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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Old Man's War

   
Author Topic: Old Man's War
Jeff C.
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I was just wondering if anyone has read this book or any of its suquels. If not, I highly recommend it. Scalzi's first person narrative of what life is like after a person turns 75 is truly remarkable and completely original.

On a person's 75th birthday, they are given the choice of staying on Earth, or joining the army. If they join, they must leave Earth behind, head off into the galaxy, and fight a war against a slew of alien races. Of course, to do this, they'll need a new body. A better body. A younger body. And this new body isn't what they remember from their youth, either. It has enhancements, and even a user's manual!

The book is really fantastic, and as a fan of Ender's Game as well as Starship Troopers, I found a lot to be enjoyed, especially the writing style and tone.

Anyone else read it?

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Jake
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Sure. It's a fun book. Have you read the sequels?
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Stone_Wolf_
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My three favorite books are Ender's Game, Starship Troopers and Dune...so, with a recommendation like that you bet I will read it!

Also, welcome to Hatrack Jeff C.!

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Jeff C.
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Right now I'm reading through the Last Colony. It's a fun book so far, but not nearly as thrilling as the first one. Of course, I don't expect it to be. It reminds me a little of the differences between Ender's Game and Ender in Exile or even Speaker for the Dead.

Scalzi has a new book coming out soon, too. Fuzzy Nation, I think it's called, which looks pretty cool too.

Edit: Thanks for the welcome! Been coming here a while but I finally decided to start posting.

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Jake
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Glad you decided to take the plunge!

I like Scalzi, but not as much as it sounds like you do. That said, I'm pretty interested to see what his reboot of the Fuzzy series is like. I loved H. Beam Piper as a kid, and devoured all of the Terro-Human future history stories I could get my hands on. I reread several of his books a few years back, and was entertained by all of the elements of American culture in the 50s and 60s that appear in his books. It's all stuff that would have felt natural when the books were written, but really stands out now.

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Jeff C.
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Yeah that sounds like Stranger in a Strange Land a bit. I remember reading that and thinking the world felt strange and a little archaic, but I still liked it a lot, partially because of that old feeling, especially since you don't get a whole lot of books that go back to that 40s and 50s kind of vibe anymore.

Scalzi really needs to write more. I wish he was like OSC and had an entire library of literature to pick and choose from, but sadly that just isn't the case. He's really only got one series and maybe two or three stand-alones. He's still fairly young (I think about 40 years old), so I'm sure he'll be writing more in the oncoming years, but still it would be nice to have it now. What can I say? I'm impatient lol

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neo-dragon
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[brag]Not only have I read the 4 books in the OMW series, I attended a Scalzi book signing and talk last year where I got them all autographed and he did his first ever public reading from "Fuzzy Nation" straight off his laptop.[/brag]
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Belle
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Just read the first four chapters of Fuzzy Nation and though I was very skeptical, I think I will read it when it comes out. I am a far of the original so it will be interesting to me to read a re-boot of a book I read when I was a teen and loved.

At any rate, I think I will give Old Man's War a try too. [Smile]

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Dan_Frank
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I recently read the 4 Old Man's War novels and really, really enjoyed them.

I have a huge soft spot for grizzled old men in fiction, and another one for men in bitter, war-torn situations, so when my partner saw the name of the book all she had to do was hold it up in front of me. I glanced at the cover, and said "Yeah, okay. I'll buy it."

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Jeff C.
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Where did you manage to read the first four chapters? Is the book already out?
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Belle
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You can find a link to them on Scalzi's blog. Tor has the first two up and io9 has the second two.

http://whatever.scalzi.com/

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Destineer
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Wow, I am 100 pages into this book and hating it. The dialogue is such bad stock "witty banter," it's killing me. And there hasn't been a single page of conflict or suspense yet.

Tell me it gets better. It's the September pick for the Michigan sci fi and fantasy reading group, so I'm semi-obligated to actually finish it.

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Itsame
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I was actually about to start reading this as one of my (unfortunately) few fiction books for the summer but can't stand bad dialogue--which seems to be standard protocol in most fantasy and much scifi, so thanks for the warning.

Let me know if it does get better and is worth trudging through. In the meantime, I'll try Infinite Jest.

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Destineer
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Oh God. There's a guy named Thomas in the early chapters, whose character trait (note the singular) is that he likes to eat. Take her away, Scalzi:

quote:

"Sorry about that," Thomas said. "I didn't mean to hold everyone up. The fettuccine was excellent, but my lower intestine would apparently beg to differ."

"Please feel free not to share such information in the future, Thomas," Susan said. "We don't know you that well yet."

"Well how else will you *get* to know me that well?" Thomas said.

