Old Man's War
|Old Man's War|
Cover of first edition (hardcover)
|Genre(s)||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Dewey Decimal||813/.6 22|
|LC Classification||PS3619.C256 O43 2005|
|Followed by||The Ghost Brigades|
Old Man's War is a science fiction and debut novel by John Scalzi published in 2005. It was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2006. It was optioned by Paramount Pictures in 2011.
A sequel, The Ghost Brigades, was published in 2006, followed by two other books, The Last Colony (2007) and Zoe's Tale (2008). A further sequel, The Human Division, is being published in online serial form from January to April 2013, to be published in full later in the year with added material.
The first-person narrative is about a soldier named John Perry and his exploits in the CDF (Colonial Defense Forces). Old Man's War is similar in overall structure to Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers and Joe Haldeman's The Forever War as it follows Perry's military career from CDF recruit to the rank of captain. It is set in a universe heavily populated with life forms (much like David Brin's Uplift Universe); colonists from Earth must compete for the scarce planetary real estate which is suitable for sustaining life. As such, Perry must learn to battle against a wide variety of aliens. While the soldiers in Starship Troopers and The Forever War relied on powered body armor to gain advantage over the aliens, the soldiers in Old Man's War have enhanced DNA and nanotechnology, giving them advantages in strength, speed, and endurance.
The novel tells the story of John Perry, a 75-year-old retired advertisement writer, who joins the Colonial Defense Forces who protect human interplanetary colonists. Applicants are required to sign a letter of intent when they are 65—which John and his now deceased wife Kathy had signed 10 years prior to the beginning of the story. After visiting his wife's grave to say good bye (as volunteers can never return to Earth) Perry takes a space elevator to the CDF's Henry Hudson, where he meets a group of fellow retiree volunteers who dub themselves the 'Old Farts'. Following a series of bizarre psychological tests, Perry's mind is ultimately transferred to a new body with enhanced musculature, green skin, and yellow (almost cat-like) eyes. This new body, based on his original DNA, has been modified for enormous strength and dexterity, and supplemented with several proprietary products including artificial blood, enhanced eyesight and other senses and most critically, a BrainPal—a neural interface that allows Perry to communicate with other members of the CDF via thought.
After a week of frivolity and orgies, Perry lands on Beta Pyxis III for basic training, during which the CDF's heritage in the United States armed forces is made clear when the recruits are taught the Rifleman's Creed. After Perry learns that his Master Sergeant adopted one of his advertisements from Earth as a mantra, Perry is given the dubious job of platoon leader during the weeks of training before he is shipped out to the CDF's Modesto. His first engagement is with the Consu, a fierce and incredibly intelligent, though religiously zealous, alien species. Perry improvises a tactic which enables the CDF to win this first battle quickly. This is soon followed by a number of battles with, among others, the Whaidians and the tiny Covandu. By the end of this last engagement Perry begins to suffer psychological distress over killing the Liliputian Covandu and accepts that he has transformed both physically and mentally.
Now a war-seasoned veteran, Perry then participates in the Battle for Coral. The CDF plans to rapidly transport in a small number of vessels to Coral, which was assaulted and conquered by the predatory Rraey. Somehow, the Rraey are able to predict the trajectory of the vessel's skip drives (a feat that should not be possible) and use this knowledge to destroy the fleet. Perry's quick thinking allows him and a small number of others to escape in a shuttle craft and make for the planet's surface, where they are shot down and crash violently. Perry is left for dead, only to be rescued by the mysterious "Ghost Brigades", the Special Forces units of the CDF. Perry is struck by the sight of the leader of the Ghost Brigades rescue team, Jane Sagan, an apparent clone of his dead wife Kathy.
After being repaired, Perry tracks down Jane Sagan, who turns out to have been grown using Kathy Perry's DNA, as legally allowed by her letter of intent to join the CDF. Unlike John, Jane has no memories of her previous life, but upon learning of Kathy, Jane seeks to learn more from John about being a regular born ('realborn') person and what kind of life one can have outside the CDF. Jane manipulates her chain of command to promote John to an advisory role (as a full lieutenant) to gather information from the Consu during a ritualistic meeting to share information. Perry discovers that the Rraey have received tachyon technology from the Consu, allowing them to predict the location of their ships. Perry also manipulates command to get the last two of his friends from the 'Old Farts' transferred to Military Research. Jane and John then participate in a Special Forces operation in an attempt to capture or destroy the borrowed Consu technology in advance of a major invasion on Coral. While John is instrumental in the successful outcome of the battle, in particular, saving the data relating to the machines, which are destroyed, he loses track of Jane as she returns to the insular Ghost Brigades.
