Old Man’s War and The Slow Regard of Silent Things

I’ve been finishing up books like mad this New Year and I’m happy to report that my resolution to read more is 2015, so far has been a success. Writing has also been a success in the New Year so far, I have gotten some good work done on Harbingers and my wife and I have been plodding away on our original TV Sitcom Pilot Script. More to come on our Pilot Script, we just finished the treatment and are starting to get to the actual writing, but first I want to discuss two awesome books I have recently had the pleasure of reading. Just a heads up there will be spoilers for Old Man’s War and The Slow Regard of Silent Things, so stop now or forever hold your peace.

Old Man’s War is a book that I have had for a while, I won it from the tor.com best sci-fi/fantasy novels of the 2000’s contest, and randomly decided to bring down to Boise with me for Christmas. It’s not a very big book and for that I’m thankful because I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it. Old Man’s War is John Scalzi’s debut novel and if my own debut novel is even a tenth as good as Old Man’s War I will consider it a success. This book was pretty much a space opera, but for the first quarter or so of the book we don’t really have any idea what is about to happen and I think that is one of the reasons it works so well. I also really enjoyed it because it dealt with being in the military in the future and in space and being an Air Force Vet myself this was also fun to see how my imaginings stacked up against Scalzi’s.

John Perry is the main character of the book, at the age of 65 humans on Earth can sign up for the Colonial Defense Force or CDF, because of course Acronyms for everything that’s totally how the military rolls, and he and his wife do so when they are given the opportunity. The population of Earth knows that there is a wider Universe and that aliens in it do not particularly like humanity, but no one seems to know exactly what the deal is with the CDF and why their age limit to join is 75. John just recently turned 75 and since his wife has passed he decides to follow through on his commitment and he joins the ranks of the CDF, knowing that he will never return to Earth. Everyone is under the impression that the CDF has some magic technology that will reverse aging or something similar but when they finally learn the truth I actually thought it was more crazy and awesome than I or the old humans in the book imagined.

The deal is simply this, your consciousness is transferred to a modified younger superhuman version of yourself, that is green, and you go out and fight the Universe in the name of humanity and the CDF. If you last the 10 years required of your contract you are given a new young non-modified version of your body and a nice place on some far away planet to spend the rest of your days. Most of the recruits will die however and we see most of the people John meets along the way find this fate, but John is able to survive, thrive, and make some crazy discoveries along the way. The military training scenes were some of my favorite because they really reminded me of how things went down in Basic in the Air Force.

John heads out as a grunt into the Universe, fighting a lot of crazy Alien species, like tiny versions of humans called Covandu, that they stomp on and are easy to defeat in a ground attack but nearly impossible in space. There are also the dastardly Wraey who have a taste for human flesh and have discovered a way to detect ships entering the system, even though their technology is not to that capability yet. In fighting the Wraey on a distant planet called Coral John runs across his wife, but as it turns out it is just his wife’s shell and her body is now in use by a Special Forces member named Jane Sagan. It seems that when human’s sign on the dotted line, giving DNA during the signup, if they don’t make it and join the CDF when they turn 75 their DNA are still used to make enhanced bodies for Special Forces to inhibit. This was a very interesting aspect of the story because these Special Forces are human it seems, but they were only “born” when the CDF created them and gave them consciousness (not from 75 year old humans). They have only known life in the Special Forces and to me it would be pretty damn weird to gain consciousness without having to grow up and have a childhood first. They are very good at their job though and John is able to help them win the battle of Coral and make his way into the ranks of Officer.

I can’t recommend Old Man’s War enough to anyone out there that has not yet read it, there are six books total in the series and I look forward to devouring each of them in turn very soon. Up next is the Amazing Patrick Rothfuss and his quirky novella that takes us back to the world of 4 corners and gives us an inside look at the mysterious Auri.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things

In retrospect I wish I had soldiered through and made it to Seattle for the Rothfuss book tour and reading where I had a signed copy waiting for me. But alas I didn’t make it but was able to quickly snatch up a copy of his new novella The Slow Regard of Silent Things. It was a weird read, I have honestly never read quite anything like it before, but this is a good thing not a bad one. Auri is such a strange and mysterious character in the Kingkiller Chronicles. She lives under the school in an old abandoned section of it called the Underthing. She is odd, flighty, solitary, picky, and a character that I honestly didn’t necessarily want to know more about. But I’m not sad that I do.

Although The Slow Regard of Silent Things doesn’t delve into what made Auri the way she is, it does give a sneak peek into her day to day life. Holy hell is it a weird life. Auri seems to be a Namer, as we see from her finding things and areas and dubbing them as she sees fit, and she knows Alchemy as we see from her expositions into soap making. Kvothe always wondered how Auri got around in the Underthing, because ya know its underground and freaking pitch black, and we quickly learn about a little ball of glowing light named Foxen. Foxen is one of many collectibles that Auri has created or found, were not quite sure, though I suspect she made Foxen. The entire novella centers on the fact that Auri knows that Kvothe is coming to visit her and she must get three presents ready for his arrival. My main complaint with the novella was that it ended before we got to see the exchange between Kvothe and Auri. I do suspect that since one of his presents was a bed and a place to stay if he needed, that our hero will be using it as a refuge in the third book. The details of her day to day existence again are very strange but also strangely interesting. She is so much of a different character than any that have met in the Kingkiller Chronicles so far. There are probably a half dozen or so other characters I want to know more about but I’ll take anything Rothfuss wants to give me.

If you are new to the world of 4 Corners and Patrick Rothfuss then I, and even the author himself in the introduction, would not recommend you start with this book. I’m glad I read his books twice before I picked up The Slow Regard of Silent Things, I even look forward to my next re-read when I can make more sense of the areas of the Underthing that Kvothe searches for the secret entrance to the Stacks. This novella would be awfully confusing if you are not familiar with his work. But everyone should check out The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear anyways so go out and pick them up, give them a read (or two), and then settle down with The Slow Regard of Silent Things, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Up next I have a blog post coming, hopefully by the end of the week, on Odds On by Michael Crichton written under his pseudonym John Lange. That’s right I’m back in the Michael Crichton Experience after a small break and I really enjoyed this crime novel and I’m looking forward to more. Any Crichton book that I haven’t read before is always good times.