My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'd never read anything by John Scalzi, who comes highly recommended, so I chose to start with Old Man's War, which proved an easy and entertaining entry point for his brand of science fiction and character development.
In the future, life on Earth looks pretty similar to today — but one enterprising company has perfected and privatized interstellar travel. The only way to leave Earth is through them, and they don't let you or your messages ever come back. Plus, you have to join their militia — and the minimum age to do so is 75.
So when the elderly John faces life as a widower, does he stay on Earth, get old, and die… or does he say goodbye to everyone and everything he's ever known and leave for the stars, in the hope that, among this company's impressive technology, is the way to make a 75-year-old body into fighting form again?
It'd be a short book if John chose the former. Instead, readers get to follow along as he seeks out new life and new civilizations — and kills them. Apparently, habitable real estate is tough to come by, and humanity is vying against several competing races to colonize them. John, a former graphic designer, is introduced to a military life with a very high fatality rate, where friends come, go, and are replaced. He handles all this change rather smoothly, cramming a lot of material into one book. But the best parts aren't the technology, but the dialogue. Other characters come to life in unexpected ways, whether it's during demanding battle scenes or off-time in the lounge.
One oversight bothered me: it was acknowledged, but never addressed why, that humanity's sole interaction with alien races is combative and not diplomatic. But I didn't discover until the last page that this book is the first in a trilogy. Perhaps future installments will expand on this relationship.
Overall, I found Old Man's War a fun and easy read that would make me receptive to its sequels.