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Old Man's War #2.5

The Sagan Diary

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Fans of John Scalzi's "Old Man" universe, prepare yourselves: there's a long new story in that universe, told from the point of view of one of the series' most intriguing characters. Subterranean Press is proud to publish The Sagan Diary, a long novelette that for the first time looks at the worlds of the Hugo-nominated Old Man's War and its sequel The Ghost Brigades from the point of view of Lieutenant Jane Sagan, who in a series of diary entries gives her views on some of the events included in the series... and sheds new light into some previously unexplored corners. If you thought you knew Jane Sagan before, prepare to be surprised.

100 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2007

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About the author

John Scalzi

154 books22.6k followers
John Scalzi, having declared his absolute boredom with biographies, disappeared in a puff of glitter and lilac scent.

(If you want to contact John, using the mail function here is a really bad way to do it. Go to his site and use the contact information you find there.)

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 490 reviews
Profile Image for seak.
434 reviews473 followers
September 25, 2013
Chapter 1: Poop

Poop is the smelliest breath of life. We are all full of poop. I poop, you poop, everyone poops. Poop surrounds us and is inside of us. Poop allows us to live and to survive. Poop allows us to love and to hate. Without poop, we have nothing. We would probably explode.

If poop allows us to survive and to live then do we not owe our whole being to the smelliness that is poop? Do we not have hope for a better life because we can poop? Poop is what allows our society to function. Poop makes me wonder if I am full of crap. And if so, are we all full of crap? I think so. Each of us walks around with 5 to 25 pounds, then we are definitely walking around full of crap. Each and every one of us. And if so, maybe we smell a little too. Maybe that's what the smell is and maybe the smell is what makes us. It's not what's on the outside that counts, it's the inside. It's the poop. Everybody poops.

Chapter 2: Pee



Okay, you get the picture I hope. That's about what I got from this novelette. I was so bored the entire time. I know Scalzi was challenging himself and maybe I just didn't get it, but I couldn't even finish. Each chapter made me want to punch myself in the face.

And I love Scalzi. I think he's a great author with plenty going for him. I've enjoyed every other thing I've read, but it started to get annoying with each chapter having some theme and then that theme gets harped on over and over again. But then again, it's a diary. It's not really going to have tons of action and humor which I usually expect from Scalzi. But I guess that's the problem too.

1 out of 5 Stars (did not finish)

Link to free text.

Link to free audio. (This is what I did ... until I couldn't handle it anymore.)
Profile Image for Debbie.
260 reviews1 follower
July 20, 2020
"Words fail me. There is a disconnect between my mind and my words; between what I think and what I say. Not a disconnect in intent, but in execution. Between the flower of thought and the fruit of the mouth. Between the initiation and the completion."

Jane Sagan is interesting, decisive, ethical and yet willing to be a soldier with all that entails. She's a woman of action, and even when she stops to think on something, there is a tight efficiency to her whole manner and being. I just don't believe she would ever be the author of this kind of self-indulgent, navel-gazing diary.

(This was originally a longer and sharper review. I've edited it because the book was basically a thought experiment - and a deliberate departure from the main storyline - and I think I was being too harsh. I've been reminded by his newer books just how much I like Scalzi's stories.)
Profile Image for Mark.
Author 2 books13 followers
May 22, 2023
I can appreciate what John Scalzi was attempting to do with this novelette; after two pulpy, action-packed novels (Old Man's War and The Ghost Brigades), here he decided to delve further into the thoughts of one of the series characters, Jane Sagan, with an introspective set of diary entries.

That, in itself, is not the problem. I have no issue with introspective stories. The problem is that this particular book is intensely tedious and boring. In the hands of a certain prose stylist (some names that come to mind are Robin Hobb and Laini Taylor), The Sagan Diary could have been amazing. Unfortunately, John Scalzi is just not that kind of writer... or at least he wasn't at the time this was written... and instead we are left with passages that want to be lyrical and emotionally-moving, but are actually bland and even awkwardly phrased.

