Old Man's War is instantly recognisable as a science fiction work and yet strangely alien at the same time. But then again that is one of the topics that this work of fiction discusses in depth: the differences between what is human and what is alien.
I have always appreciated science fiction and fantasy the most out of all genres. I appreciate their particular methods of cognitive disassociation or dissonance. That is the methods by which they introduce familiar issues by connecting them to foreign ideas such as strange exotic races or bizarre alien technologies. However, despite this appreciation, science fiction has always been a genre I've appreciated more on a visual level until more recently. Visiting the world of Old Man's War was part of a more recent move to visit award winning and critically acclaimed sci-fi works and it was a very decent move indeed.
The premise of Old Man's War is centred around John Perry, a 75 year old man who has decided to enrol with the army and head off to fight a galactic war which has been raging for years. The promise of this war offers him a new, revitalised body and a chance to see the stars, because in this world there are thousands of alien races and planets which are sentient and hostile to humanity itself. In many ways this book is very similar to both Starship Troopers and The Forever War, with its own twist on the idea of what it is to grow old in the face of conflict, atrocity and ignoring all humanity. In many ways this is a very thoughtful science fiction work (not that the other works I have referenced are not) in that it consistently works to provide the reader with common sci-fi clichés or tropes and then subtly works again to subvert those tropes.
There are two interesting sci-fi ideas used in this novel to particular effect. The first is the idea of 'body switching' through consciousness transfer into a genetically identical body. The other is the use of internal computers linked directly to the brain. Each ideas is used as an interesting little gimmick and idea but also connects to the plot as a whole in a useful way.
That all said, if you are looking for another sci-fi work with themes about war and the nature of humanity look no further than this debut novel by John Scaldi. It is also an entertaining and incredibly poised novel - with solid and settled pacing. I wholeheartedly recommend it.