Showing posts with label John Scalzi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John Scalzi. Show all posts

Monday, February 18, 2013

This n' That: Scalzi, Guy Mark Foster + Updates

Hey, how is everyone! I've been missing lately, I know, and slow in posting, but so far this has been one of those tough blogging months for me. Let's see... I had one long week of migraines that would not go away, I am still serving on Grand Jury duty every Thursday and won't be done until the end of February. That means double duty at the office. I can't seem to catch up no matter what I do! Plus, the situation with my mom seems to be deteriorating and it is both an emotionally draining and stressful time for all of us.

But you wonder if I've been reading, I have! Reading is one of those personal joys that I need to keep going. So what have I read lately? What am I reading now? I think I've chosen to read everything but "romance," and by that I mean mainstream contemporary and historical romance.


I have been keeping up with John Scalzi's new science fiction serial, The Human Division and read, Episode #3: We Only Need the Heads, and Episode #4: A Voice in the Wilderness. In We Only Need the Heads, Scalzi returns to the Ambassador's negotiating team and Harry Wilson, cleverly weaving in the events that took place in the wildcat colony featured in Walk the Plank. In A Voice in the Wilderness, Earth is the setting and readers get an inkling as to how the Colonial Union is viewed from their perspective. Political ramifications, manipulation by and of the media play a big part in this installment and I love that this episode ended with a bit of bang! I have Episode #5: Tales from the Clarke in my queue to read, but didn't get to it yet.

I'm really enjoying this serial, folks! So far Scalzi has alternated between the overall storyarc involving negotiations between the Colonial Union and different aliens and key events that affect or will affect those negotiations. So far some of the individual episodes work well on their own while others do not, and as a whole book the flow may seem a bit choppy. However, as the story moves along and revelations come to light, it works. I think that after Tales from the Clarke the story may flow better. I will let you know. So far this is a solid B read for me.

The 2013 Science Fiction Experience 
Earlier in the month I highlighted The Rest of Us: Stories by Guy Mark Foster. Foster is a gay African-American writer whose collection of gay fiction stories turned out to be fantastic. I purchased the digital edition, began to browse and ended up reading the whole book in one sitting.

The collection begins with "Boy," a short piece that sets the tone for the rest of the book, where a father explains to his son what manhood is all about, "rest the ankle of one leg on the opposite leg's knee-never cross one leg over the other's knee, and people won't too easily peg you for the punk you are right under my very roof due to become; " and ends with the amazing "Between Us," a story in letter form addressed to "Dear M" where Foster's character Mark attempts to explain to his former white lover why he tends to push people away. Foster's character explains that in addition to being black and gay he also has to "navigate the ever present complexities" of racial history: "simply being a human being presents a whole host of conflicts, but to be gay and of African descent in our society only increases those conflicts."

In between, Foster's wonderful collection of stories captures the social and cultural complexities of growing up as a gay African-American male while dealing with difficult family issues, religion, racial differences, racism, homophobia, and snapshots of men who continue to love men regardless of the obstacles. Highly recommended, this was an A- read for me.


Then, I got all caught up reading Jordan Castillo Price's addicting PsyCop series. Now, some of the books in this series have been sitting in my eReader for years. No kidding. So yeah... I gloamed and read: Among the Living #1, Criss Cross #2, Secrets #3, Body & Soul #4, Camp Hell #5, GhosTV, Book #6 plus the novellas Many Happy ReturnsStriking Sparks and In the Dark, to complete my reading experience. As you can imagine, I really enjoyed that experience, otherwise I would not have read all of these books consecutively. Expect an overview of the whole series soon!

I'm not done with Jordan Castillo Price yet. I'm planning on reading more of her series, plus Hermovore. All books already in my Kindle. Can't wait!

I began but have not finished The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke. I really wanted to concentrate on that book and unfortunately my migraines hit while I was in the middle of it and I had to place it aside for another time. Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone suffered the same fate. This is a book that has been sitting in my Kindle since last year and I was enjoying it so much! But, I really needed the time to concentrate on the world building which is quite intricate and unfortunately my head was not in the right place to do so. So I will be reading it at another time. Hopefully soon.

