[because I have long admired my old friend Nicholas Whyte's amazingly dedicated bookblogging habit, and because this year I find myself with more time on my hands, and because ghost towns are fun and interesting]
I bought a few Tor books on Friday
, including Old Man's War
by John Scalzi, which I should probably have read years ago. It was fun in parts, and a little thought-provoking, but ultimately disappointing. A few instant gripes:
- it's parochially American, to an absurd degree. Almost everyone in it is American and English-speaking. Here is a list of spaceships, "traditionally named after midsize cities": "the Little Rock
, the Mobile
, the Waco
, the Muncie
, the Burlington
". I can recall a single non-American minor character, a Peruvian. It's mentioned in passing that people from some
other countries get to be colonists (rather than soldiers): "India and Kazakhstan and Norway, where they can't support the population they have". I'm sorry, what? It's made clear in the recruitment office that the CDF deal applies to many Earth nations. So where are they?
- it's set over 200 years in the future, but Earth (the little we see of it) is basically unchanged, culturally, technologically, or socially. I get that the Colonial Union is probably suppressing some stuff [we will doubtless find out more in the sequels] - in particular scientific and technological progress, but this is too much, and in places it's borderline ridiculous. Will some company be trying to build a SubAtlantic Rail in 2250? Doubtful. Will that company be called General Electric? Pfft.
- In contrast the Colonial Union and the CDF have various sorts of magic technology, but they still use ground troops for most operations, including ones which are basically genocidal, or which are intended to degrade fighting or cultural capability. This is crazy. Where are the drones? Where are the nukes and other WMD? Where are the orbital kinetic munitions?
- The CDF use cloned super-soldiers. Why are they also using regular grunts?
- The old people are not convincingly old. They're just not.
- Ultimately "meet strange new people and cultures, and kill the sons of bitches" is not my kind of book.
- Some sloppy editing, enough for me to notice and care. "rooted for a towel in the wardrobe, flicking on the small light in the wardrobe to see. In the wardrobe hung my and Leon's recruit suits". Yeah, OK, we get it, you're in the wardrobe. I didn't bookmark it, but at one point "I, foo, and bar did something". This stuff grates.
As I say, I did have fun reading this book (and it's a great relief from the astonishingly poor stuff in the Hugo voter packet), but I doubt I will be picking up the sequels.
On my new and untested rating scale
, I give this 6/10.