Book Review: Re-read of Scalzi’s Old Man’s War (10 years later)

So around 10 years ago I remember picking up a copy of Old Man’s War at my local brick and mortar store and rushing through it in an afternoon or so. The author self acknowledged it was inspired by Heinlein, but had taken some smart deviations in making the technology organic, the changes something you couldn’t change by putting on or taking off a suit. I thought that was pretty cool, and overall enjoyed the book, but didn’t devote as much time to it a I normally do. A few years later and I was reading Wil Wheaton’s Google Plus page and he mentioned an incident of someone being an absolute ass to women, and linked to Scalzi’s Google Plus page, which had a link to Whatever. For the last seven or so years most of my observations of John have been his internet presence, not his work. In those opinion pieces, I get a good idea of the man behind the keyboard, but now, after attending GenCon and wanting to kick my own ass into gear on writing, I’ve been on a reading tear, trying to read samples of as many authors I find interesting people as I can.

So that brings us back to rereading Old Man’s War. I think I’ve changed a lot in the last 10 years, so perhaps that is why this time when I read it, I wasn’t as focused on the ground level battle scenes as I was going on around them. I can see parts of John’s life that he tapped into writing this, and I think they enrich the story a lot. You can see his very deep love of his wife, his happiness in being married (especially evident in the scene where he feels he has become less than human), and a current of “you be cool with me, I’ll be cool with you” in how the protagonist deals with others. A tendency to poke sticks at sacred cows gets John Perry in trouble several times, but Scalzi doesn’t go on a proselytizing junket through his character.

I’ve always been a re-reader, sometimes right away, sometimes like in this case, much later, but I do think we are unable to get the full experience in just one read. It makes sense, the writer isn’t able to write the work in one single pass, so each new reading helps peel back more layers, or at the very least you remember more details. Once I finish my current stack of books (the kindle ones hiding inside the black demon make it seem lighter), I will definitely be making a trip to see what the Ghost Brigades are all about.