John Scalzi (almost) made me cry

Jeroen Steenbeeke  
Posted
As I mentioned in the post where I summarized my re-reading experiences of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series, the next phase of my "re-read all the things" would be the Old Man's War series by John Scalzi. Contrary to most of the books I've read this year, Old Man's War is Science Fiction rather than fantasy, so it was a good change of scenery.

From this point on, expect spoilers.

Before I start listing off observation in the usual fashion, I would like to point out that as of this re-reading, I consider Zoe's Tale (the 4th book in the series) to be the best book, and it is the reason for the title of this post. There were two bits in this book that made me very emotional, which doesn't happen all that often with books (happens all the time with movies though, if you ever want to turn me into an emotional wreck, make me watch The Lion King). The first was near the beginning, where Zoe tells about her biological mother and her elephant pendant. The second bit is where she describes Enzo's life later in the book. Both of these were moments where I had to fight back tears. So, yeah, thanks for that, John, it was beautiful.

With that out of the way, let's commence with the usual "stuff I was thinking while I read this":

  • I still find it strange that despite the fact that humans have dozens of colonies, have been in space for centuries, that Earth still feels like it does today. The skip drive was invented on Earth, yet all knowledge on how it works, all manufacturing capability for spaceships, somehow magically disappeared after the founding of the Colonial Union? That whole premise had me confused the first time as well.
  • I wonder what I'd do if I were given the same choice - get a new body at age 75 in exchange for fighting in endless wars. Granted, I'm not even half that age yet, so it's tough for me to imagine
  • The "tests" they put people through before transferring them still crack me up
  • I thought the training lasted longer, turns out I was mixing up Old Man's War and The Ghost Brigades
  • I'd love to know more about the Consu in the long run. They're a bit of an enigma in this universe, as they're light years ahead of everyone else. They get quite a bit of coverage over the course of the series, but you don't hear from them after Zoe's Tale. They somehow remind me of the Trow in Bungie's Myth series, even if they look nothing alike.
  • It's still sad to see the Old Farts bite the dust
  • Ah yes, the Rraey. I hate those guys. Then again, who wouldn't hate a species that considers yours to be a delicacy?
  • "Oh hey, that woman looks like my dead wife, I'm sure she'd want to have a chat" - Always a good idea
  • One of the things that bothers me about the Ghost Brigades is the orgies. They're essentially having sex a few weeks after "waking up", which makes it the functional equivalent of babies having sex. It feels wrong on some level, even though they're physically adults.
  • There's a whole lot of nature vs. nurture stuff going on in the Ghost Brigades, and Jared is probably one of the more interesting characters in the series
  • It's amazing how much your opinion of a species can change from book to book. I rather disliked the Obin when I read Ghost Brigades, shifted to neutral with The Last Colony, and really started to appreciate them with Zoe's Tale
  • "This planet smells like armpit" is probably one of the best lines in the series. That said, I think The Last Colony is the worst book in the series, mostly because many things seem like Deus Ex Machine (Zoe's Tale remedies those, but still)
  • The Conclave is an interesting concept. It's like having a United Federation of Planets with Humans as the prime enemy. It's a bit hard to feel sympathy for them at first (especially the "nobody else can colonize" bit is a bit unfair), but they're not really all that bad, especially Tarsem Gau and Hafte Sorvalh
  • I half expected the Consu to object to the principle of the Conclave. I kind of got the idea that they like people fighting one another. Then again, the story wouldn't be half as interesting if the galaxy's most advanced species starts removing humanity's greatest obstacle
  • I enjoyed the serial/novella concept of The Human Division and The End of All Things. I think the novellas work better, though my favorite story from that bunch is probably "The Dog King" (Human Division part 7 I believe). I like the way things turned out, and Equillibrium was an interesting story concept, but I still prefer Zoe's Tale and Old Man's War to these last installments. They still beat The Last Colony though
  • Danielle Lowen has a bottle of 18-year-old Laphroaig? That's funny because they just stopped making those. Then again, we're talking centuries in the future.
  • The idea of having your brain put in a box is rather terrifying, and I don't envy Rafe Daquin


So yeah, I still very much liked this series upon re-reading it, even with the emotional distress added in. Go read it if you haven't already