What Am I Reading Now?

Two upcoming March releases: In Search Of and Others is a collection of speculative fiction stories by Will Ludwigsen that's working perfectly for me at this time because I can read and enjoy a few stories at a time in between other books. I will let you know how it turns out when I'm done, but there are some great stories in this collection so far.

The other book I'm reading is Rigoberto González's upcoming creative nonfiction release from UA Press, Red-Inked Retablos. This is another book that I'm thoroughly enjoying. It is totally different from my other reads in that it is nonfiction, but because the book is essentially a collection of distinct essays it can also be read slowly. So far a great read.

That's it for now folks! Hope those of you in the U.S. are enjoying President's Day.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Human Division #2: Walk the Plank by John Scalzi

Wildcat colonies are illegal, unauthorized and secret so when an injured stranger shows up at the wildcat colony New Seattle, the colony leaders are understandably suspicious of who he is and what he represents. His story of how he came to their colony is shocking, surprising, and might have bigger consequences than anyone could have expected.
The second installment of John Scalzi's The Human Division serial Walk the Plank is quite different from the first, The B-Team.Scalzi sets this rather short piece (90 pages) in the wildcat colony, New Seattle where a young man and the rest of his shipmates land after having been made to "walk the plank" by space pirates.

This short story is set up to read like a transcript with four characters and the young man narrating events while the unauthorized wildcat colony leader makes decisions about the man's immediate future. Walk the Plank reads like a chapter in a book that will probably advance the overall storyarc, but doesn't necessarily stand well on its own, lacking the excitement and completeness of The B-Team. However, it gives the reader an idea of what to expect when it comes to ruthless actions and characters to be found in this world. I know that I'm already speculating about where Scalzi is going with this story and can't wait to read the next installment.
2013 Sci Fi Experience

Category: Science Fiction
Series: The Human Division
Publisher/Release Date: Tor Books/January 22, 2013
Grade: C

The Human Division #1: The B-Team


The Human Division is John Scalzi's new thirteen-episode novel in the world of his bestselling Old Man's War. Beginning on January 15, 2013, a new episode of The Human Division will appear in e-book form every Tuesday. Each episode is 0.99 cents.

Look for the new episode releasing tomorrow, January 29th. The Human Division #3: We Only Need the Heads.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Human Division #1: The B-Team by John Scalzi

Colonial Union Ambassador Ode Abumwe and her team are used to life on the lower end of the diplomatic ladder. But when a high-profile diplomat goes missing, Abumwe and her team are last minute replacements on a mission critical to the Colonial Unions future. As the team works to pull off their task, CDF Lieutenant Harry Wilson discovers there's more to the story of the missing diplomats than anyone expected...a secret that could spell war for humanity.

The B-Team is a solid beginning to John Scalzi's latest episodic series The Human Division, based on his Old Man's War world-building. Earth has separated itself from the Colonial Union and human colonies are now vulnerable. There is even a possibility that without Earth's resources humans might become extinct. The Conclave or alien's own union is now a reality and ambassadors and negotiators instead of soldiers and armies become key at this point in the game. But there is someone out there who wants to prevent those negotiations from going forward and when an A+ diplomat's team and her ship are blown to smithereens there's no solution but to call in a B team to finish the job. Ambassador Ode Abumwe accompanied by CDF Lieutenant Harry Wilson and the rest of their team readily accept the danger-riddled job.

Scalzi imbues this installment with excellent science fiction atmosphere, peppers dialog with his signature snappy humor, danger, and some great little details that engage the reader throughout this episode. The Old Man's War world is immediately recognizable to those who have read that series as is recurring character CDF Lt. Harry Wilson. Overall characterization is a bit predictable at this point, and although there is an immediate payoff and exciting resolution to the conflict in this installment, the overall storyarc is just beginning. I can't wait to read the rest.
2013 Sci Fi Experience

Category: Science Fiction
Series: The Human Division
Publisher/Release Date: Tor Books/January 15, 2013
Grade: B


The opening episode of The Human Division, John Scalzi's new thirteen-episode novel in the world of his bestselling Old Man's War. Beginning on January 15, 2013, a new episode of The Human Division will appear in e-book form every Tuesday.

