Old Man’s War: 15 Years!
Posted on January 1, 2020 Posted by John Scalzi 42 Comments
Fun fact: Today is not only the first day of the ’20s, it is also the 15th anniversary of the release of Old Man’s War, my first published novel and still the one I’m best known for. Five years ago I wrote a ten year retrospective on the novel, the details of which still stand, so if you haven’t read that, I encourage you to check it out. Five years later, I can say the book is still selling just as well as it ever has, in even more languages, and in even more places on this silly globe. This makes me happy.
I’m constantly delighted and amazed at its persistence, and how well it continues to speak to readers after all this time. It was the book that made my career, and I’ll be eternally grateful to it, and to Patrick Nielsen Hayden, the editor who asked to buy it and who remains my editor to this day, and to Tor, who published this book and every subsequent novel of mine, up to and including The Last Emperox, which comes out this April. It’s been a ride.
Also, and again, as I said five years ago today: if you’ve ever read Old Man’s War: Thank you, too. You helped change my life.
(And now to answer the questions that will inevitably be asked: Yes, the book is still in development at Netflix, as a movie, not a series; Yes, everything is coming along nicely there; No, I can’t tell you anything else at the moment; Yes, when I can tell you I will; Yes, there will be at least one more novel in the Old Man’s War series; No, I don’t know when or what it will be about or which characters will be in it. Patience!)
C’mon, John, this is the *INTERNET* we’re talking about here!
I discovered your blog when a friend shared a political post and had not read your books (as sci-fi is not a genre I regularly read). Old Man’s War was the first of your books I read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it and have recommended it to others.
Fun to read the Scalzi Time Machine. Going back a full decade, do you still think that “one of these things is not like the others”? After all, all of those “others” also had their first!
I have not, up to this point, gotten around to reading Old Man’s War. I am correcting that omission this year. Meanwhile, I eagerly await The Last Emperox.
It was certainly the book that put you on my radar and led me to the blog. I even gave it to my wife, thinking that though it was not her usual reading sphere, she would like it. I was right.
I came to Old Man’s War late in my survey Scalzi course. I think the first thing I consumed was Red Shirts, which was sufficiently compelling that I have not left the community since. And, while I’m at it, Agent to the Stars is a brilliant first novel, even if you didn’t publish it first. Your books are great anti-depressants. Live long, and prosper.
I remember that when Old Man’s War came out, I didn’t try it for a while because I was generally annoyed by military fiction at the time. But my friends (and Amazon’s recommendation engine) kept insisting I should try it, and they were right. I said something to that effect when you signed my paperback.
I had the first three in paperback which were loaned to a friend, and the friend moved away. So I recently ordered the six ebooks since I never read the rest and forgot most of the first three. It will be enjoyable while awaiting your next book. Congrats on the anniversary.
I have just recently reread this novel and the sequels. Am looking forward to the next one
Have read some of your recent work and past work It is good but the old man series have and will remain my favorite
My late uncle was a voracious reader. He plowed through at least a book a week. His house was filled to the rafters with books. When he found out I liked to read in my teens, he began to introduce me to his favorites…….Clancy, Coyle, King, Le Carre, and Heinlein. He would go on recommending books to me for the next 30 years, eventually recommending Old Man’s War to me. He would have loved The Collapsing Empire series and Lock In / Head On.
Thank you John for the hours and hours of entertainment. Thank you for writing this post today that made me think of my Uncle, I needed that today.
Old Man’s War hooked me and I’m still hooked. Wondered about something:Characters in OMW series and Lock In / Head On assume bodies, whether meat or metal, as a vehicle for agency and action. I’d love to know why you’ve used this concept in separate story lines.
Are there plans to tweak the story so that the CDF doesnt come across as a rousing endorsement of a “Going Galt” thing? Because the novel makes clear they have tech superior to earth, and they refuse to be regulated by Earth, withdrawing from Earth when governments try to regulate them, always getting their way, and always superior.
Also, the xenophobia/othering of the enemy is on par with the bugs in military propaganda. One race even eats humans and has a celebrity chef show up if i recall correctly. Will that be tweaked at all for the movie?
