Book: The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

Good military science fiction

John Scalzi
The Ghost Brigades
Tor, 2006
ISBN: 0-765-31502-5
317 pages

I read and enjoyed John Scalzi's science-fiction novel Old Man's War and so I looked forward to The Ghost Brigades, which is set in the same universe. In that universe, the "ghost brigades" of the title are the Colonial Defense Forces' special forces.

[Minor Old Man's War spoilers in this paragraph]
In that universe, people on Earth don't know how dangerous the galaxy is. Older people from Earth's rich countries can join the Colonial Defense Forces. (People from developing countries become colonists instead, for reasons we're not told.) But there's a delay between someone's signing up for the CDF and their joining. Once someone joins, their consciousness is placed in a new and improved body. But inevitably some people die between signing up and joining. Their DNA is used to create bodies that get new consciousnesses and those are the special forces.

As the book begins, the Colonial Defense Forces have discovered that a traitor who appeared to have died didn't. They have a recording of his consciousness and they place his consciousness in an artificially-grown body in the hopes that they'll learn something when he wakes up. That process is new and experimental and it doesn't seem to work. The resulting person seems not to have any memories or anything anything else to do with the traitor his consciousness came from. Since he doesn't seem to be of any use as a source of information, he gets the name Jared Dirac goes into the special forces. Of course he's not quite fully trusted since traumatic events such as combat might bring back latent memories.

What follows is very good and altogether more ambitions than Old Man's War. Much of the combat is thrilling and much of the plot has satisfying twists to it. There is a talky section of about 40 pages near the end in which, well, the bad guy could have used some advice of the sort that's in the Evil Overlord List. That's a flaw in my opinion, but not a huge one. Perhaps it makes the book very good rather than excellent, but The Ghost Brigades is still very good.

Posted: Wed - June 7, 2006 at 07:06   Main   Category: