I've been reading John Scalzi's blog (The Whatever) for what seems like years. I originally found it in a link to his post "Being Poor", which I think is just brilliant but some argue should be labeled "Bring Poor in America". I'll concede that point : it's still brilliant.
For reasons I never quite figured out for myself, I never read any of Scalzi's fiction. I got a start on his "Agent to the Stars" in electronic form, but didn't finish it. Either the format or time constraints caused me to put it down. I never "sought out" his other work, either at the library nor BookMooch (still love the BookMooch) or in the store. Again, no specific reason why, just never did.
Recently Tor started to release some of it's catalogue in electronic form, for free. I've been grabbing them as they come out, but had not read any. Old Man's War was the first one released. Finally, a couple of days ago I pulled it up. It wasn't my intent to read the entire thing, just to get a feel for the thing and an insight into what it is.
A read it in two sittings.
OWM postulates a future where at the age of seventy-five you can enter the Colonial Defense Forces, the Earth's defense against galactic bad guys. The CDF has tricks up it's collective sleeve to make John Perry ready for battle when he signs up. After the death of his wife he signs up and heads off to defend the earth and it's colonies.
Sounds like an old - fashioned space opera? It nearly is. It reads like early Heinlein, and reminds me why I started reading SF in the first place. It's fun in a way that I think much of SF has forgotten how to be, and never takes itself too seriously. At the same time the characters are very real and develop throughout the book, never losing their humanity (even as they become less human) and never ignoring the ethical dilemmas surrounding their unique experiences.
Scalzi keeps the new ideas (and the plausible science behind them) coming at a steady clip. There was only one time I felt that I was reading the dreaded "Insert Convenient Character for Scientific Illumination Here" chapter, but he hung around for the rest of the book, so that was OK.
When you pick up this book you better have some clear time in your schedule, because you're going to need it. Recommended.