I don't want to say this is all bad, of course. Jane Sagan is a really interesting character, and this is the first time we've been able to see her from a first-person POV perspective. It was nice to learn a bit about what is going on inside her head. And of course, I enjoy the Old Man's War series, so really any "extra" entry like this does hold some value for me. While I can't really say I enjoyed it, The Sagan Diary did add to the richness of this fictional SF world.
Profile Image for Tanabrus.
1,858 reviews165 followers
April 21, 2022
Racconto breve e francamente trascurabile.
Diario interiore di Jane Sagan, dopo gli eventi del secondo volume della serie.

Una sorta di sua confessione, dove racconta la sua nascita, lo spettro della donna cui apparteneva il suo corpo, l'incontro con la persona che le cambierà la vita.
E ci accoglie nella sua sfera emotiva, mostrandoci le paure e le speranze con le quali si avvicina al grande cambiamento.

In molte parti cerca di essere poetico risultando però più che altro pesante.
Ci sono punti interessanti, come le considerazioni sui cambiamenti che la aspettano, il linguaggio umano o la paura. Ma tendenzialmente il racconto non è niente più di quanto non ammetta in chiusura l'autore stesso: un qualcosa di scritto un po' per volere altrui, un po' per rendere più appetibile un'asta letteraria in onore di uno scrittore morto da poco.

Profile Image for February Four.
1,427 reviews30 followers
November 25, 2009
I did not finish this book.

I normally like Scalzi--I devoured the entire Old Man's War series (still waiting to get a copy of Zoe's Tale, but I don't expect to be disappointed) and I liked two of his other books, too. However, I did not get past the first few pages of the Sagan Diary. Heaven help me if I know why--it felt like fanfiction, and not quite the good kind. That's the closest I can get to explaining why I didn't enjoy it. I didn't expect the format, and there was no hook to tell me why I was reading what I was reading. Maybe I'll revisit it someday, but not when I have tons of other books to read.
May 20, 2013
The personal thoughts of Jane Sagan, a warrior of the future.

This is set in the same universe as Old Man's War. It is not a spoiler, though it is end of the Jane Sagan story thread. It's told in first person by Jane Sagan as her diary entries and collected thoughts on life, death, fear, love and sex.

For those who liked the heavy action in John Scalzi's book, this may not be as interesting to you since it's purely philosophical in nature. It's short and I found it wonderfully reflective. I think anyone who's been in the military or fought in a war, or both may find this a soothing read for the soul.

Even if you haven't, it's just a wonderful way to celebrate life through a fictional character who's best skill was taking it. It's a chance to learn that everybody is more than they look like on TV, love counts and there is such a thing as dying with dignity and moving aside to take care of one's spiritual needs, like love, and understanding the nature of who you are, and who we are as creatures.

Highly recommended by lovers of short stories, short sci-fi stories and philosophically burdened stories about complex characters.
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 96 books2,289 followers
May 15, 2012
The book begins with a preface from Lieutenant Gretchen Schafer, an analyst involved in reviewing and transcribing BrainPal memories from Special Forces soldiers like Sagan. Written as a letter of protest, Schafer complains that “what we have to work with are data-poor bits in which Lt. Sagan thinks about what appears to be a romantic partner of some sort…” She describes the files as “of some anthropological interest … but for our purposes these files are near useless.”

I read this as a nicely-done warning to the reader: this is not Old Man’s War. This is not action-heavy space battles and supersoldiers. It’s the musings and philosophizing and reflections of a soldier. A rather loving character study. It’s almost poetic at times:

I am not Death. I am killing; I am the verb. I am the action, I am the performance. I am the movement that cuts the spine; I am the mass which pulps the brain. I am the headsnap ejecting consciousness into the air.

I am not Death but she follows close behind…

It’s a fairly quick read, and an interesting change from the other things I’ve read by Scalzi. I definitely recommend reading his Old Man’s War books for context.
Profile Image for Oleksandr Zholud.
1,117 reviews112 followers
May 23, 2023
This is a novella set in the Old Man’s War universe, chronologically between The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony. It is pure fan service, as the author tells in the foreword, he helped to collect funds for a John M. Ford book endowment, which would benefit the Minneapolis Public Library. John Scalzi offered a bound draft version of The Last Colony for auction, and noted somewhat jokingly that if the bidding got to $5,000 or above, I would write a short story for the winning bidder. This is the result.

