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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Stuff & Book Review: Old Man's War by John Scalzi

First, some notes on relatively important dates:

Sunday, 11th: Chapter Eleven goes up!
Friday, 16th: New book review of Tower of Shadows.
Sunday, 25th: Chapter Twelve goes up!

Next, I wonder how many of you are note takers. There was a short bit in the comments in my last blog about Tolkien. I mentioned that when he died he left behind a garage full of notes that are still to this day being dealt with. The idea of that is staggering when you think about it.
So, I'm curious to know how indepth you all are in your note taking. Personally I don't take a lot of notes unless I'm dealing with a story that is hard scifi. For fantasy, it's mostly just making it up as I go. Take for instance my recent efforts for a hard scifi story. I spent about 10 hours worth of research this weekend to make sure that I stayed roughly within the parameters of modern physics as we know it. I had to make sure that star systems I wanted to use for the story could do what I needed them to do, etc. So, a good ten hours later I had over forty systems categorized and labeled for who controlled them, how many habitable planets if any, and the like. But for the story that is on this blog, The World in the Satin Bag, mostly I had an idea and I ran with it. Take Chapter Ten. I had no idea I was going to have the tunnel end in darkness. Not a clue actually. Originally I had thought they would get across and maybe get ambushed and be on their merry way to Arnur. But now, turns out my mind wanted to do something completely different. And, well there you have it. Chapter Eleven should prove to be most interesting in regards to the pace of the story. In fact, I think Chapter Eleven deals with one of my inborn fears that keeps me out of certain places in the world.So, as it is, it's time for a book review!
Old Man's War is a fantastic military SF novel. I was pleasantly surprised. My first reaction when I saw it was written in first person was that of disinterest. I have a huge problem getting into first person stories and rarely do such POV's hold my attention. This is not the case with Old Man's War (OLM from this point on).
The story is set in the far future. Earth has become basically a backwater world as mankind has colonized other star systems under the military power of the Colonial Defense Forces, an entity that controls the bulk of human resources. Yet, the odd part is that rather than desiring to have young, fresh recruits join from Earth into the CDF, they are looking for the elderly. John Perry is one such person. His wife has died and he has opted to join. The downside: he can never return to Earth, interstellar war is hell, and he has to survive for two years minimum before he can retire to a generous homestead on one of the many colony worlds.
The story itself starts out perfectly. I don't want to ruin anything, but from the get go you have an amazing clarity of who the characters are. Each character is dynamic, despite having only existed on the page for a mere few chapters. The humor between the characters is superb and I found myself giggling with joy at the witty remarks some of the characters made.
The pace is quick and sturdy, making all the twists and turns even more disturbing and surprising. I must say this is by far one of the best novels I have read in a long time. It held my attention from start to finish. The description of battle, characters, and the world Mr. Scalzi has created are amazingly portrayed. You get a great sense of what it must be like to be a soldier for the CDF.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys SF, in any genre.

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  1. I map out my stories with a variation of Holly Lisle's worldbuilding techniques. I draw a map, I create cultures, religions, races, and a small portion of a language (nothing huge at this moment, a few words and suffixes and thats it). Then I create characters. All in all I have 15 pages of notes, but that's no where near close to Tolkien's notes. Sheesh, I'd go bonkers with that many notes.

  2. wow! i must link your blog to mine! u're reviewing sf, and i 'f'.

  3. Wow...based on your review I have just ordered this book. I look forward to reading it. I like your taste, by the way.