August 2, 2015

Decent read, but derivative and forgettable: Scalzi's "Old Man's War"

So, the weird thing about this book is that the cover art makes it seem like an older book than it is. The plot owes a lot to the Forever War - so much that it’s hard to believe Scalzi’s claim that he had never read that book before embarking on this one. Maybe he’s right in that had he read the predecessor novel, he might have made some changes.

I’m also reminded of the training sequences of Starship Troopers, where the new recruits learn how to live in their new skin. In Heinlein it is the mechs, but here it is in new bodies. That’s an original twist. Not sure if how the good giys go about making soldiers in this book is how I would go about it if I were running my own war against the bad guys, but it is an option.

There are a bit of characterizations that seem out of place, like Scalzi doesn’t know what it’s like to be an old man and thus doesn’t really feel like he’s capturing someone who has already lived a long life, but overall the book is an easy read. If that’s good or not is up to debate. The problem with being an easy read and somewhat derivative is that it doesn’t stick with you that well, so it wasn’t memorable for me. One thing I have to salute is that he does give some props to his influencers. There are throwaway characters named Gaiman and McKean, so that was a nice nod to the in-group. Overall, I won’t rule out reading more of Scalzi’s work, but I’m not running to it.