Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
Old Man’s Warシリーズ1冊め、邦題は「老人と宇宙（そら）」。75歳以上の老人で構成される地球防衛軍、と聞いて思い浮かんだのは、湿布の匂い。食事も誤嚥防止のため、きざみ＆とろみ食で、膝が痛くて走れない人多数なのでは…と設定を読んで想像してしまったのだが、実際は遺伝子改変により75歳の知恵と20歳の身体を手に入れた超人部隊。地球から他の惑星に移り住んだ人々をエイリアンから守る任務につく。軍隊に志願出来るのは75歳の時のみ。どうやって若返るのか、どんな戦いが待ち受けているのかは事前に知ることは出来ない。一度老人部隊に志願して地球を出てしまうと、10年の兵役を終えたあとも二度と地球には戻れないのだ。
I once read “Ender’s Game”, and found the idea of an army that consists of 6-year-old elite cadets quite intriguing. The Old Man’s War, however, recruits 75-year-olds for the Colonial Defense Force (CDF). Sometime in the future, the human race emigrates to the other planets, and the colonists have to defend their new lands against aliens.
The enrollment is one time only, and to satisfy the criteria, they must be a resident of the earth and 75 years old. Why do people sign up for the army at the age of 75? Because CDF offers them a chance to be young again in exchange for two years of military service that can be extended to ten. The decision is theirs—to die old, probably within 10 years, or to take whatever chances of surviving and live a new life again. Once they enrol, they can never return to the earth, and they will be assigned to one of the colonies to settle in after the military service. Little is known by the general public as to how the CDF rejuvenates old people, and what their chances are of winning against aliens. Since no veterans return to the earth, there is no information about the “new life”.
Many 75-year-olds decide to go for it every year, and John Perry is one of them. He lost his wife several years back, and his only son seems to live his life fully with his own family. On his 75th birthday, he visited his wife’s grave, and went to the recruiting office. There is nothing left for him in this life, and that seems to explain the concept of a 75-year-olds’ army.
What makes this book interesting is that each of the new recruits has their whole life experience in their 20-year-old body. They had their lives as a writer, senator, philosophy professor, and kindergarten teacher, and their experiences affect how they behave as young people. The typical 20-year-old soldier might be reckless due to inexperience, but a CDF soldier with his/her young genetically-modified body and old mind is invincible.
I won’t spoil the storyline after this, but I would like to pick up one episode in particular—the fact that one of the alien species loves to make soup stock with a human’s cervical bones creeps me out. I would think twice before I would jump into the wonderful opportunity to become young again. Is it a risk worth taking? I will not know for sure until I experience what it is like to be 75 years old.
YL 7 （概算）