Posted on Tuesday, July 10th, 2007 at 3:50 pm under Fiction, Science Fiction / Fantasy

Is it science fiction blasphemy to say something was like Heinlein, but better?

Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi.

A whole bunch of people who write better than I do say very nice things about the book on that page, and I’m not going to try to paraphrase them or outdo them. I will say that this book had me laughing, intrigued, and completely hooked by page 15 or so. John Perry’s voice is the perfect balance of age and wisdom and experience and the essential snarkiness of the skeptical, intelligent American. The slow reveal of the reality of the CDF and the politics and science of the universe kept me reading, page after page, ever-curious and enlightened by increments. The arc of the plot — one man finds his second life and learns about the CDF and humanity’s place in the universe — was perfectly balanced with the moral, ethical, and humanistic questions raised by that plot arc. What’s it mean to be human? What, if not your body or your mind, makes you human? Is it your actions? Your culture? Your heritage (there are no minorities in the CDF, after all)? Your society? Your politics? Your love for other beings? The relationships you build with others?

I loved it. I’m still thinking about the ideas it presented, about the dazzlingly plausible speculation about how humanity will interact with the universe, about the startlingly obvious portrayal of how humanity will respond to that interaction, about the scientific ideas it set forward, and about the dialogue and writing that moved all of those things forward so brilliantly.

Plus, the action was fantastic, without overwhelming the rest of the narrative. It is, after all, a book about a war. More than that, though, it’s a book about the people who fight wars, and it’s the portrayal of those people that really makes it shine.

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