John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife's grave. Then he joined the army.
The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce--and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.
Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity's resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don't want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You'll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You'll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you'll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.
John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine--and what he will become is far stranger.
I've heard a lot of good things about this book over the past few years. I had the opportunity to meet John Scalzi at Phoenix Comicon in 2011, and I bought Old Man's War for him to sign. It's taken me over a year to get around to reading it.
This book is so good, it made me forget about a pulsing migraine. I don't think I can say that about any other book, ever.
The protagonist, John Perry, is absolutely engaging, but the full cast comes across as human and diverse. The little details just work. Aliens are alien, and defy all stereotypes. Scalzi manages to make John Perry into a remarkable man without making him some over-the-top type of action hero. The actions, the emotions, all feel real, and the novel's effortless flow made it an extremely fast read--even in the midst of a migraine.
It's been a while since I read a book good enough to make me need the sequel right away. I think I'll be placing an Amazon order tonight. The other 100+ books in my to-read pile can wait a while longer.