experience, wisdom, memories and knowledge under their belt. Unfortunately, these characteristics are only mentioned passingly and don’t play a meaningful part in the story. Additionally, the story’s premise was so promising: “75 year old man transfers his consciousness into a genetically enhanced, 25 year-old body and joins the army.” Ideas on ethics and philosophy could have been explored in greater detail here. Instead, we have a military space shooter that’s primarily interested in entertaining the reader, not making her think.
When it’s all said and done, Old Man’s War is a decent book. It’s entertaining and, at times, very funny. If you enjoy fast-paced narrative and cool action scenes – read this book immediately. However, if you like reading science fiction and think about ethical themes and philosophy, I would not recommend reading this book. Check out The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu instead.