While formally it is a diary, it can also be named a letter to the protagonist’s lover, she even mentions it directly. The goal is to share her feelings about her life, her duty, her views on the universe and their place in it. As such, it heavily addresses the events in the previous two volumes and isn’t recommended as a standalone. It is filled with emotions, which she hides in her daily life and is quite different in style and content from the novels.

The style can be seen in the first three paragraphs:

Words fail me.

There is a disconnect between my mind and my words, between what I think and what I say; not a disconnect in intent but in execution, between the flower of thought and the fruit of the mouth, between the initiation and the completion. I say what I mean but I do not say all that I mean.

I am not speaking to you now. These words do not pass my lips or pass out of my mind. I say them only to myself, forming them perfect and whole and interior, and leaving them on the shelf and closing the door behind me. Others may find these words in time but for now they face only toward me, whispering back my image with full description, golems who write the words of life on my forehead.
Profile Image for Kat  Hooper.
1,584 reviews403 followers
August 8, 2013
The Sagan Diary was a prize and an experiment. As John Scalzi explains in the introduction, this novelette was written for Bill Schafer, editor of Subterranean Press, who won it in a charity auction. Schafer wanted a story set in Scalzi’s popular OLD MAN’S WAR universe. Scalzi wanted to challenge himself, so he decided to attempt a woman’s internal monologue. Fans will immediately realize from the title of the book that the woman is Captain Jane Sagan, a cyborg who features prominently in OLD MAN’S WAR. Scalzi has said that he originally wrote this story in free verse (which I did not know before I read it). The Sagan Diary is available for free in audio format on Scalzi’s blog where it’s read by Elizabeth Bear, Mary Robinette Kowal, Ellen Kushner, Karen Meisner, Cherie Priest and Helen Smith.

Unfortunately, all of this information about The Sagan Diary is more interesting than the story is. I love the concept and the idea that Scalzi was challenging himself. I love that it’s read by his friends and offered free on his blog. All of that is really cool. But, frankly what works great as an experiment for the author and his friends doesn’t always work as entertainment for the reader. I did not enjoy The Sagan Diary. Read the rest at FanLit:
Profile Image for Kevin Kelsey.
412 reviews2,220 followers
August 27, 2015
Terrific. I really feel like this should've been included at the end of The Ghost Brigades. It closes off a lot of plot lines opened previously, and gives a great internal look at the character of Jane Sagan, and the differences between her and 'Realborn'.

“I am not Death. I am killing; I am the verb, I am the action, I am the performance. I am the movement that cuts the spine; I am the mass which pulps the brain. I am the headsnap ejecting consciousness into the air.
I am not Death but she follows close behind, the noun, the pronouncement, the denouement and the end. She looks for where I have gone next, and where she is needed, and sometimes where she is wanted; desired as the worlds for those whom I have visited narrow down to a point too heavy to be long borne.”
Profile Image for Alondra Miller.
990 reviews55 followers
February 14, 2021
4 Stars

This is a love letter. Plain and simple. From Jane Sagan to her husband, John.

If you have read the first book, I am sure you remember the end. If you read the 2nd book, then I am sure you remember Jane well. She was a complete badass, and deservedly so. Anywho; knowing all we know about the CU and CSF, then knowing of this "relationship" is really unbelievable. That these two would find each other, is amazing. I think it was fate. Some things were just meant to be.

So, I wanted to make sure that you knew what you were getting into, when it came to this "in-betweener"... It does not add to the story or take away from it.

This was a freebie on Amazon, at the time of purchase. It may still be free; so check that out.
Profile Image for Ivan.
435 reviews284 followers
August 8, 2015
In this short novel Scalzi tries to poetical and fails miserably.I struggled with ever page and I only bothered to finish because it was only around 100 pages long.

I still love the series and I will continue it with same enthusiasm and pretend this book never happened.
Profile Image for Natalie.
632 reviews54 followers
March 23, 2011
Imagine a heroic warrior about to die. She knows death is coming for her and so do her contemporaries.

A bard sings the song of her life commemorating her activities, exaggerating her prowess in battle, her kill-count, her prodigious ability to drink and fornicate when she celebrates her victories.

