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.
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Scalzi was born in California and spent his childhood there, primarily in the Los Angeles suburbs of Covina, Glendora and Claremont. Scalzi went to high school with noted blogger Josh Marshall; both were members of the class of 1987. After his stint at The Webb Schools of California, Scalzi attended The University of Chicago, where he was a classmate of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Auburn. Scalzi's thesis advisor, for a brief time, was Saul Bellow. Scalzi abandoned his course of study with Bellow when he became Student Ombudsman for the University. During his 1989–1990 school year Scalzi was also the editor-in-chief of The Chicago Maroon. After graduating in 1991, Scalzi took a job as the film critic for the Fresno Bee newspaper, eventually also becoming a humor columnist. In 1996 he was hired as the in-house writer and editor at America Online and moved to Sterling, Virginia, with his wife, Kristine Ann Blauser, whom he had married in 1995. He was laid off in 1998, and since then he has been a full-time freelance writer and author. In 2001 Scalzi, his wife, and their daughter, Athena Marie, who was born in 1998, moved to Bradford, Ohio, to be closer to family. On 15 March 2007, Scalzi announced himself as a write-in candidate for president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, citing disagreement with the only ballot-listed candidate's vision for the future of the organization. He was not elected.