Look for the new episode releasing today. The Human Division #2: Walk the Plank

Thursday, June 7, 2012

New Releases: June 2012

June Releases are almost here already! There are quite a few books that I'm looking forward to reading this month. As always, I will highlight only a few from my list.

These are books that I can't wait to read!


Title: Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

Title: Hex Appeal edited by P.N. Elrod
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Fall under the intoxicating spell of their hex appeal…

In the magical world that lies hidden beneath our own, witches and conjurers play deadly games. They know just the right spell to kill a man with one kiss—or raise him back again. And they’re not afraid to exact sweet revenge on those who dare to cross them. But what if you’re the unlucky soul who falls victim to a conjurer’s curse? And if you had the power to cast a magic spell of your own, would you use it?

In this bewitching collection, nine of today’s hottest paranormal authors tell all-new, otherworldly tales. Spellbinding stories featuring bigfoot, albino vampires, professional wizards, resurrected boyfriends and even a sex droid from the twenty- third century named Silicon Lily. But as our conjurers are about to discover, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hexed. And sometimes, even the best spun spells can lead to complete and utter mayhem.

Title: Scandal Wears Satin (Dressmakers #2) by Loretta Chase
Release Date: June 26, 2012
From the Journals of Sophia Noirot: A dress is a weapon. It must dazzle his eye, raise his temperature . . . and empty his purse.

A blue-eyed innocent on the outside and a shark on the inside, dressmaker Sophy Noirot could sell sand to Bedouins. Selling Maison Noirot's beautiful designs to aristocratic ladies is a little harder, especially since a recent family scandal has made an enemy of one of society's fashion leaders. Turning scandal to the shop's advantage requires every iota of Sophy's skills, leaving her little patience for a big, reckless rake like the Earl of Longmore. The gorgeous lummox can't keep more than one idea in his head at a time, and his idea is taking off all of Sophy's clothes.

But when Longmore's sister, Noirot's wealthiest, favorite customer, runs away, Sophy can't let him bumble after her on his own. In hot pursuit with the one man who tempts her beyond reason, she finds desire has never slipped on so smoothly . . .

Title: Thief of Shadows (Maiden Lane Series #4) by Elizabeth Hoyt
Release Date: June 26, 2012

Winter Makepeace lives a double life. By day he's the stoic headmaster of a home for foundling children. But the night brings out a darker side of Winter. As the moon rises, so does the Ghost of St. Giles-protector, judge, fugitive. When the Ghost, beaten and wounded, is rescued by a beautiful aristocrat, Winter has no idea that his two worlds are about to collide.


Lady Isabel Beckinhall enjoys nothing more than a challenge. Yet when she's asked to tutor the Home's dour manager in the ways of society-flirtation, double-entendres, and scandalous liaisons-Isabel can't help wondering why his eyes seem so familiar-and his lips so tempting.


Title: Starlight (The Christies #2) by Carrie Lofty
Release Date: June 26, 2012
An esteemed astronomer, Alex Christie, the eldest and most steadfast of the Christie siblings, has never possessed his late father’s ruthless business drive. But to protect his frail infant son from his cruel father-in-law’s bid for custody, the young widower must undertake Sir William Christie’s posthumous million-dollar challenge: to make a Glasgow cotton mill profitable. At sea in an industrial world of sabotage and union agitation, Alex meets Polly Gowan, daughter of a famed union leader, who hopes to seize a mysterious saboteur without involving the police.

Because a sympathetic mill master would aid her cause, Polly becomes Alex’s guide to urban Scotland. From soccer games to pub brawls, Alex sees another side of life, and feels free for the first time to reveal the man—vital and strong—behind his intellectual exterior. Polly is utterly seduced. Their ambitions, however, remain at odds: Alex vows to earn the mill bonus to save his child, while Polly fights for the needs of her people. Is there strength enough in their sparkling passion to bind them together in their quests— and in a lasting love that conquers all?