At the conclusion of the book, Perry has been promoted to captain following his deeds at Coral and despite the separation, holds hope of reuniting with Jane when their terms of service conclude.
Skip Drive 
Old Man's War introduces a new form of FTL interstellar travel called a Skip Drive. This is a misnomer because it is not a drive system at all as it has nothing to do with acceleration. The Skip Drive takes an object, like a space ship, and punches a hole in space and places the object at its destination in a new, essentially identical universe. There are limits on the skip drive due to the characters not knowing all there is to know about how it works. The limitations are as follows:
- The object skipping must not be near a major gravity well
- The object skipping cannot skip out too far.
The Colonial Union and other governments use devices called skip drones to communicate. These skip drones are essentially computers equipped with skip drives. A ship or satellite will launch one of these devices away from local gravity wells and skip to its target locale and download its information to the local people.
More advanced races, notably the Consu, have a more complex understanding of skip drives and can even detect ships skipping into a system.
The BrainPal is a neural implant that allows members of the Colonial Defense Forces (CDF) to send and receive data, including speech, battle plans and much more. CDF soldiers use their BrainPals to translate alien languages, watch classic cartoons, and read old books, among much more.
A BrainPal allows a CDF soldier to operate colonial technology by thought alone. A CDF rifle can only be used by someone with a BrainPal.
To the members of the Ghost Brigades the BrainPal does much much more: it provides a synthetic consciousness that allows the newborn soldiers to function until their own identities develop. This gives people who meet Special Forces the impression that they know everything. When presented with a situation that is unfamiliar to the newborn soldier, the BrainPal loads the relevant and important information directly into the mind at an amazing rate.
The BrainPal allows special forces platoons to integrate into a single hive mind. What one sees, all see.
Modified bodies and consciousness transfer 
In the early days of human colonization it became clear that human soldiers were not cut out for fighting the endless hordes of alien aggressors. Humanity was saved by two technologies: the ability to grow an engineered human body to maturity in a few months and the ability to transfer a consciousness from an old body to the new one (provided that the brains are identical). This tech is the foundation of the Colonial Defense Force, allowing them to recruit senior citizens and transfer their minds to new super-soldier bodies.
The Colonial Defense Forces use nanotechnology in almost every aspect of their military operations. Combat armor is made from interlinked nanobots, medical nanobots perform surgeries and help to regrow limbs, and the very blood of the CDF soldier has been replaced by a nanotech solution called "smartblood" that does everything that blood can do, only better, and a few things that blood can't do (like explode on command). The primary infantry weapon, the MP-35 or "empee", assembles its ammunition on demand from a block of raw materials (with six types of ammo: rifle, shot, grenade, missile, flamethrower and microwave beam), and can use its ammunition block for self-repair.
- The Ghost Brigades, the sequel to Old Man's War.
- The Last Colony, the third book in the series.
- Zoe's Tale, the fourth book in the series.
- The Human Division, the fifth book in the series.
- The Sagan Diary, a short story taking place between The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony. The audio version available from the author's website.
- After the Coup, a short story featuring Harry Wilson.
Appearances in other works 
- Scalzi, John (2005-01-01). Old Man's War. Tor Books. ISBN 0-7653-0940-8.
- "2006 Hugo Awards". Hugo Awards.
- Deadline: Paramount Buys 'Old Man's War' For Wolfgang Petersen And Scott Stuber
- WRITTEN BY Joseph Mallozzi & Paul Mullie, DIRECTED BY Alex Chapple (May 21, 2010). "Subversion, Transcript by Callie Sullivan". Stargate Universe. Season 1 EPISODE NUMBER 118. SyFy. http://www.gateworld.net/universe/s1/transcripts/118.shtml. "GRAHAM: Not to worry, sir. (He holds up a paperback book.) I came prepared."
- Scalzi, John (2010-05-21). "Product Placement". Whatever. Retrieved 2010-07-15.
- Old Man’s War title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- Editorial Reviews at Amazon
- "Old Man's War Cover Art History at Upcoming4.me"