Review copy provided by Tor Books.
It’s really hard to review John Scalzi’s books in the Old Man’s War universe at this point, because most people know whether they want them. You pretty much shout, “Hey, there’s a new one of these!” And the people who want them queue up, and the people who don’t wander off.
But in case you’re one of the potential audience and haven’t tried them, what are they, and why do people want them? Well, they’re science fiction in which humans and a bunch of different alien species have done a lot of colonization, and they’re written in a contemporary American everyman voice. Here is the beginning of a passage about the sensory deprivation of being a brain in a jar: “Go ahead and close your eyes. Do it right now. Is it totally dark? I just realized you wouldn’t have read that last question if in fact you’d just closed your eyes when I asked you to. Look, I told you I wasn’t a writer. Let me try this again: Close your eyes for a minute. Then when you’ve opened them up again, ask yourself if it was totally dark when you had them closed.” It goes on for two solid pages after that, in a similar vein, about the difference between not seeing anything with your eyes closed and not seeing anything without eyes to close. If that strikes you as breezy and fun, onward! If it strikes you as annoying, there will be other passages that will probably grate as well.
If what you flagged on was not the prose voice but, wait, brain in a jar? Yep. One of the narrators is a brain in a jar. There are four sections, four related novellas telling the story of a group of humans, Rraey, and other aliens who…shall we say…have a little problem with the available major powers in the galaxy. And some drastic ideas about how to solve it. The diplomacy, and the things going boom, are narrated by different species and sexes who are varying degrees of likely to earworm you with “That’s Amore.”
I wouldn’t recommend starting the series here, as I think it presupposes a fair amount of knowledge about the Colonial Defense Forces, who is in them, and why, but if you’re comfortable with being thrown into the atmosphere not knowing whether you’re going to explode (hey, you take your metaphors, I’ll take mine), go on ahead.
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