Science fiction novels are pretty much like walking a tight-rope between two skyscrapers. A misstep to the left, into too hard of sci-fi and “geek speak,” and you alienate a huge portion of your audience. Yet a step to the right, in dumbing things down or playing up the less sciency aspects of your novel, and you kill your hardcore audience. Great science fiction manages to get you from one building to the next without the need for a parachute or ambulance.
While I wouldn’t classify this novel as a “classic,” I would say that Scalzi manages to skate past most of the obstacles, bridging that gap and turning out a novel that both parties might enjoy. Scalzi has perfected the art of finding an interesting concept and then building a world around that idea to support it, and Old Man’s War definitely is concept-driven. It’s a unique take on what war means, and there are enough twists to keep things interesting. Some of the later battles and alien races did feel like they were just window dressing, and not really important to the overall story, but this was a novel I enjoyed listening to. Not running out to grab the sequel, but as long as this author continues to put out content with unique and fresh ideas, I’ll be willing to support them. A solid 3.5 stars out of 5.