Raych’s CBR-III Read #35 – Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

I started off liking this loads.  How neat!  It is the future and Earth is a backwater and all the good shit goes on in space (also a war) so when you are old, you sign up for a two-year tour of duty, after which you will get your own little plot of space.  But because you are old, they slip your consciousness into a fine, fitter, fettled body (that is green.  Like Avatar only you get to keep your new legs).

Somehow I had gotten it into my head that this was a Classic One Of These  (the word ‘old’ in the title?  I’m suggestible that way).  And when I’m reading Classic Things and a cliche rears his head (Private Cocky Jackass ramps the cocky jackassery following minor victory, is immediately dead because minor victories are always a ruse) I’m all, Oh, that must be before this was the Obvious Thing.

And there are parts that are incredibly cheesey, like when John the protagonist is being split up from his basic training buddies and one of them is all, ‘Let’s do it, let’s be our own little family. Let’s look out for each other, no matter where you are’ and you could almost slice the foreshadows with a knife. But because it has that old-timey-scifi feel it’s like watching a much-beloved movie and being like, Oho, the special effects are terrible, how sweet. But then you remember this was published in 2005, so.
And I’m always very faintly annoyed when the protagonist is the one who Does All The Things Good.  Is the only recruit whom Sergeant Ruiz can’t find a personal reason to hate.  Figures out the secret way to shoot the sturdy baddies so they stay dead.  Realizes what those same baddies are up to pages before anyone else.  Single-handedly saves both his new girlfriend and the valuable alien technology from imminent destruction.

And all the blurbs keep saying ‘fast-paced’ which is why you should NEVER TRUST THE BLURBS.  Because it’s verrry I am falling through the atmosphere in my own personal shield as we begin our Important And Terrifying attack oh wait, you probably want to know how this shield works.  Ok so there are these tiny bots…  And I know one of the purported strengths of good sci-fi is when the science can be show to work, but now is not the time.

Nor is it the time in the final pages when it’s all SENTIMENTAL MOMENT and he gets a post card from his lost lady fair of a farm and a sunrise and SCREEEEEECH ‘It could have been a sunset, but that’s not the feeling I got.’  Dude, we assumed that is not the feeling you got when you called it a sunrise, and there is no need to throw this unnecessary sentence-wrench into the cogs just in case your reader was all But what if it’s a sunset?  How does he know?

I wanted to like you, Old Man’s War.  But you make me sad and sort of bored.

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