Rating: 5/5 stars

Several hundred years in the future mankind is exploring the galaxy. Somehow (not quite explained) the Old Man's WarColonial Defense Force (CDF) has acquired alien technology that puts them light years ahead of any country, government, or private corporation on Earth. They leverage their technology to keep the governments of Earth afraid of them. At 75 years of age, people may enlist in the CDF to fight interstellar wars. The enlistees have no knowledge of how they’ll fight a war at their advanced age or any idea of the CDF’s tactics. They are left in the dark, taking a leap of faith and signing their lives away because the only thing left for them to do on Earth is die. Our protagonist, John Perry, after his wife’s death, enlists in the CDF at 75 years old.
I rarely give five star rating’s out but this book was awesome. It covered the span of warfare, of friendship and camaraderie, the thrills of victory, the agony and loss of defeat, the tragedy of losing friends and loved ones in battle, the memories of a life now untouchable to those in the war, the ethical and moral ambiguity of the CDF and how they operate, and the possibility of achieving humanity in the face of death.

I don’t typically have such an immediate connection to characters but I truly liked John Perry. I felt his heartache when his friends died, and, without giving away any spoilers, my heart jumped in my throat towards the end. I said to myself, “I will never forgive Scalzi if he does what I think he’s going to do.”

Scalzi’s execution of the narrative was perfect. Scenery was vivid and yet concise. Complex theories involving space travel and quantum mechanics was explained simply, and the relationships between Scalzi’s characters was truly remarkable given it was only 320 pages.

If you’re not looking for a war book but a book on how people cope with the atrocities of war and find sanity in an insane world, this book is for you.

About Joshua G. Silverman