OMW was my first knowing intro to your writing (I had read Being Poor without giving brainspace to who wrote it) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. One thing I appreciated was that you did a reasonable job of portraying the military, given that you hadn’t been in. Sorry to hear that it’s being developed as a movie rather than a series; I think it would rock as a series but will some many of the delightful bits as a movie.
Yeah, OMW movie sounds good but I’m already fantasy-casting The End Of All Things ;-)
Lupita Nyong’o as Ode Abumwe, Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Hafte Sorvalh…
I’d be interested to know if aging 15 years has in any way changed your perspective on John Perry.
You’ve not read the other books in the series, I take it.
“ Yes, there will be at least one more novel in the Old Man’s War series; No, I don’t know when or what it will be about or which characters will be in it.”
Is this because you have a contract for it? Or because you have several good ideas, but haven’t had one push its way to the forefront of your consciousness yet? Or both? Or other?
Congrats on the 15 year milestone. That edition sits proudly on my shelf with all the other books of yours. Still need to track down a Sub Press edition since I had to pass on that when it originally came out due to finances.
Glad to here about the Netflix adaptation. OMW is one of the SciFi books that my wife and I both enjoyed and still quote. I hope to see a R. Lee Ermey type cast as Ruiz, we loved that guy. We had the pleasure of revisiting the series on Audible during our summer road trip and it still holds up. Excited for one more book.
I saw an interview with Bruce Springsteen a few years ago where he was asked does he ever get tired of playing “Born to Run” at his concerts–he’s been rocking that song for over 40 years now, well over half his life, and he’s no where near being the same person he was in his early 20s with no future other than a guitar that he was when he wrote it. He replied something along the lines of ”Never! How could I ever get tired of the song that broke me out and made me popular? That song is the key to my career and everything I’ve become! I love that song!”
Reading your description I see you feeling the same way about OMW.
Looking forward to another in the old mans war, when my daughter is old enough I look forward to her reading it with me. Ps- her name is Zoe and yes it’s after Zoë Boutin Perry, my biggest fear is she won’t like sci-fi, if that happens I’m doomed Scrooge doomed for all time. Someday I’ll get a copy of Zoe’s Tale signed for her.
OMW is an enjoyable read, but The Ghost Brigades impressed me more because the author did a very daring thing with a major sympathetic character. And it worked.
I found the book extremely enjoyable. I thought, “Here’s a military sci-fi novel with a twist.” Sort of like Forever War. Glad to hear Netflix has taken it up and looking forward to seeing !
Ten years ago, my family went on a Christmas cruise with my in-laws. My youngest was four, so she still needed a nap every day. A friend loaned me OMW, GB and LC to take on the cruise. I read them while sitting in the room during nap time. They were the second best part of the cruise and made me a Scalzi fan. Yes, during OMW I thought, “whep, here’s an engaging redo of Starship Troopers.” Then GB and LC made me completely reevaluate the whole concept of the series.
I am a librarian, and the whole concept of the “Brain Pal” plays a major role in my thinking about a possible Ph.D. dissertation.
Oh my god. 15 years already? Wow. Congratulations.
I remember when it came out. I placed it on my “to read” list, but I must confess to only getting around to reading it last year. Instant classic. One of my reading goals for 2020 is to finish the series.
Bought a first edition (though not first printing) of OMW in August 2005 and have been a fan ever since.
I remember looking around my local library in the sci-fi section many years ago and the blue cover (the one in the picture above) caught my attention so I gave it a shot. Haven’t looked my since.
I meant *back* not *my*. Sorry.
Old Man’s War was my intro to your works. Still my favorite, and I’ve revisited often! Thank you for creating that universe. It’s a pretty cool place to hang out in.
It was I think 13+ years ago, when I just lost my day job at an advertising company and the owner of some website I wrote for told me he was opening a publishing house and asked if I want to try my hand in translation. He sent me the first chapter of OMW, which I recognized – I haven’t read the book but heard of it. My translation test went well, and I got the book. Read it. Got absorbed by it. I did the translation and it jump-started something of a translation career for me – I think I did 10 more books, all in all, before my schedule got too busy to do more.
Initial reaction to the Hebrew edition of the book was enthusiastic, including the Geffen Award given to it, though it was more because of the book than because of my translation. Reaction to my translation of the book noted that above all it’s “readable” – which I have learned to appreciate as a compliment; my ultimate job as a translator was to bring the novel in the clearest manner possible to Hebrew readers while staying true to its original content and style. And I don’t think I had more fun translating any book than I did translating books in the OMW series – because these books are so fun to read.