Her deeds of bravery are trotted out for all to exclaim over. Her family history is recited so all will know who she came from and who she is leaving behind. Her ancestors and successors will be marked and known among their people with their dying relative's own heroism.

Her story will be passed down through the generations, both her bravery and her exploits will attach themselves to her descendants and her fellow warriors' stories.

Now imagine yourself inside the head of such a warrior born to no-one, with no natural predecessors or living descendants. Imagine yourself mulling over your own song -how would you recollect your battles, your enemies, your loves, your lack of natural family or kin? How would you sing your own song?

This is Jane's song. She is her own bard. She is ready for what comes next.

Jane's is a unique story and her's is a unique interior voice.

That John Scalzi wrote Jane and let her sing her own heroic poem like this is quite remarkable. I understand that he wrote this story on a bit of a bet to commemorate John M. Ford. He could have taken the easy way out here. He didn't.
Profile Image for Marijan Šiško.
Author 1 book67 followers
November 22, 2016
Mogao sam totalno i bez ovoga, i sasvim je konfuzno, ali razumijem zašto je tako. idemo dalje.
Profile Image for César Bustíos.
278 reviews101 followers
June 8, 2017
Another short story from the wonderful Old Man's War series in the form of a diary from CSF Lt. Jane Sagan and her last days before the transfer of her consciousness to a standard human body.

I'm not usually fond of this kind of stories taken out of some person's consciousness, they're just too deep for me. I liked this one, though. You get the chance to know a little more about Sagan's feelings and CSF in general. You also realized about her complicated friendship with PoW Cainen.

I think I'm in love with Jane but that also means I'm in love with Scalzi. The latter I already knew. Anyway, let there be love.

Profile Image for Ryan Dash.
437 reviews19 followers
July 4, 2020
1 star. Unfinished. I read the first two chapters (39%) and skimmed much of the rest. This was philosophical, meandering prose that made little sense and when it did make sense, it had an entertainment value of zero.
Profile Image for Marc Weidenbaum.
Author 24 books36 followers
July 31, 2012
This book serves several purposes. It provides insight into the minds of the ubercharged military combatants who fill the pages of Scalzi's excellent novel Old Man's War, a lengthy riff on The Forever War and Starship Troopers. It answers the question as to whether for all the militance of that book and its various other parallel texts, so much of which is about action, Scalzi has a take on interior life (the answer is yes — this book is all interior). It confirms for any naysayers that the resolutely blank prose of his later novel, Redshirts, is on purpose, because there is nothing blank about the Sagan Diary; Redshirts is blank to match the lack of interior lives of so many of its characters, a blankness that is a part of the story, and part of the culture (Star Trek) it is riffing on, while Sagan Diary is nothing but interior life.

In the end, it does make me wonder if Scalzi would have written a book this emotional about a male character, but so be it.
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,452 reviews473 followers
August 29, 2015
September 1, 2014

I hadn't read this one before; it really gives a different view of Jane Sagan. And also, it adds to the series in a way that interstitial stories don't always. Too emotional a read, though, for me to love it completely.

Personal copy
Profile Image for Tudor Vlad.
327 reviews73 followers
July 19, 2016
This felt more like an experiment on John Scalzi’s part. This short story is a recording of Jane’s stream of consciousness done by her BrainPal. It’s a bit chaotic, but that’s how thoughts are. I thought it was quite good.
Profile Image for Lel.
882 reviews19 followers
December 28, 2018
Interesting, but not too entertaining. It’s the thought process of Jane as she transfers to her new body to start her life with John. So there is no action or even story, it reads like a diary. It adds to the overall perception of Jane but I’m not sure it adds anything to the overall series.
Profile Image for Ian.
172 reviews31 followers
February 1, 2023
No. Just no.

Or well. I guess I will give this one three stars after all as it did contain an interesting story. Still, it was a struggle to read and a letdown compared to the rest of the series. The issue was not the story being told, but the style it was told in. The language used. It was a bit like reading a badly written poem where the lines were all mushed together and that consisted of metaphor upon metaphor with no room for actual thought. It was crammed up with these "insightful lines", which made their meaning and potential impact just slip away and become a part of the gray background noise. It was a chore to read.