Title: Caliban's War (The Expanse) by James S.A. Corey
Release Date: June 26, 2012
We are not alone.

On Ganymede, breadbasket of the outer planets, a Martian marine watches as her platoon is slaughtered by a monstrous supersoldier. On Earth, a high-level politician struggles to prevent interplanetary war from reigniting. And on Venus, an alien protomolecule has overrun the planet, wreaking massive, mysterious changes and threatening to spread out into the solar system.

In the vast wilderness of space, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante have been keeping the peace for the Outer Planets Alliance. When they agree to help a scientist search war-torn Ganymede for a missing child, the future of humanity rests on whether a single ship can prevent an alien invasion that may have already begun . . .

Caliban's War is a breakneck science fiction adventure following the critically acclaimed Leviathan Wakes.

Title: At Last (Lucky Harbor) by Jill Shalvis
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Amy Michaels loves her new life in Lucky Harbor. A waitress in the local diner, she's looking forward to her first weekend hike through the mountains. But when a wrong turn takes her off the trail, she finds herself up close and personal with forest ranger Matt Bowers. And even though she's tempted to kiss that sexy smile right off his face, she won't make the mistake of getting involved with the town heartthrob.

A former cop whose life went south, Matt doesn't let anyone get too close. But something about the feisty beauty caught his eye the moment he first saw her in the diner. After a hot night under a starry sky, Matt can't deny their attraction-or the fact that for the first time in a long time, he feels the stirrings of something more. Now it's up to Matt to help Amy see that, no matter what is in their past, together they can build a future in Lucky Harbor.

I enjoyed Scalzi's work at the beginning of the year and frankly Redshirts just looks fun! Also, I read Dark and Stormy Knights edited by P.N. Elrod in 2010 and it turned out to be pretty solid, so there's an anthology I don't want to miss.

Do you know what's interesting besides the fact that the rest these books are releasing on the same date? Chase, Hoyt, Lofty, Corey, and Shalvis wrote some of my favorite books last year and most were from these same series. It is going to be tough choosing which book to read first. It looks like my end-of-month reading schedule will be busy, busy, busy. :)

What about you? What books are you looking forward to reading in June?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

New Releases: May 2012 + A Peek Ahead

April has been a good month for new releases, at least there were books that interested me, but May is looking excellent on that front too. There are new releases from quite a few of the different genres that I enjoy reading regularly.

Here are a few of them:

A couple of notes before I proceed: On a different post, I highlighted The Promise by Mary Balogh. This book releases on May 1, 2012 and I'm obviously looking forward to reading it! Check out the summary here.

Also releasing on May 15, 2012 is The Heart's History by Lewis DeSimone. I already read and reviewed this book, and as it turned out this was a great read! Check out the review here.


The Last Boyfriend (Inn BoonsBoro #2) by Nora Roberts
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Owen is the organizer of the Montgomery clan, running the family’s construction business with an iron fist—and an even less flexible spreadsheet. And though his brothers bust on his compulsive list-making, the Inn BoonsBoro is about to open right on schedule. The only thing Owen didn’t plan for was Avery McTavish...

Avery’s popular pizza place is right across the street from the inn, giving her a first-hand look at its amazing renovation—and a newfound appreciation for Owen. Since he was her first boyfriend when they were kids, Owen has never been far from Avery’s thoughts. But the attraction she’s feeling for him now is far from innocent.

As Avery and Owen cautiously take their relationship to another level, the opening of the inn gives the whole town of Boonsboro a reason to celebrate. But Owen’s hard work has only begun. Getting Avery to let down her guard is going to take longer than he expected—and so will getting her to realize that her first boyfriend is going to be her last…
The first book of this series wasn't an absolute winner for me, but this is a romance by Nora Roberts and there's no way I'm not reading the second book in this contemporary romance series. I always have high hopes. Besides, I just read and loved The Witness, so why not? 

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
Release Date: May 8, 2012
From Lovecraft to Borges to Gaiman, a century of intrepid literary experimentation has created a corpus of dark and strange stories that transcend all known genre boundaries. Together these stories form The Weird, and its practitioners include some of the greatest names in twentieth and twenty-first century literature.

