Episode 16: Old Man’s War and Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

Download Episode 16

In This Episode

The Book Evangelists discuss Old Man’s War and Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi.

Morning Chatter

Marian is reviewing possible cover designs for her forthcoming book! February 2021. She’s reading many many books about hygge and evaluating everything around her for its hygge qualities. Hygge is a quality of coziness and contentment, from merriam-webster.com.

Lissa is thinking about possibilities for her recent Leadership Coach Intensive for fiction writing. She’s reading The Monsters Know What They’re Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters by Keith Ammann which is informing her fiction writing character development, as well as improving her ability to roleplay a half dozen kobolds simultaneously while gaming with her kids.

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

The description of Old Man’s War by John Scalzi from goodreads.com

Book cover of Old Man's War by John Scalzi

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.

The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce– and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity’s resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You’ll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You’ll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you’ll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.

John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine–and what he will become is far stranger. 

Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

The description of Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi from goodreads.com

The space-faring Yherajk have come to Earth to meet us and to begin humanity’s first interstellar friendship. There’s just one problem: They’re hideously ugly and they smell like rotting fish. So getting humanity’s trust is a challenge. The Yherajk need someone who can help them close the deal. Enter Thomas Stein, who knows something about closing deals. He’s one of Hollywood’s hottest young agents. But although Stein may have just concluded the biggest deal of his career, it’s quite another thing to negotiate for an entire alien race. To earn his percentage this time, he’s going to need all the smarts, skills, and wits he can muster. 


Old Man’s War was Marian’s first John Scalzi book. The Goodreads blurb is the setup for the story, but it can’t tell you more without ruining it.

  • Would you sign up and leave earth forever?
  • What makes us who we are? Bodies? Feelings? Experiences? Memories? Relationships?
    Everything else we talked about was spoilers!
  • What does sci fi let us talk about, themes or situations, that contemporary fiction doesn’t let us talk about quite as easily or with as much page-turning entertaining fun?
  • Agent to the Stars was Scalzi’s “practice book”. Do you think practice books are a thing? 
  • Is Agent to the Stars like other books he has written or is Old Man’s War more typical?
  • What are the big themes in John Scalzi books? How does he put several big societal themes and puts them in popular genre science fiction and make it so fun but leave you thinking?
  • What John Scalzi books are the best? (All of them.)
  • How does John Scalzi present himself on twitter or his blog versus his fiction?

NaNoWriMo 2020

As we move into #nanoprep season, we start thinking about our potential November projects, reflect on how different and also the same all-virtual NaNoWriMo could be, and look forward to #instawrimo beginning on Instagram in September 2020.

Coming Up

Next episode: Marian and Lissa attempt to “Hate Read” A Moveable Feast (the 2009 edition) by Ernest Hemingway, which is to take pleasure in laughing at or criticizing  according to merriam-webster.com. We will read and discuss Hemingway’s life in Paris in the 1920s, discussing him personally and also learn from his writing. We remain somewhat open to being wrong about choosing this book for hate-reading, but we look forward to this experiment in how to hate-read and why you should try it.

Our Show Notes include mentions and recommendations, all linked for your convenience. What else would you like to see here? 

Music Credit: The music used during transitions in our podcast is adapted from: Jazzy Sax, Guitar, and Organ at the club by Admiral Bob (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/admiralbob77/58382 Ft: geoffpeters

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