One thing that’s been said about John Scalzi’s fiction, starting with the publication of Old Man’s War, is that he doesn’t let the writing get in the way of the story—which people often interpret as “this book may not get caught up in fancy language, but it sure goes spin a good yarn.” I submit to you, however, that this description severely underestimates both the power of Scalzi’s prose, and the extent to which he has calibrated it for precise effect.
If we consider it from a distance, to take in a structural perspective, Old Man’s War might strike some readers as unpromising. From the first chapter, where John Perry checks in to formally enlist in the Colonial Defense Forces, the novel is loaded with scenes in which Perry has something explained to him, alternating with scenes in which Perry has a conversation where he and his friends or comrades try to figure something out, including more than one philosophical discussion. When I put it to you that baldly, it sounds like your worst nightmare of a Golden Age SF novel, right?
Well, stop looking at Old Man’s War from a distance and come on inside.