When I started translating book, a veteran translator warned me to NEVER go back to any book I translated and read it, because it’s only likely to break my heart. I did go back and read my translations of OMW and The Ghost Brigades, though. I think I did a good job, though certain things do sting, and I wish I could have done them differently. I still remember the shock of seeing the post devoted to the Hebrew translation of OMW here, with a splash image of the cover – I never thought that news of the translation will reach the author so fast. I remember hitting myself on the forehead (hard) when, after seeing the post, I realized that I could just email you with questions about parts of the book that left me puzzled (the whole childless Great Uncle Walt thing comes to mind).
Though I did a translation of “The Last Colony”, issues with the rights delay its publication to this very day – I hope it will eventually come out, and that it will use my translation. Regardless, OMW played an important part in my life for several years, and it remains one of the best reading experiences I’ve had in the past two decades.
OMW resides firmly, somewhere on my 5 All Time Favorite Books List, and as I’ve been a voracious reader for over 53 years, that’s a remarkable achievement! My older brother never really had the reading bug, as I did, and so I’d learned decades ago, to just not waste my breath trying to get him to read anything, just because I thought it worthwhile… until OMW came along! I pressured, pestered, proclaimed, pontificated, and all but pled with him to read it, and after I proffered up a spanking new copy, he finally agreed to read it! A week later, he was asking for more. He had to wait along with the rest of us, but he ended up being a huge Scalzi fan, and has read most all of your catalog! If and when you publish another book in the OMW series, I’ll be first in line to buy a copy, and my otherwise idiotic older bro, probably won’t be far behind!
Thank you, John!
LOVED that series which really helped me re-charge my love of the genre! And I was so lucky to find a box set of all 6 that fit my budget at the time!
I did read OMW some years ago and liked it a lot. I read many SF books as a young teenager. In receent decades, my attention span is such that I have trouble sticking with most books to give them a chance. Ditto for other media … if I even look at something, if it doesn’t quickly grab my attentiona and interest .. I move on.
I read OWM for the first time two years ago, I blew there the series in a week (I was on vacation). For me it was an eyeopener for how Sci-Fi didn’t need to be so ‘formal’ in it’s approach. It made me seek out other work by Scalzi and others that were in the same vein.
this is still my favorite book from the last 15 years. Thanks.
A local public library undergoing re-modelling made it possible for me to finally sit down and read OMW. They were encouraging people to check out books for several months and return them at their new location. Last I heard, though, the new library still hadn’t launched even months after I’d returned OMW.
So thanks for the absurdity of fighting really tiny foes and breaking my heart with the fates of several of the Old Farts.
In celebration, I’ll un-archive it from my Nook and re-read. (Then probably the rest of the series as well, while waiting for The Last Emperox
I picked it up when it first came out, as I’d heard some good things about it in passing. Loved it, and have given away quite a few copies to friends. However, I still have the first printing I purchased, and was happy to get it signed by you after the 2010 WootStock show in Minneapolis. It holds up very well in re-reads, even with more knowledge about its universe and subsequent events. Happy bookiversary!
I have mixed feelings about the Netflix project. It will, of course, bring OMW to the attention of many people who haven’t heard of it or have heard of it but can’t or won’t read it.
On the other hand, the audiobook lasts almost 10 hours. Compressing the book into film length will mean skimming over or excluding a fair bit of the plot.
I shall definitely watch it, smug in the certainty that I already experienced and enjoyed the book.
I must admit that I only just recently stumbled on you and your books. A friend recommended Old Man’s War as the best of your books. I just started reading it a couple of days ago and it’s awesome! You’d think the first part of the story where old people are talking would be boring, but I haven’t been able to put it down. Now that I have gotten to where they are no longer old, I’m even more rivetted.
I don’t remember when I first read it (it’s probably been somewhere around ten years would be my guess) and it remains a favorite. I spent most of yesterday in bed reading as I wasn’t feeling too hot so not only was I entertained but my cat approved of her largely immobile human.
Whoops, left out “reading it again.” Need more caffeine.