I'm continuing to work clearing my bookshelves this summer and in the past few days have finished both Dean Koontz's "The Face" and John Scalzi's "Old Man's War."
Let's get Koontz out of the way first. "The Face" is the story of about 72 hours in the life of a man who is the head of security for America's top hollywood star -- aka "The Face". The book opens with Ethan Truman opening the seventh odd "gift" in delivered to the house in the last seven days -- an apple that has been cut in half, its core removed and replaced with a doll's eye, then sewn back together using black thread.
Over the next 72 hours, ex-cop and new head of security Ethan Truman races to uncover a plot directed at his employer. Quite a bit of Koontz's politics are on display in this book, as the criminal mastermind is an anarchist college English professor who embraces deconstructionism as a way to analyze literature and has a dark streak.
Unlike some of the criminals in a few of the more recent Koontz books I've read, this caricature of a leftist professor makes the evil a little less dark and a little more merely disgusting. It's a good read and it should remind you why all those anarchist/anti-globalists who riot at every WTO meeting should simply be shot on sight.
John Scalzi's "Old Man's War" is another class of book altogether. Some have likened it to Robert Heinlein's "Starship Troopers," and as you read it, you can see where Scalzi was obviously influenced by Heinlein. (Heinlein receives a mention in the book's acknowledgements.) The book takes place in a future where the Earth has become a backwater – though those on Earth don’t really realize that fact – and the Colonial Union is a sort of extraterrestrial government largely separate from the various governments of the Earth. This isn’t the post-national unified Earth of Star Trek or so many other science-fiction books.
The book’s opening paragraph is enough to grab you.
I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife’s grave. Then I joined the army.
Protagonist John Perry is like many others from America who eventually go to the stars – old enough to have grandkids and great-grandkids. While the poor from Third World nations are offered the opportunity to colonize the stars at any age, if you’re from the First World, the only way you get off planet is by joining the Colonial Defense Forces – and you’ve got to be 75 years old to do it.
So, why do they join? Because for people whose bodies are breaking down there’s a hope that joining up means a new, healthier life. After all, it must. They’ve got to do something to you to make you into a fighting force. And those on Earth know they have the technology. The CDF built runs and controls the Earth’s only space elevator – and no one else knows how to make one even 200 years after it was first built. The mystery is compounded by the fact that to join up, you legally “die” on Earth – there’s no coming back. If you manage to serve out your term of duty, you can colonize another planet, but it’s a one-way ticket off Earth.
Once I started, the book was nearly impossible to put down.
Even if you’re not a big fan of sci-fi, this is certainly a book worth reading.