Exotic and esoteric, The Weird plunges you into dark domains and brings you face to face with surreal monstrosities. You won’t find any elves or wizards here...but you will find the biggest, boldest, and downright most peculiar stories from the last hundred years bound together in the biggest Weird collection ever assembled.

The Weird features 110 stories by an all-star cast, from literary legends to international bestsellers to Booker Prize winners: including William Gibson, George R. R. Martin, Stephen King, Angela Carter, Kelly Link, Franz Kafka, China Miéville, Clive Barker, Haruki Murakami, M. R. James, Neil Gaiman, Mervyn Peake, and Michael Chabon.
Do I have to say anything about wanting to read this book? I love anything that has to do with the weird, and just look at that list of authors! So, what else is there to say? This is a must read for me. :D

Railsea by China Miéville
Release Date: May 15, 2012
On board the moletrain Medes, Sham Yes ap Soorap watches in awe as he witnesses his first moldywarpe hunt: the giant mole bursting from the earth, the harpoonists targeting their prey, the battle resulting in one’s death and the other’s glory. But no matter how spectacular it is, Sham can't shake the sense that there is more to life than traveling the endless rails of the railsea–even if his captain can think only of the hunt for the ivory-coloured mole she’s been chasing since it took her arm all those years ago. When they come across a wrecked train, at first it's a welcome distraction. But what Sham finds in the derelict—a series of pictures hinting at something, somewhere, that should be impossible—leads to considerably more than he'd bargained for. Soon he's hunted on all sides, by pirates, trainsfolk, monsters and salvage-scrabblers. And it might not be just Sham's life that's about to change. It could be the whole of the rail sea.
Talking about the "weird," China Miéville excels at it. He has become a favorite writer after reading only a couple of his books (I still have a few of his earlier works in my TBR).  The thing about this author is that both of the books I've read managed to make it to my "best of" lists, so why would I not pick up his latest release? This story sounds like an earthbound Moby Dick, Miéville style. Let's see what weird, fantastic characters this author creates in this story. I can't wait to find out. :D


Silver Moon by Catherine Lundoff
Release Date: May 20, 2012
Becca Thornton, divorced, middle-aged, and barely out of the closet, discovers that life can still hold some strange surprises, when she discovers that her body is changing; menopause turns her into a werewolf. Apparently she is not the only one, as a number of women in her town of Wolf's Point seem to have had the same experience. As the newest member of the pack, Becca learns her nights are not spent only protecting the town and running through the woods howling at the moon. There are werewolf hunters in town and they've got Becca in their sights.
This is Lundoff's first novel, however she has won various awards for her short stories, including the 2010 Gaylactic Spectrum Award Best Other Work. She's also the editor of various lesbian anthologies. I've never read Ms. Lundoff's work, but the blurb for this book had me at "menopause turns her into a werewolf." LOL! After reading that line, I KNEW this book was going on my list. Ohhh, I just need to know how the author handles this premise. [grin]


A Night Like This (Smythe-Smith #2) by Julia Quinn
Release Date: May 29, 2012
Anne Wynter might not be who she says she is . . .

But she's managing quite well as a governess to three highborn young ladies. Her job can be a challenge—in a single week she finds herself hiding in a closet full of tubas, playing an evil queen in a play that might be a tragedy (or might be a comedy—no one is sure), and tending to the wounds of the oh-so-dashing Earl of Winstead. After years of dodging unwanted advances, he's the first man who has truly tempted her, and it's getting harder and harder to remind herself that a governess has no business flirting with a nobleman.

Daniel Smythe-Smith Might be in mortal danger . . .

But that's not going to stop the young earl from falling in love. And when he spies a mysterious woman at his family's annual musicale, he vows to pursue her, even if that means spending his days with a ten-year-old who thinks she's a unicorn. But Daniel has an enemy, one who has vowed to see him dead. And when Anne is thrown into peril, he will stop at nothing to ensure their happy ending . . .
I read but never reviewed the first book in this series although I enjoyed it. Actually I just noticed that I've never reviewed any of the books that I've read by Julia Quinn. I need to remedy that! I'm not missing this book. I love the infamous Smythe-Smith ladies. They're a hoot!


