October 05, 2011

The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

This was a fairly impressive book. While it didn't hold quite the allure for me as Scalzi's first book Old Man's War, it still had a decent plot and did quite a bit to further the reader's knowledge about the universe its set in.

Jared Dirac is a member of the Ghost Brigades, or as they prefer to call it, the Colonial Defense Force's Special Forces. Unlike the rest of the CDF's recruits, the Special Forces are a unique breed of human. They are put into a body that once belonged to a dead person and have higher capacity for thinking and combat than most humans do.

Dirac is not just any Special Forces member however. He is an experiment that failed. Originally created to house the consciousness of a scientist named Charles Boutin, when the consciousness doesn't stick, he is sent to be part of the Special Forces. Boutin, once a great inventor for the BrainPal system that CDF uses in its army, had become a traitor and when knowledge of an attack coming from three joined enemy alien races is learned, the CDF needs to find out just what Boutin knows. Hence, Dirac is created.

While at the beginning he is just a regular Special Force recruit, he gradually feels himself remembering things that are not from his own life, but from a life he learns was Boutins. As he grows a deeper understanding of the man he has to choose between helping the CDF or turning traitor as he understands Boutin's beliefs.

While this novel is technically a sequel to Old Man's War, it could easily be read on its own. Some characters reoccur, most notably Jane Sagan from the first novel, the romantic interest of the protagonist in that novel. A few army leaders as well reappear but don't play nearly as large a role as she does. In fact, Dirac is placed in Sagan's care after he joins the Special Forces.

Unlike the first book, this one is written from a 3rd person perspective. It makes the novel somewhat lose the relatability the first has, but does not hinder the telling of the story. Many of Scalzi's innovations were quite creative and believable that such technology would be available this far in the future. He describes them with such ease it isn't impossible to understand the concepts of how they work.

My only complaint about this book would be that the alien races aren't really described very well. Scalzi gives you have half descriptions and you are left to try to figure out the rest of the society of these beings and even sometimes how they look. I would have liked to see some more description when he introduces these characters to his novel.

While I had hoped for a continuation of the first story, this was a good book on its own. My only hope is that the next novel in the series continues on with the characters I grew to like in the first one.

The Ghost Brigades
Copyright 2006
343 pages

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