Imagine if mankind finally made it into interstellar space and found a few livable planets and lots of nasty aliens competing for them. Then imagine a Colonial Defense Force that exists to protect those colonies (the Colonial Union) while keeping Earth itself a backwater. The CDF commands most of humanity resources and the latest technologies and they only recruit people at the age of 75. With the promise of new health and vigor, many retirement age seniors join up and bring their years of knowledge and experience with them. The catch is they can never return to Earth again but will become colonists when their term of duty is over.
John Perry is one of them. With his beloved wife Kathy dead for eight years, he bids farewell to his son and family and rides the “beanstalk” (space elevator) to the Colonial space station. He bonds with a few fellow incipient warriors and they dub themselves the “Old Farts.” Extensive physical, psychological and emotional testing takes place once they transfer to their training vessel the Henry Hudson. 20,000 sensors are implanted in their skulls to map their brain activity. I will keep mute on the nature of their final transformation. I don’t want to spoil the surprise.
John and the other Old Farts are dispersed to different stations to undergo the equivalent of boot camp where John unexpectedly makes Platoon Leader under the feared M. Sgt. Ruiz. From there they spread out across the galaxy. The fights are bloody, the aliens are spectacularly vicious and John’s innate curiosity and intelligence stand him in good stead as he advances through the ranks. A surprising encounter leads him into more dangerous situations.
I really enjoyed this book. I’ve liked other books by Scalzi and he has several more set in the same universe so I will look them up. I must confess I would look forward to a similar experience after the next ten years. If you like military sci-fi, or sci-fi in general or just like the idea of old people kicking A** I think you will like this book.