Ken MacLeod on Old Man’s War
Posted on March 8, 2011 Posted by John Scalzi 20 Comments
Yesterday I did an appreciation of The Name of the Wind over at Tor.com as part of their write-up of the Ten Best SF/F Books of the Decade series; today, the very awesome Ken MacLeod does a write-up of Old Man’s War. It’s really quite interesting, although I am of course not a neutral observer. Come see what he has to say about my book.
Well-written appreciation, as one would expect…
You know why I hate reading people’s descriptions of books I love? It’s because they describe them better than I could. That’s a lovely appreciation of your work, Mr. Scalzi.
“red chunks of meat to the right” …. hmm. Off to re-read, red highlighter in hand.
I have to admit i never looked at your work from this political angle, though.
“The Force is strong with you, Scalzi Wan.”
Solid review. He didn’t heap the praise on it it deserves, but the way I usually get people to read OMW is to hand it to them. I think I’ve purchased it about 7 times. Once for myself, 6 more just to give people no excuse not to pick it up. EVERY SINGLE TIME they read it in one prolonged sitting. I had a friend call into work because he couldn’t put it down.
Sadly, that would not be much of a “review” per se. It’s more of a blind recommendation. So without spoiling a sweet novel, good job, Ken.
Scott, #5 — Yeah, I do that with books, too. Have you had any luck convincing bookstores to give to a discount on the case price?
The comments (so far) are made of win, as well.
Anyone else get “Database Error: Unable to connect to the database:Could not connect to MySQL”? I’m used to 404’s, but this is new to me, and I’m no computer geek. That would be my husband, and he’s not home to tell me what this means.
S.M. Stirling’s admonition about assuming things about the author’s politics from his/her work aside. I thought that John Perry was an Everyman figure and that where politics intruded they were of the usual turf-war, special-interest, career-maneuvering kind as opposed to the partisan kind.
I, too, would be interested in what Mr. McLeod considers “chunks…to the right” and what he means by “liberal tone” (unless, of course, he’s using that in the “classical”, individualist, empirical, secular, civil-libertarian, etc., etc., sense).
And, of course: Congratulations, Mr. Scalzi.
Between your work on SGU, Avatar and the upcoming OMW movie, I’m very much looking forward to your wickedly hliarious satirical novel about Hollywood ;-)
I would consider a “chunk to the right” to include at least the former senator who attempted to make peace with the Whaid in the middle of the Stomp-the-Whaid battle.
I’m probably about as far to the right as anyone who frequents this site, and nothing in Old Man’s War struck me as author intrusive politics one way or the other. He doesn’t even approach Heinlein in that regard. As far as writing a great story, I enjoyed the hell out of Starship Troopers, but I enjoyed Old Man’s War more, and I’m a lot older and a much more critical reader now.
I’ll say that the MacLeod’s review was factual, but not terribly appreciative.
Those who are confused by the words “liberal” and “right” are perhaps unfamiliar with the meanings of them for Europeans.
Those who think Ken was not very appreciative are perhaps unfamiliar with the Scots. God gets less praise than this from Scottish priests.
I’ll note Ken was also one of my earliest supporters; he very graciously gave OMW a blurb when it came out, for which I will always be appreciative.
Just started and finished Old Man’s War over this past weekend. Kudos Scalzi! fantastic book and now I am officially a fan. I went out and picked up the Ghost Brigade. Thanks for the fantastic SF yarns!
Hey, that’s a coincidence. I’m currently reading Ken’s “Newton’s wake”.
I wanted to say congrats on winning Tor’s top SF/F book of the decade. The only other book that I thought on the same level as Old Man’s War was American Gods which I happily saw finish second.
I first read Old Man’s War, on a whim, well over a year after blindly downloading it when Tor.com was giving it away. I normally hate reading at length on a computer screen because I can’t take my desktop computer where I like to read but that opening paragraph grabbed me so hard that Old Man’s War became only one of two novels I have read electronically (Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother being the other). Though, my enjoyment was at least 23% more when I eventually bought the entire series as physical books.
Some of the elements of the book that could be related to current (and I suppose, timeless) political issues that I noted on the first reading were the idea that any government that banned the intent-to-enlist of 65 year olds found themselves navigated around end-wise when the later-75 year olds took a ‘vacation’ they never came back from. Suck it, statists!
I also appreciated the Senator hoisting himself on his own petard, and his portrayal as a more or less self-absorbed buffoon who couldn’t clue in to the fact that he irritated or maybe even repulsed more people than he impressed. That, and his aura of assumption that with a little derring-do he would be running things in no time, as is only right and proper for a person of his ability and stature. Being essentially dissolved by uncountable needlegun kisses is something I wistfully think contemporary politicians should be in danger of, a la the sword of Damocles. I don’t recall whether there were any hints of his authoritarian / allocatory political leanings, but I don’t really care because my leanings pretty much tell me that for the real issues, the hidden issues, our Donkeys and our Elephants are pretty much the same beast, while it’s only the form and fur (.i.e. relatively unimportant parts) that gets people to vote for them. So – this Senator is basically a jackass, and that pretty much applies to anyone willing to become a serious politician, or stick with it, anyway. I would become a politician to tell the government what they can’t do, but I guess at some point for a lot of elected officials that sneakily transitions into telling people what they can’t do. (Can you tell I’m basically a confused Libertarian yet?)
Anyway, as for Old Man’s War – I’m pretty poor, so I have been unable to buy any other books from you, Mr. Scalzi, but I can attest that the first time I read OMW, I did so in a night, and every time I’ve re-read it (and that numbers in the severals!) I’ve done the same thing. Which pisses me off, because I pick it up and then it’s done and I petulantly want more and think it should have been 6 point font single spaced with twice the number of pages. Honestly you could have been paid by the word and included several more planetary campaigns just for the sake of a bigger paycheck and I would have loved that.
The very first batch of books I plan on buying, when able, will include as the first of their number The Ghost Brigades. One of the highest forms of praise I can think of for an artistic/entertainment work, from a free-market perspective, is that it gives the consumer the impression that further works from the same source will be awesome. That’s my impression.
I am actually quite impressed with the poll. A popularity contest picked one of the most intelligent of the fun, feel good blockbusters and awarded the second spot in SF (two and three in the poll were fantasy novels) to arguably one of the most game-changing mind-**** books in SF history. So I would say the survey did as well as you could possibly hope and that is not meant to be a back handed compliment. I was also impressed that McLeod gave a thoughtful, honest and positive review. Tor could have gotten someone to gush over the book or they could have gotten one of those: it’s nice if you like that sort of thing reviews from an artsy-fartsy critic. Instead they got a venerable heavy weight saying he enjoyed the book and exactly why he did without dissolving into platitudes. Well done, Mr. Scalzi. I voted for another book, but OMW was certainly worthy of the win.