Here is a look ahead to some future releases I can't wait to read from favorite authors:

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi - Release Date: June 5, 2012
Scandal Wears Satin (Dressmakers #2) by Loretta Chase - Release Date: June 26, 2012
You Will Meet A Stranger Far From Home by Alex Jeffers - Release Date: July 14, 2012

Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews - Release Date: July 31, 2012
Captain Harding and His Men by Elliott Mackle - Release Date: August 1, 2012
Green Thumb by Tom Cardamone - Release Date: August 2, 2012


There you are, some of the books I can't wait to read! As always I tried to include a little bit of this and a little bit of that since so many different genres and sub-genres interest me. In this case I only highlighted one contemporary romance, so now I'm asking you... what contemporary books are you looking forward to reading in May? What about the other genres, anything that caught your eye?

Friday, April 13, 2012

This n' That: Recs, A Bargain, Reads + Updates!

Hey how's everyone this Friday? Ready for the weekend? It's a gorgeous spring day, and guess what? It's baseball time! Yankees are holding their game opener today at Yankee Stadium against the Angels. I know you all don't want to hear it, but... Go Yanks! LOL!

I guess this is the perfect time to again recommend one of my favorite fiction books with a baseball theme: Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger! Have you read it? No? Well, even if you don't love baseball, you'll love this book because I dare you not to fall in love with the wonderful characters and the excellent story. (review here)


So what else do I have for you today? Heads up people! Special subscription offer for ICARUS: The Magazine of Gay Speculative Fiction. Lethe Press has a bargain going on today only for those of you who love great writing and/or would like to give gay speculative fiction a shot. I mentioned back in October that I love ICARUS magazine, so you know that I took advantage of this bargain. Check it out here.


And shifting from speculative fiction to science fiction, did you know already that both Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey, AND Embassytown by China Miéville made the list of finalists for the HUGO Awards? Yeap, they did!

Also in case you don't know this yet, Seanan McGuire also made it to the list of Hugo finalists under the Best Related Works Category with "Wicked Girls." And, since I featured John Scalzi during my month-long Science Fiction Experience reading binge, I'd like to mention that he also made it as a finalist under the Best Short Story Category with "The Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book 1: The Dead City." Good stuff!

I have books by all these authors on my 2012 Wish List or TBR:

Railsea by China Miéville (May 15, 2012)
Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi (June 5, 2012)
Caliban's War (Expanse #2) by James S.A. Corey (June 26, 2012)
Rosemary & Rue (October Daye Books) by Seanan McGuire - backlist title


Last but not least, I'm reading again! Yay! I've finished some good books, some of which I've already reviewed: The Duke's Perfect Wife by Jennifer Ashley, The Rake by Mary Jo Putney, Split by Mel Bossa, Private Eye by S.E. Culpepper and a couple of other books that I haven't reviewed yet: Just Down The Road by Jodi Thomas, and About That Night by Julie James.

Right now I'm reading a book I just received for review and that looks to be a great read, The Heart's History by Lewis DeSimone.


That's my news today! Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Overview: Old Man's War Series by John Scalzi (Old Man's War #1, The Ghost Brigades #2)

John Scalzi's first novel Old Man's War was first published in 2005 and made it as Hugo Award Finalist in 2006. The sequels followed in order, The Ghost Brigades in 2006, The Last Colony in 2007, and Zoe's Tale in 2008. There are also two novellas set in the same world, The Sagan Diary (written before The Last Colony) and After the Coup.

Old Man's War - First Edition Cover

In Scalzi's world humans finally figured out interstellar space travel and have moved on to colonize other planets. The problem is that humans are in competition with a vast amount of hostile alien races for the same pieces of real estate (planets), and war and conflict are constant and inevitable as there are only a limited amount of planets that are livable. Negotiations are limited to land-grabbing by way of war as they race through the known universe expanding and colonizing. Humans are represented by the powerful and controlling Colonial Union (CU) and the Colonial Defence Force (CDF) is out there to help protect human colonies.

