I’ve been reading a lot of John Scalzi lately. His short stories on sale on Amazon.com reflect the weird nature of his universe with good character-driven stories. His Muse of Fire short is especially funny and thoughtful as well as the silly I Dated An Alien While Proposing to My Wife nonsense. Overall, a funny guy.
So I got reacquainted with Scalzi’s universe after loving his Old Man War novel. Why not the sequel?
I highly recommend reading Old Man’s War first before reading the sequel, though a new reader could easily follow along anyway. I’m one to read all of an author’s universe when they write a series of novels so I can follow and keep up.
The Ghost Brigades is a nickname given to clones of dead people (thus “ghost”) where the consciousness is transferred to new cloned bodies. Scalzi admits at the end of the novel of borrowing a few ideas here and there in his Old Man’s War series and this is no exception, reminding the reader of the similar transferring of consciousness in the film “Avatar.”
Plots and Themes:
The story centers around one scientist, Boutin, who is a traitor to Mankind. He has faked his own death and is plotting with the Obin (a race that has no art, no soul as they say) and two other races to wipe out the Colonial Union (the force that we met in the last novel, which wants as its purpose the protection of Man in his attempt to colonize the limited real estate in the Milky Way) and he would reap the benefits. Or so he thinks!
In faking his death, he recorded his own consciousness and left it lying around for the Special Forces (another version of the Colonials, where consciousness is transferred into highly adaptable bodies) to pick up. It’s unusual in that the Boutin consciousness needs some booting up to become Jared Dirac.
Jared is an unusual Special Forces (aka Ghost Brigades) clone. He develops normally throughout the tale and is run by Jane Sagan who we met in the Old Man’s War novel. The author’s humor comes through in this character development. For example, the Sherlock Holmes joke is lost on Jared. You’ll read it and see.
Tension and Grossness! [Spoilers]
Part of Special Forces is to break up the three-race alliance that is threatening to overwhelm the Colonial Union. To do this they invade the home world of a race that has a coronation of sorts happening. They threaten to kill an heir to the throne and actually proceed to do so! Yes it’s alien, but the killing of a child and the graphic violence was off-putting and didn’t help my sympathy for the Colonial Union. The immorality of the Special Forces was evident.
Humor and Pathos:
We find an over-dependence of the BrainPal™, that device the soldiers use to run their lives and integrate with each other. And how Boutin uses that to plan his destruction. Jared is smarter and at the end you find out that his individuality comes through.
A few bumps and grinds, not as tightly written as Old Man’s War, but is an important chapter in understanding the Colonial Forces, why all the secrecy, and a new look at old traditions.
I would like to read the next book now and find out about the mysterious Conclave (the book doesn’t get into it, an alliance of races, apparently) and its impact on Man’s reach for the stars.