The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi
After finishing Old Men’s War a few days ago, I immediately jumped onto the next book in the series. It made me a bit guilty to push back other books, but not much. The first book just made me need to read on and so I succumbed to the urge pretty quickly. It was worth it.
The Ghost Brigades is not quite as brilliant as the first book and I blame the new protagonist for it. It’s not really Jared Dirac’s fault. He had large footprints to step into. He’s nice enough, but nowhere near as interesting a character as John Perry.
The story plays shortly after the last major offensive. A new danger looms, as not one, but an alliance of three different alien races prepares for war against the human. And they have a human traitor who knows dangerous secrets. With extinction looming, the CDF uses a copy of the traitor’s mind and transfers it into a new body for the Ghost Brigades, the human special forces. Thus Jared Dirac comes to share his mind with the military scientist Charles Boutin, but it takes time for the memories the CDF expects to come.
‘What does the night sky tell you, Holmes?’ And Holmes says, ‘That some bastard stole our tent!’ ”
Cloud looked over at Jared, expectantly, and then frowned after Jared stared back blankly. “You don’t get it,” Cloud said.
“I get it,” Jared said. “But it’s not funny. Someone did steal their tent.
“Cloud stared at Jared for a moment, and then laughed. “I may not be funny, but you sure as hell are,” he said.
“I’m not trying to be,” Jared said.
“Well, that’s part of the charm,” Cloud said.
Through Jared Dirac we see the Ghost Brigades close up, their “birth”, training, shared society, and their fights. It’s the natural progression, I think. Many who read the first book will be interested in these special soldiers, myself included. Most of these combatants are only a few years old, but are already warriors to be afraid of. We saw in the first book how much they could take and how deadly they are. This is made apparent even more here. I especially liked the way they used their BrainPals and the closed communities they build with them, to the point where they were utterly dependent on the computers in their brains.
It’s interesting to note that the book’s structure is very similar to the first book: Introduction to the protagonist, his new body, his training, first action, etc. It doesn’t, however, feel like a cheap copy at all. It’s a book in its own right that explores different parts of the war against the aliens, with a desperate situation the human colonies find themselves in. What I liked most where the little gadgets the ghost brigade soldiers use. The intelligent use of technology works well and the soldier’s missions are expertly performed for the most part.
One part I liked very well (similarly to the first part) is the humor used by the protagonist and the special forces soldiers. John Scalzi has a way with humor and it stands in wonderful contrast to the deadly universe he has created.
Concluding: It’s not quite as good as Old Men’s War, largely due to the new protagonist, but it’s still an exceptional book in its own right. It shows many parallels to the first book and will definitely keep fans of the first installment of the series primed to read more. It focuses heavily on the special forces soldiers and shows how people so young deal with their fate, how they are born, bond, and go out blazing. Definitely worth picking up and a no-brainer for fans of the series.