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Scalzi's Cosmic Odyssey: Review of "Old Man's War"

Rating: 4.5/5 ⭐️

In a future where Earth stands on the precipice of the vast cosmic frontier, humanity finds itself not as the conquerors of space but as one of its many inhabitants. Our home planet, while technologically advanced, is but a small player in the grand tapestry of interstellar politics and power dynamics.

The story starts dramatically with John Perry, visiting his wife’s grave and then enlisting in the Colonial Defense Force (CDF) on his 75th birthday. The allure of a fresh start, the promise of an adventure, and the chance to be young again is one of the reasons Perry enlists. It also comes with certain caveats, like, you’ll never visit Earth again and are basically saying goodbye to your whole life.

But then again, Perry reasons — 

“You’re seventy-five, friends are dead, and you’ve replaced at least one major organ; you have to pee four times a night, and you can’t go up a flight of stairs without being a little winded — and you’re told you’re in pretty good shape for your age. Trading that in for a decade of fresh life in a combat zone begins to look like a hell of a bargain.”

The Colonial Defense Force primarily safeguards and pushes for humanity’s expansion into the cosmos. They are quite powerful with a wide reach that spans galaxies and technology defies Earthly comprehension. As Perry integrates into the CDF, he undergoes a transformation that is nothing short of miraculous. So, CDF doesn’t really make you young again, they give you a new, enhanced body.

Beyond the obvious rejuvenation, it boasts Smartblood, which enhances healing and can function longer without oxygen, and a BrainPal, an integrated AI that offers real-time information, communication, and assistance directly to one’s consciousness. His skin, a shade of green, is not just a cosmetic alteration but a functional one, allowing it to photosynthesize sunlight and resistance to radiation. The eyes are enhanced to perceive a broader spectrum of light. His physical abilities and senses are heightened, meticulously designed for combat and survival in the most unforgiving environments.

We get to see Perry growing into his role as a soldier, his camaraderie with fellow soldiers, the ethical dilemma he faces & how he breaks down after going through the motions of meeting aliens and killing them again and again. These alien species have their own unique culture and technology and the battles are mainly about diplomacy, strategy, and interstellar politics.

The two particularly notable alien species are the Consu and the Rraey. The Consu, have advanced technology and enigmatic religious beliefs with motivations deeply rooted in spiritual convictions. On the other hand, the Rraey are driven by their own survival and territorial ambitions. This becomes evident in the intense confrontation between the CDF and the Rraey.

The universe that Scalzi crafts is vast teeming with life, challenges, and science. The technologies introduced, from the BrainPal to the advanced weaponry, are not mere plot devices but reflections of society at the zenith of innovation, constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. The particular bit about spin drive & time travel(?) went over my head.

I enjoyed this book/audiobook a lot. The universe created in Old Man’s War is vast and full of endless possibilities. I am eager to see where John Scalzi next takes us in this sci-fi saga.

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