Sunday, November 16, 2008

Old Man's War and Starship Troopers


I finished reading “Old Man’s War” by John Scalzi. It was nominated for the Hugo in 2006. (Okay, I don’t believe that all good novels win an award but most that get nominated are good. At least with the various SFF awards. Personal opinion.) The novel is clearly a rewrite of the Heinlein classic, “Starship Troopers”. I have not read the book but have seen the movie so the comparison would be based on that. As far as I know, the movie is pretty faithful to the novel so it ought to be a valid comparison.

To me “Old Man’s War” appeared to be an opposition to “Starship Troopers” which is a pretty conservative, old school, extreme right wing work. The soldiers in Starship Troopers join the military because they want to be ‘citizens’ (at least our hero does) that is, they feel a responsibility towards the ‘nation’. In Old Man’s War, soldiers join the military for personal benefits and quite literally because they have nothing else to do. In Old Man’s War, the military takes people who have turned age 75 and gives them a new and young body to live in. The downside – you have to fight in a war where 75% of the soldiers die within 10 years of enlistment. But obviously many old people make that choice to get another shot at youth.

In Starship Troopers, it is made clear that the soldiers are fighting for their fellows back home. One of the turning points in the story is when the hero’s home town is nuked out by the bugs. That’s when he turns back on his decision to leave the military. In Old Man’s War, soldiers really have no reason for fight for ‘humanity’. Humanity itself is an ill defined term. As becomes clear at various places, the soldiers are fighting first as part of a bargain, and second for their squadmates who are the only friends they have in this new life.

In Starship Troopers, humans apparently have an upper hand in the war. They know what they’re doing. They have a clear idea of their place in the universe. In Old Man’s War, the humans think they know what they’re doing but as it turns out, they’re merely puppets in the hands of a more technologically advanced race.

Overall, I liked the novel.

9 comments:

  1. Re-read Starship troopers. It's not as conservative as you think. Heinlein is no proponent of war. Watch the movie as well. Heinlein is rolling in his grave.
    Old man's War may have similarities to Troopers but it's not a re-write.

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  2. @ Anonymous -- I do find it conservative. Say, compared to 'Ender's Game', for example.

    Yeah, rewrite was probably the wrong word. :)

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  3. I also wouldn't call the movie a faithful adaption of the book. Some events and names were the same. I enjoyed the trilogy of movies, but the first one is hugely different from the book.

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  4. @Anonymous - Yes, that's true. Movie is very different from the book.

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  5. I really believe that the comaparison between old man's war and starship troopers ends at the fact that each of the main characters are 'space marines'.
    Very little of the starship troopers book is about the actual fighting. It is almost like the main character is looking back on his career and thinking about he philosophy of what happened. This review really sums up the movie properly http://blogcritics.org/books/article/heinlein-starship-troopersa-disastrous-film-adaptation/ .

    The comparison can be made to ender's game, however, it would be difficult to say that OMW was even inspired by EG.

    You could go so far as to compare OMW to the Avatar series because the characters change out frail bodies to new ones.

    OMW stands on it's own feet, it's different and original. A truly superb first work from the author. It is also worth a review that doesn't focus on comparison in a negative tone, which is what I read in your blog. This negativity may not be intentional but I wanted to point it out.

    Take care and good luck with your writing in the future.

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  6. You really should read ‘Starship Troopers’ first and then try to compare the book to the movie. You’ll find a whole lot was changed and or rearranged. One of the biggest changes was the recruitment process. When Johnnie goes to see the recruiter the recruiter himself is in a wheel chair. The recruiter is a battle veteran with a missing limb or two who tries to dissuade potential enlistees both with his being in a wheel chair and telling of the horrors of battle. And that is only one major difference. There are tons more.

    I loved ‘Old Man’s War’ as I also loved ‘Starship Troopers’, ‘The Forever War’ and ‘Armor’ all by themselves. As a side note I hated ‘Ender’s Game’.

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  7. The simple fact of the matter is that this story is a classic. Redardless if you want to consider it a re-write. This story has carved itsself a place in the annals af time. and if somebody doesn't make a movie of it soon, I WILL!!!!

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  8. I think you should read starship troopers. The film is very loosely based on the book. Kind of like how Bladerunner is with Do androids dream of electric sheep?

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