Review of John Scalzi’s “Old Man’s War” Series

I had the pleasure of reading five related stories by John Scazi recently — Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, The Sagan Diary, The Last Colony, and Zoe’s Tale. The series ultimately revolves around Zoe Boutin Perry, and are told from the perspective of her adoptive father (Old Man’s War, The Last Colony), her biological uncle and her adoptive mother (The Ghost Brigades), her adoptive mother alone (The Sagan Diary), and, lastly, by Zoe alone (Zoe’s Tale).


The series brings to mine the Ender series, by Orson Scott Card. This is true because they share similar themes (interspatial warfare against alien species), some of the same rhetorical tricks (like Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow, The Last Colony, and Zoe’s Tale give different perspectives on the same events), and because both series are typically categorized as “young adult science fiction.”

Both the Ender’s series and the Old Man’s War series, however, also contain deep themes that save them from a literary ghetto. The later books in the series focus on questions of morality and war: “How can I ask people I do not even know to die for people I do?,” Zoe asks a friend in Zoe’s Tale. In The Sagan Diary, Zoe’s adoptive mother recalls with the concept the arrest of an enemy who led his colony in a futile, and suicidal, defense against overwhelming odds. In The Last Colony, she and her husband are then given just such a mission. Earlier books dwell on the question of identity. Early in Old Man’s War, Zoe’s adoptive father watches his body die, and the reader begins to learn how advanced genetic engineering has evolved to the extent that special forces (like Zoe’s adoptive mother) that they only physically resemble human beings as part of a design decision.

The Old Man’s War series is well worth reading. Still, different books will appeal to different readers. Two are narrated by males and two are narrated by females, and I suspect that men and women will enjoy those books in different ways. Likewise, the overlap between The Last Colony and Zoe’s Tale is substantial enough that most readers probably will read one or the other, but not both.

The author, John Scalzi, maintains an active blog at John Scalzi discussed his work, The Last Colony, during a 2007 talk about google:

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