This was a really fun book. It was a fast read because of a few factors. First it’s just one story told from the perspective of a single character, John Perry. There aren’t a lot of characters to keep track of. The plot is simple – Perry mostly reacts to situations he finds himself in. At the end there was a bit of plotting done to keep John safe, but it’s pretty simple and motivations are exposed after only a short period (like getting Perry involved as a liaison with Special Forces). The story moves along briskly, with plenty of action happening to keep those pages turning. It’s also funny. Perry renames his BrainPal “Asshole”. His responses are flip, and doesn’t take himself too seriously. Finally it’s emotional – poignant because Perry misses his wife, frustrating and scary because he feels he’s losing his humanity because he’s constantly at war.
This is a story of old people, who upon reaching the age of 75 sign up for the Colonial Defense Forces (CDF) to protect human colonies in deep space. Aliens are everywhere and living space is in short supply. War is constant. John Perry enlists. His wife has already passed away and as with all CDF recruits he will never be allowed to return to Earth. Earthlings are mostly kept in the dark as to the colonies and the CDF technology, so Perry knows very little about what he’s getting into. Part one covers his indoctrination into the CDF and his new body. All recruits undergo a consciousness transfer into a new body, genetically based off their original one, but enhanced. Enhancements include SmartBlood and BrainPal. BrainPal is essentially an embedded computer with wireless interface. No technology is visible since it can overlay audio and video directly to the brain. It’s like the evolution of the Epiphany tech from Rainbows End, minus the contacts and clothes. Perry make new friends and loses them one by one since the survival rate is only 25% for the duration of the 10 year service. Part two takes him into the field where as a private, then corporal he sees action battling several different alien species. After a year in he starts to crack as he questions his humanity knowing he is relentlessly killing sentient beings. Part two ends with Perry as the sole survivor of the disastrous Battle of Coral. In part three, Perry recovers and learns that a member of CDF Special Forces is his wife, or at least based off his late wife’s DNA. Her name is Jane Segal. He pushes to learn more about her and the Ghost Brigades in general. During the third and final part of the novel the CDF aim to avenge their defeat on the planet Coral and Perry, once recovered temporarily joins the Special Forces in a mission to disable the alien tech that gives their enemy a decisive tactical advantage. Perry is promoted to Lieutenant and eventually Captain as he successfully completes the mission, saves Jane’s life and completes his second year of service coming full circle by informing the new enlistees of their responsibilities and survival rate (as he experience in part one).
Two of the Old Farts group survives, in additional to Perry, since he lobbied for their transfer to military research. Jane survived the second battle of Coral thanks to John and continues as part of the Ghost Brigades (contact with which is extremely limited). She sends him a virtual postcard accepting his proposal to eventually settle as a colonist, which concludes the third and final part of the book.
(Amazon) Old Man’s War