For an old fan of Robert A. Heinlein like myself, Old Man’s War feels like the Grand Master has come back to life. Here’s a story of grand space opera with lots of violence, sex, and just a hint of politics. The characters are both serious and silly, not unlike the snarky people who inhabit Heinlein’s universe.
Old Man’s War is set in some distance future where mankind has spread across the galaxy and managed to go to war with just about everyone they meet. This means that they need a lot of soldiers to play cannon fodder on the front lines. Seeing no real sense in wasting the lives of young people, the Powers That Be decide to recruit old people from Earth. This is where our hero John Perry comes in, an old man of 75 who enlisted ten years earlier to be a solider in the Colonial Defense Forces. The first part of the book covers John’s adventures as an old man going to space and meeting other old folks who will also be space warriors.
After a few modifications John becomes a super soldier and the rest of the book details a number of battles where John shows himself to be more than up to the task fighting aliens. He also makes a few friends, uncovers a few secrets, and figures out a few things no one else seems to understand. Well, he is the hero.
Old Man’s War is a good read and I liked the constant action and hopping from place to place. But the farther we get into the story, the less sense the whole premise makes. Why does the Colonial Defense Force need the consciousness of old people in the first place? Why do they need soldiers at all? And if they do need soldiers, why not just keep the assembly line running 24/7/365?
Of course, such questions are beside the point, just as they were in Heinlein’s books. Our heroes battle the bad guys and either win or die glorious deaths. The adventure goes on. There are other books set in the series and I look forward to reading them.