The Ghost Brigades (TGB) is the second book in the Old Man’s War (OMW) series by John Scalzi. Now this book was released a gazillion years ago, but I got it only recently along with two other Scalzi novels. (Oh the travails of living in a third-world country.)
I even thought about rationing the books but there’s only so much patience you can have and only so much temptation you can resist.
Scalzi intentionally wrote his books so that they could be read stand-alone, so even if you hadn’t read OMW, you won’t find it a stumbling block in reading TGB. Given that I’d read OMW a while back, that was good. If OMW was primarily about the Colonial Defense Forces, TGB is about the Special Forces, the soldiers who have more capabilities but are apparently less human.
A scientist, Charles Boutin, working on consciousness research fakes his own death and is intent on destroying the Colonial Union with the help of alien races. Since he has worked on the BrainPal technology used by the Union’s soldiers, they are understandably eager to stop him. To achieve that, they create a Special Forces soldier named Jarad Dirac and transfer Boutin’s consciousness to him. Jane Sagan, a character we meet in OMW, is assigned to keep an eye on him, given that he does share Boutin’s consciousness. Will the Special Forces be able to find Boutin and stop him from bringing down the Colonial Union? What will Dirac’s role be in this mission? These are the questions that are answered in the book.
TGB is a good read, though in some parts the “science” felt a bit heavy. It isn’t as pacy as OMW probably because it gives you a lot more insight into the Special Forces and the OMW universe. But it is, in my opinion, a better book. There is one incident which stood out in my mind, for the brutality of the Special Forces and the agony it causes — which really is terrific writing.
You don’t feel like the book’s been plotted or that incidents that happen make you roll your eyes, which is always a good thing in a work of fiction. The sub-themes of consciousness and what makes us who we are is also handled well. Scalzi draws you deeper into the OMW universe, takes you on a lovely ride, and at the end of it all, you still want more.
So little surprise then that after finishing this book, I could not resist picking up the third book in the series, The Last Colony.
And, all this while I’m not a big science fiction reader, so what does that tell you about the books?