Colonial Defence Force: The CU recruits their CDF soldiers from planet Earth. These old men and women have accumulated a lifetime of knowledge and skills that saves the CDF time while training. The idea also is that the life-time experiences will help these future soldiers make the correct decisions while in battle, and having had an emotional connection with family and loved ones throughout their first lifetime, these soldiers will stay sympathetic to the human cause throughout the upcoming years of war and death. Plus, these old people have nothing else to look forward to but the pain of old age and death -- they make perfect recruits. They are offered a future as soldiers by way of a two to ten year contract, and once finished with their service, if they survive the wars, a new life in a colonized planet.

Special Forces: The CDF also has their own Special Forces. These soldiers are not recruited. Special Forces or Ghost Brigade soldiers are made from the DNA of dead humans and different alien races, and using the BrainPal technology (see below) they are given a consciousness which allows them to function as humans -- albeit with super-human capabilities -- but with the specific purpose of being a soldier. However, they are not readily accepted by other humans and as a result they keep to themselves. They are the Frankenstein monsters of the CU.

Space Travel and Technology: To travel through space, humans use the Skip Drive. Scalzi goes into detail about the extent of what humans know about this technology, as well as its limitations. Besides the Skip Drive, there are other key technological advances that humans developed and saved their attempts at colonization. The two most important are the ability to successfully grow an engineered matured human body in a matter of months, and the ability to transfer consciousness from one body to another as long as the two brains are identical. These two developments combined allowed humans to successfully "produce" super soldiers (CDF and Special Forces) that could then do battle against hostile alien forces.

The two other key technological developments are the BrainPal and nanotechnology. The BrainPal is an neuroimplant that allows CDF and Special Forces soldiers to send information directly to each other -- from one BrainPal to another -- as well as to download information instantly as needed, i.e., translating alien languages, etc. The soldiers are not only able to communicate with each other through the BrainPal, they can also see through each other's eyes, and even feel each other's emotions. Nanotechnology is used everywhere. As examples: Nanobots are used to make the soldiers unitards and used like armor, the soldiers' blood (SmartBlood) is composed of nanobots, the soldiers' bodies self-heal and re-grow lost limbs, and even their weapon (MP-35) can self-repair.

Alien Races: There are many alien races introduced by Scalzi throughout the story. However, there are only a few that are slightly developed -- none with real depth: the Consu, Rraey, and the Obin. The Consu are the most advanced and complex race in the known universe and although they do battle with humans, their motivations remain a mystery. The Rraey are cannibalistic, acquisitive and aggressive but less techno-savvy than humans and the Obin are technologically advanced, but possess no consciousness or awareness. All three are at war with humanity as are the rest of the aliens in this series.

Old Man's War (Book #1)

In his first novel, Old Man's War, Scalzi begins by introducing his main character, John Perry and setting up the world building. When John Perry and his wife Kathy were 65 years old they signed a letter of intent to join the CDF, however his wife died and on his 75th birthday Perry visits his wife's grave and then goes on to join the army. Perry figures the odds are not so bad, if he's going to die anyway, he might as well die young and doing something worthwhile.

I liked the premise. The first part of the book is the best in my opinion. This is where Scalzi introduces the main character John Perry, the cast of secondary characters that later on become important to him throughout this story, and where you'll find the first blocks for the world building. I loved John Perry's sense of wonder and naivete as he and his new friends take a leap of faith and go on to an unknown future. The sense of freedom and vitality that seems to overcome the geriatric volunteers, combined with excitement and fear as an unknown future looms ahead of them, is intoxicating to them and makes the reader want to know what lies ahead.

The second section of the book is where I began to have problems with the story. After Perry undergoes his transformation, he begins the all important military training and eventually goes on to war. The military training section is brief, lacking in in-depth detail, and I thought it at best quite sketchy. As the action and the story continues, and there is plenty of action, I became torn. It is a fast paced story, with a nice flow and a central character whose actions we follow from beginning to end, but it just seemed to me that although there are plenty of details at the beginning of the book: the skip drive, nano technology, etc., when it comes to developing alien hostile races and secondary characters, true depth is sacrificed to both the action and pace.

