Last night I had my first John Scalzi dream, borrowing from Lock In, Redshirts, and Old Man’s War. My consciousness has just been downloaded into a body, and I am standing on a cliff overlooking a harbor. There’s another person sitting in a machine gun nest in front of me telling me that “he” is on the boat just docking (I’ve also been watching Shetland, so we’re all speaking with Scottish accents and the landscape is bleak and beautiful). Because I am a John Scalzi hero, I am initially baffled, so I start asking questions. I quickly pick up that my eyes can zoom in on the boat and I can see individual faces. The target is John Scalzi. The gunner is enraged because Scalzi has written him to become a monsterous killing machine and written horrific deaths for all of his friends. He starts firing. I can see Scalzi running and ducking the bullets. I know three things:
- the gunner is justified in his rage,
- Scalzi is not a bad person,
- I can fix this by coming up with a solution that only I can come up with.
My memory of the dream ends there.
I really enjoyed Old Man’s War. It was clever and engaging. What my dream illuminated for me was that Scalzi’s heroes are Mary Sues and no one cares because they are male. Scalzi builds interesting and complex worlds, but only tells the reader what they need to know. Scalzi is no George R. R. Martin. My biggest complaint with Scalzi is that by making his main character a Mary Sue, he avoids a lot of complexity in his characters. And yes, I realize that this was his first published novel, but it’s also true in the later works I have read.
There are a couple of things that happen in Old Man’s War that you absolutely should not know before you read the book. It’s better if you learn them when John Perry learns them. Because you should go into this spoiler free, there is so much I can’t talk about. I will say that Jane Sagan is my favorite character in the book. She is the character allowed the most depth and complexity.
Old Man’s War is the beginning of a series. I don’t know about the rest of the series, but Old Man’s War would make a great premium channel series – Starship Trropers meets The Expendables. I would watch it. Probably.