If you're not forgiving about dialogue, this book is not for you.
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Dan_Frank
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The beginning of Old Man's War is written in a very peculiar style. It definitely reminded me of Starship Troopers, and not in a good way (not a fan).

It's not very "in-scene," which is my biggest complaint. I don't remember disliking the dialogue, though.

If I remember right, about midway through the style shifts. Maybe later? It's after the series of chapters describing endless random alien battles, when a very significant event actually occurs and is followed by lots of "scene."

I think the sequels get progressively better, by the way. The second two are much better than the first two, in my opinion.

And it's a series that could pretty easily be read out of order, which helps.

On the other hand, if you're hating it, I don't think any of these changes are so radical that it will completely change your mind. So... [Dont Know]

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Dan_Frank
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Ah, wow, yeah, I do remember that now, Destineer.

It definitely changes, but perhaps not till the later books? I re-read bits of Last Colony & Zoe's Tale recently, but have never re-read the first two books.

Destineer, I vaguely remember feeling like Scalzi was making a stylistic choice in the early chapters of the first book to ...

A) Have the people talk a bit distinctly from normal speech (and more formally), in a way that echoed the way my (and probably his) grandparents spoke, but wasn't quite the same.

B) As said above, mimic Starship Troopers a bit.

Do you think either of those impressions hold any water? I don't care enough to go back and re-read it.

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Itsame
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OK, yeah. Nobody speaks like that. I literally laughed out loud (it's annoying that I have to say literally because people say they did when they did not, in fact, laugh out loud) at how stilted "The fettuccine was excellent, but my lower intestine would apparently beg to differ" sounds. Nobody refers to food as excellent unless they're talking to a waiter or recommending it to a friend, and the rest of the sentence can speak for itself.

Again, if the dialogue becomes bearable, let me know. Maybe I'll just start halfway through and read wikipedia to fill me in on the beginning.

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Dan_Frank
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Jon: I'd strongly recommend, if you are really interested in the series, you read "The Last Colony" or "Zoe's Tale" instead of half of Old Man's War.

The world may be a bit confusing, but no moreso than any story that begins in media res. A wiki could fill you in if you hate being confused by sci-fi worlds, but even that's probably not necessary.

Zoe's Tale in particular is basically standalone, though it spoils plot surprises for Last Colony more than Last Colony spoils it (they are Ender's Game/Ender's Shadow concurrent novels, with Last Colony being Ender's Game & Zoe's Tale being Ender's Shadow).

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Dan_Frank
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Also, for what it's worth, I've totally referred to food as excellent when eating lunch with acquaintances. First half of Susan's response was the part that really stuck in my craw.
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Itsame
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Funny. Maybe it's the company I keep, but Susan's reply sounded fine to me as a kind of faux haughtiness.
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Dan_Frank
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Yeah.

So, the impression I got from the early dialogue wasn't that it was just unrealistic and awful so much as lots of faux haughtiness, faux formality, and other weird interactions. Considering it's dialogue between a crowd of really old people, trying to make friends/impress/intimidate/hook up with each other... I just sort of accepted it and was pleased when the story moved on.

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Destineer
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I actually don't think either of them is speaking unrealistically. Real people do say things like that, or some do. But sounding realistic isn't the only aim with dialogue in fiction. Most of the stuff we say every day would annoy the hell out of you if you had to read it.

But maybe it's turning the corner. I did just read the first part that I actually enjoyed: the first scene with the drill sergeant.

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Destineer
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The thing that is unrealistic, though, is how flippant everyone is (and not just outwardly, they seem genuinely unflappable in this really foreign situation that would realistically be scary and stressful to many of them). Perry's reaction to his roommate's sudden death, for example. I realize the guy was a bit racist, but discovering a body would shake you up (and might even make you feel guilty about being mean to him, etc).

Also, conveniently, there's always a physicist/doctor on hand to give huge infodump explanations of everything.

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Dan_Frank
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Ah, yeah, I see what you mean.

The flippancy and lack of emotional investment actually bothered me a lot more once they got into warzones. There's a large chunk of "war" in that book that is... eh. Again, not well done in scene.

And then suddenly the style shifts. Or maybe not so suddenly, since I don't remember when exactly.

----------

... It also irrationally bothered me that I don't think you learn Perry's first name until either very late in the first book, or a different book entirely.

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Destineer
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You must be mis-remembering, the recruiter mentions his name in the first scene.

This book just keeps pushing my buttons. The drill sergeant takes them to a pool and tells them to go underwater for six minutes. Only after he's in the water is Perry like, uh oh, I have this phobia about being underwater from this bad childhood experience.

WTF? If you have a phobia, you are going to be thinking about it the whole time the guy is taking you to the pool and explaining the task ahead of you.

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