Still, I did manage and I did appreciate some of it. The story in itself was interesting; I liked getting a bit of Jane Sagan's POV. I just could have done without the overly flowery language.
95 reviews
February 1, 2022
Hmpf, bin mir nicht sicher, was ich mir da grade angehört habe...
Gedanken von Jane Sagen. Aber halt nur das. Hat mir nicht gefallen.
Profile Image for Michelle.
761 reviews2 followers
November 16, 2020
The 1st half was slow & kinda boring. Chapters 4 & 5 where good, overall in my opinion this is a skipable short story.
Profile Image for Peter Simko.
38 reviews1 follower
March 25, 2013
After I was done with The Ghost Brigades I wanted to read The Last Colony right away, but then I just realized that there's one more book between the two of those. As I didn't have too many options, I decided to ask John Scalzi on twitter if it was necessary to read The Sagan Diary before I start TLC. His answer was: "No, but it gives extra insight into Jane if you do." As I'm not really a fan of ebooks, and I didn't want to wait 1-2 weeks to get my hands on a physical copy I decided to get it as an audiobook. I couldn't have made a better choice.

Beforehand I had no experience with audiobooks whatsoever, so I didn't really know what to expect, but luckily it turned out pretty damn amazing. As the Sagan Diary is basically a monologue, it fits the audiobook genre(?) absolutely well.

First of all, The Sagan Diary is totally different from the first two novels of the Old Man's War series. It has no action in it, so if you read Scalzi's works just because of that kind of stuff you'd probably won't enjoy this one very much. It's all about Jane Sagan's thoughts. Thoughts she had during the events of the Old Man's War and the Ghost Brigades, and we also get to know some things about what happened with her between TGB and TLC. The whole book is very poetic, and in general I think it's a really nice peace of literature.

When you were reading the first books, you probably had some thoughts about Sagan's character, about her feelings and how she sees stuff, but this diary takes it to a whole new level. You get first hand experience about how would/could it be to be born to a grown up body, how hard it could be to be in love with a man who had 75+ of years of life behind him, while you're basically a newborn, etc. Of course it's fiction, but it is a really well written one, and because of that, it makes you think about Sagan's and Sagan and Perry's situation. It is also very emotional, but I feel this level of emotions has its point. It helps you to know Jane better, and I think I'll enjoy the next book more because I read (actually listened to) this one.
Profile Image for Shara.
312 reviews26 followers
December 22, 2011
I didn't even know about this book until John Scalzi happened to mention it on his blog, and once I saw it on Subterranean's Website, I knew I must have it. It's an expensive book for as small as it is, but it's a must-have for any fan of the Old Man's War series, and given the fact it focuses solely on Jane Sagan, it's not a book I could pass up.[return][return]It's a short book, and it's not so much a complete story as it is a character study. This book MUST be read after The Ghost Brigades, because otherwise, some of the events recorded will make no sense. And I'll stress that the order is important, because this is a very beautiful, very different little book. Personal, private, and very unique. At one point, the narration reminded me of Le Guin's work, which really floored me. :)[return][return]This book ties up the events between The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony. I don't know if it's necessary to read this BEFORE reading The Last Colony (which I haven't yet read, since I'm waiting on the paperback), I do think it reveals volumes about Jane Sagan's character, and that's what makes this book so poignant and beautiful. Scalzi really focuses on the intimate details of his world here, which is one of the reasons I read it immediately after The Ghost Brigades.[return][return]There's not much else I can really say about this book. The voice is startlingly different from his first two volumes, making Sagan's character unique in her own right. It's a must-have for fans of this series, so don't miss out.
Profile Image for James Mourgos.
281 reviews20 followers
April 11, 2018
John Scalzi writes novels that are either really good or really bad. This one was bad. I could not read anymore. It's no story, no plot. Just someone's ramblings of how they're the anti-mother and how death follows them. They philosophize about killing and what her life means. Yuk.

As well there's no way to know anything without reading the earlier books. Old Man's War is excellent. This is not.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,100 followers
April 15, 2013
The short novella is a solid addition to the Old Man's War series. I really enjoyed the introspection, although I'm certain that it isn't everyone's cup of tea. The story is really written for the fans, but doesn't belong as a standalone at all.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 490 reviews

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