The Ghost Brigades

The Ghost Brigades
(c) 2006 John Scalzi
384 pages

“We’re in the wrong universe for fair.”

John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War introduced readers to a harsh future, in which humanity competes for space in a crowded galaxy, fighting tooth and nail against a variety of alien baddies. Out of sheer necessity, the Colonial Defense Forces have been forced to create an army of augments — but within its ranks are even more altered troops, the Special Forces — or, as common soldiers call them, the Ghost Brigades. Scalzi’s expansion of the Old Man’s War story focuses on them specifically, beginning with a betrayal and a desperate scramble for answers. The CDF’s attempt to find out why one of their own researchers would fake his own death and join alien ranks sees them attempt to infuse a recording of the traitor’s consciousness into the body of a newly-grown clone, in hopes that the clone will give them answers. Instead, the clone — Jared Diroc — becomes his own person, and takes his place in the Special Forces. Before long, though, the dormant personality within Jared will begin to assert itself, and lead him down an entirely separate road.

I commented in my review for Old Man’s War that its most interesting element was consciousness transferal, and that takes center stage here, driving the plot and creating both our main character and his antagonist. The Ghost Brigades are interesting in their own right, however, from a techno-humanist perspective: they’re not only genetically augmented, but have internal brain implants that allow them to process and absorb information rapidly, almost like Neo in The Matrix, and connect them to one another so that squads are tightly integrated. Jared Diroc is perfectly happy with his squadmates as they tend to the business of the Defense Forces — killin’ aliens — but an experience on shore leave suddenly brings to life the other man inside his brain, and there the action really picks up. Humanity was already in trouble, facing a potential alliance of three alien races at once, but once Jared begins to struggle with his alter-consciousness, he realizes the danger is even more acute than previously realized. This leads to a desperate gamble in which everything goes wrong — but results in a seat of the pants action thriller all the way to the end.

Although I found the premise of Old Man’s War interesting enough, having read The Ghost Brigades I’m sold on reading the rest of the series. Plot developments herein point to a far more interesting galactic scene than previously thought!

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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6 Responses to The Ghost Brigades

  1. Cyberkitten says:

    Sounds FUN. I haven’t read any Scalzi. Maybe it’s about time… [grin].

    BTW – Just read a WW1 naval novel I think you’d really like. Not least (thinking about your RoE reading) because the main event takes place on St George’s Day!!

    • Definitely try him! I want to explore him and Suarez more, but I need to make more progress on ye olde TBR.

      Definitely interested in hearing more about the naval novel!

      • Cyberkitten says:

        The novel is: ‘Sixty Minutes for St George’ by Alexander Fullerton and culminates in the 1918 raid on Zeebrugge. I’m presently reading a historical account of that event: Zeebrugge – Eleven VCs before Breakfast by Barrie Pitt. It’s quite old (originally published in 1958 but reissued by Cassell in 2003) but you should be able to get a copy. Both reviews in about 3 weeks.

      • Thanks! Looks very tempting. I have a similar book on KU I’ve been meaning to read forever. Hotel life should be giving me time to catch up, but I’m also doing Coursera and Udemy classes…

  2. Your review may have persuaded me to return to reading SF with this one by Scalzi. I remember enjoying both Old Man’s War and Lock-In.

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