Saturday, March 26, 2011

Old Man's War

Recently, a little bored with reading the same old thing over and over again; I started reading science fiction again. I read sci-fi voraciously as a youngster, got into it again in a big way in the late 80s/early 90s, and read very little for the last fifteen plus years. There are a lot of advantages to this approach: you’ve let enough time pass you can go back and re-read old favorites, finding them somewhat fresh after so long, and there is sure to have been a lot of good books published while you were away.

I don’t intend to do any real reviews of the sci-fi I read. Other than a second major in mathematics, I don’t have any real scientific knowledge, and I don’t think I would grow as a person reading the comments explaining how I must be a complete moron because I incorrectly explained the formula to express a closed thermodynamic system. At least from the outside, the sci-fi community seems amazingly argumentative and devoted to feuds, often over the most trivial things. Science fiction writers and readers range from the obsessively politically correct to proudly politically insensitive, and are willing to write tens of thousands of words to fight over things you wouldn’t even notice, let alone hold a grudge over.

(My use of the term “sci-fi” in place of science fiction is enough to piss a large number of people off. I read a comment by a noted sci-fi author where he stated calling science fiction “sci-fi” was the same as calling a black person the “n-word.” Which is so ludicrous I had to use it, despite the knowledge it may be a provocation.)

Without going into detail, I do want to recommend sci-fi books from time to time, although anyone who reads the genre on a regular basis knows these books pretty well. With that in mind, I would like to whole-heartedly recommend John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series. I just finished reading the first three books, Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, and The Last Colony. They are wonderful stuff, heavily influenced by Robert Heinlein and Joe Haldeman, particularly the respective authors’ books Starship Troopers and The Forever War. They are military science fiction with a conscience and a surprising amount of humor, very well done, and I read through the three of them in just a couple of days. My only regret is I won’t get to read them again for the first time.


John Hornor said...

I read Old Man's War for the first time last month and was really pleased with it.

You might like Vernor Vinge. A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky are probably two of the best SF (speculative fiction!) books of the last 20 years. My opinion, solely. But all of Vinge's books are fantastic.

Oh, and you'd probably like all the Niven/Pournelle collaborations. Especially A Mote in God's Eye and its sequel, The Gripping Hand.

Shit, there's so much great SF out there, it's sick.

Hunter said...

I recently read Old Man's War and Ghost Brigades. I have the next two, The Last Colony and Zoe's Tale in my TBR pile. Great stuff (and I don't read much SF, either).


KentAllard said...

Hi, Hunter, good to see you here. I haven't read Zoe's Tale yet. I understand it's the same story as The Last Colony, from a different point of view. I'm sure I'll get to it.

John, I have read the Mote books, a long time ago. I always liked Niven, although I wasn't that big on Pournelle. Everybody recommends the Vinge book, I have it, and I should go ahead and read it. it's possible the reason I haven't is a cousin of mine I dislike, also named Vernor. That's about as close to logic as I ever come.

Rabid Fox said...

I heard this book described as an "up-rezzed" version of Heilein's Starship Troopers. Despite not being a fan of Heinlein, I am intrigued by this book. Might give it a chance since I'm always trying to warm up to the sci-fi genre.

The Doctor said...

Re: the Niven/Pournelle books. I'd rather read Niven solo anytime. Pournelle isn't in the same class. And though A Mote in God's Eye was enjoyable enough, I really wouldn't put most of their collaborations in the same league as Vinge's stuff.
Haven't read Scalzi yet. I'm very well read on pre-2000 SF, and he's on the list of more recent authors that I need to catch up on one day.

John Hornor said...

Maybe it was the period I was reading them, but Pournelle/Niven collabs have never led me astray. Lucifer's Hammer, Footfall, the Mote books, and the Legacy of Heorot - man that's a great monster book.

Really, read Vinge first and then read Legacy of Heorot. Great space colonization novel with one helluva monster. Grendel.

Hunter said...

Thanks, Joe! You're right about Zoe's Tale.

And I heartily concur with John's recommendation of The Legacy of Heorot. Great book!