John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.
The Colonial Defense Force only accepts new recruits of retirement age, who bring the wisdom of an entire life on Earth to a new mission of defending human colonies from alien races as habitable planets grow scarce. Perry isn’t sure how they expect an old man to fight, but he only has to serve two years at the front until he’s given a generous plot of land on a colony planet to retire. With his wife gone, Perry accepts the deal, and with a few new friends, begins a journey far stranger than he ever imagined.
Similar in structure to Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, the plot follows Perry’s military career as he fights various aliens on alien planets using a genetically enhanced body. It’s funny, violent, and sad, all at different times, and you come out in the end with a unique perspective on war.
This is a quick-paced scifi with excellent and intriguing technology —DNA engineering and nanotechnology, the Beanstalk space elevator, BrainPal neural implants, the MP-35 rifle that interfaces with your BrainPal, not to mention the spaceships and interstellar travel. One of the fantastic advantages of writing a story with old people as the protagonists is the ability to let them all be smart in their respective subjects, so there is room for scientific discussion.
Despite the genetic modifications and enhancements, Perry and his friends still navigate their new lives with a sense of mortality. Because they’ve already lost a lifetime and their former identifies, as a reader you easily empathize with their search for identity, connection to each other, and to a humanity they’ll never see again.
Highly recommended as a character-centric military space opera that avoids major cliches of the scifi genre!
“The problem with aging is not that it’s one damn thing after another—it’s every damn thing, all at once, all the time.”