I enjoy military science fiction, and that's exactly what Old Men's War is. Of course there's also the moral ambiguity as a central theme. Scalzi doesn't over-philosophize in Old Men's War though, he has an easy-peasy, flowing writing style that is quite reader friendly, and in this first book he gets his point across without beating the drums to a pulp. 

The Ghost Brigades (Book #2)

The Ghost Brigades is the second book in the Old Man's War series, and although it's set in the same world, very few characters from the first book make an appearance. This story focuses on the Special Forces soldiers and how they are "produced," how they function and how they feel about their roles as soldiers.

Jared Dirac is made, not born. The difference between him and other Special Forces soldiers is that he is a superhuman hybrid made out of the dead scientist Charles Boutin's DNA and consciousness. The scientist was a traitor to humanity who gave away key information to three hostile alien races who are now allied and planning to attack the Colonial Union. Jared is an experiment and if that experiment works then Boutin's motivations for betraying the Colonial Union will be known; if the experiment doesn't work, then this superhuman hybrid will be given to Special Forces as a soldier. There's no loss for the CDF, right?

The Ghost Brigades begins with plenty of moral ambiguity as you can see by my summary. It actually goes on to become even more so as the story moves along. The experiment doesn't really take at first and Jared Dirac is relegated to Special Forces. The reader goes through the whole process of experiencing life and events for the first time with Jared. That's the focus of the story, Jared's experiences, his loses and where they eventually take him as a "person" and a soldier. The consequences of the experiment and who pays the final price.  The question of the individual's rights, choices, and consciousness are all touched upon in the Ghost Brigades. Scalzi gives most of his focus to this subject.

Don't misunderstand me, there's plenty of action in The Ghost Brigades, and as in Old Man's War you'll find battles, war and carnage. Under Jane Sagan's command (Old Man's War), he experiences both loss and pain and eventually Boutin's memories begin to surface. As they battle the aliens to break the alliance, and Jared fights his and someone else's emotions and memories, finding the answer to whose consciousness makes the person becomes the key to this puzzle.

Scalzi has that flowing style that makes a long book go in a flash. My biggest problem with this particular story was the lack of connection I felt with most of the characters, and again the lack of depth and certain background detail that well... just left me wanting more. Plus, the fact that the action, Jared's character development, and the mystery are not woven well, instead they are separated into sections.

The 2012 Science
Fiction Experience
Conclusion: I'm not going to make any specific comparisons as I'm sure those have been done to death by now, but I do have to mention that although Old Man's War is very much Scalzi's, it is also obvious that it's a tribute to Heinlein (Starship Troopers) and Haldeman (The Forever War). This month I actually read the first three novels, including The Last Colony, plus The Sagan Diary and After the Coup, but decided to just focus this post on the first two books.

The first two books in this series are the best ones in my opinion. Although I'm sure for hardcore science fiction readers out there these stories don't sound fresh, Scalzi's style certainly made me appreciate them as such. That first section of Old Man's War is an absolute winner. I loved his take on the Skip Drive and how that works, as well as his attempts at explaining how consciousness can be transferred onto an engineered body. I loved that the soldiers are green and there are plenty of battles and fights to go around. Plus I certainly enjoyed Scalzi's flowing and fast paced writing style.

Unfortunately, there's also those other details such as characterization and developing background stories that were left hanging that I missed. A missed opportunity in my opinion are the hostile alien races which are pretty much two dimensional and left unexplored for the most part throughout the series. Characters also came to what seemed to be deep realizations throughout the course of events and then dismissed those conclusions without a second thought -- I didn't get that. And although Scalzi gives John Perry a strong female love interest, and follows through on that relationship in The Last Colony, I found the dialogue and interactions between those two wooden and lacking emotion.

Finally, overall this was a fun series even with its weaknesses. I loved the space opera military battles, the gruesome deaths, (one inch aliens, really? really?) and the sense of wonder that humans experience when out in space for the first time, mixed with all the rest of the techo-babble... it was a wonderful adventure.