Amanda Reads: Old Man’s War

This one is off the beaten path for me. Not only does the cover feature spaceships and explosions (not really Amanda typical stuff), but it’s also science fiction with a male narrator. A lot of atypical stuff. Why? Because I joined a science fiction/fantasy BOOK CLUB! I cannot tell you how happy I am to finally have people to sit around and talk to about books, even if it’s only once a month. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop blogging about my bookish thoughts, as well.

So, Old Man’s War is apparently the debut novel (from many years ago) of an Ohio native (!!!) named John Scaldi. The book is one that I would never have picked up on my own, but I actually did enjoy it. The light, humorous tone of the narrator carried the book well, even through war and training scenes, which I would normally have considered dull. The alien races Scaldi created are very interesting, and he manages to bring up and work with many different deep questions about what it means to be human. The science bits sound plausible (a physicist I am not), but without going so far over my head that I felt like I was drowning in something I didn’t understand.

That being said, the novel falls prey to so many of the issues that one encounters in a first novel. The characters can be a bit thinly drawn, with John Perry (the main character) sounding like an echo of the author, and most other characters an echo of Perry. There were a few stand out moments for others, but by and large it’s hard to get an individual sense of each of them. Similarly, Perry himself is implausible in that he really can do no wrong throughout the book. While he remains (of course) humble, he is frequently decorated for apparently effortless achievements, all while maintaining his charm, humor, and humanity. He has a freak out or two, but they are short lived and do not even remotely tarnish his excellent reputation. Of course, this is the first book in a series, so I’m sure that there will be many more opportunities for Perry to screw up and render himself more realistic as a character.

For me, this was an “I’m surprised I liked this book because it’s out of my norm” type of book.  I enjoyed it for something outside of my comfort zone, but it didn’t blow me away in its own right. If science fiction and military stuff is in your wheelhouse, I highly recommend this book. If you want a quick, entertaining intro to science fiction, you could certainly do worse.

Now I’m just looking forward to reading the second book club book, The Night Circus!!! (Everyone has been telling me to read this. Everyone.)

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