Monday, 26 May 2014

The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

Before reading this book, a bunch of people had told me that it wasn't very good, didn't live up to its predecessor, Old Man's War. But while I do agree it's not quite as good as Old Man's War, I liked The Ghost Brigades a great deal more than I was expecting.

It's about an entirely new cast of characters, taking place almost entirely among the Special Forces soldiers whose existence was revealed in the first book. One scientist has defected and is aiding an alliance between three other races against the humans. He left a copy of his consciousness behind, and so the plan is hatched to implant that into a clone, to see if they can pry out why he defected and what he's up to. The clone, named Jared Dirac, doesn't work out quite the way they wanted. He is wholly his own person, although some memories lie below the surface, just waiting to be unleashed.

So Dirac is enfolded into a Special Forces Unit, although Jane Sagan, the sole character to carry over from Old Man's War regards him with suspicion, waiting to see if he too will betray them.

I don't know what other people were looking for in this book, but I found it a thoughtful and complex look at loyalty, consciousness, and particularly, war. Scalzi unwraps issues of war, of expediency and necessity, of what can be done when it can be justified, and how wars perpetuate themselves. He looks at how justifications for fairly horrific things are created and maintained, and how people can come to those justifications.

And yet, this is not simplistic. No one is entirely right. No one is entirely wrong. He avoids preaching, coming down heavily on one side or the other - I'm left with the feeling that both the military brass are approaching every idea like it needs a bullet to make it complete, while the scientist thinks he's found an easy solution. But there are no easy solutions, so easy answers. In a way, that makes this book difficult, but I admire books that don't shy away from complexity, and refuse to come down heavily on one side or the other.

Ghost Brigades may not have been as much sheer fun as Old Man's War but I'm still glad I read it.


  1. Me too, I really liked it. Did you read the next installments in the universe?

    1. I haven't yet, but I hope to at some point!

      So many books to read!