By: John Scalzi
When I finished Old Man’s War, I immediately put my order in for The Ghost Brigades. I’m glad that I did. This is the second book that I’ve read by Scalzi, and I have not been dissappointed. Enough so, that I ordered a copy of The God Engines and will have The Last Colony on it’s way fairly soon. Scalzi has an incredible mastery of the English language. One that is a wonderful pleasure to read. Many times, I find myself stopping and thinking about what little twist of the wording he used and how I would have never thought to have put it that way. But, once you’ve seen it that way, you can’t imagine it any other way. But, enough about the author. Let’s talk about the book.
When we leave Old Man’s War, the protagonist (one of) is retiring and moving on to a colony while his love ends up in the Ghost Brigades. The Ghost Brigades is the nickname given to the special forces who are direct clones that have been heavily modified. They don’t have an existing “soul” like the realborn soldiers and as such, many of the ethical roadblocks are eliminated. They are able to test new modifications, and send them places that not even the realborn would bother to go.
We pick up at the beginning of this book with an important meeting of some commanders in the CDF (Colony Defense Forces), in respect to a dead scientist that isn’t really dead. Seems he built a clone of himself and then staged a suicide, so that he could defect to help three alien races combine forces to declare a unified war on the human race. And with that, we’re off and running. The book follows the short life of Jared, a special forces soldier from his “birth” to his death. Along the way, we learn a great deal about the relationship between the realborn soldiers and the special forces, and why the special forces are separated from the rest of the forces. Much like Old Man’s War, Scalzi touches on several topics of ethical nature as well as what it would mean to have an adult consciousness while you’re still only a year or two old.
Ghost Brigades is only about 50 pages longer than Old Man’s War, and is just as quick a read. The tempo of the novel is steady, with no slow spots. As I noted, the writing is wonderful. And even without the great story to back it up, the book would be worth reading for the writing alone. But, Ghost Brigades is one of those select few books that has both. In fact, all of Scalzi’s novels I’ve read have that. I highly recommend that you pick up Old Man’s War (if you haven’t) and start there and then move quickly on to The Ghost Brigades. Especially if you like science fiction.