Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book Thoughts: The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi
published 2006
374 pages

Synopsis from publisher:

The Ghost Brigades are the Special Forces of the Colonial Defense Forces, elite troops created from the DNA of the dead and turned into the perfect soldiers for the CDF's toughest operations. They're young, they're fast and strong, and they're totally without normal human qualms.

The universe is a dangerous place for humanity—and it's about to become far more dangerous. Three races that humans have clashed with before have allied to halt our expansion into space. Their linchpin: the turncoat military scientist Charles Boutin, who knows the CDF's biggest military secrets. To prevail, the CDF must find out why Boutin did what he did.

Jared Dirac is the only human who can provide answers—a superhuman hybrid, created from Boutin's DNA, Jared's brain should be able to access Boutin's electronic memories. But when the memory transplant appears to fail, Jared is given to the Ghost Brigades.

At first, Jared is a perfect soldier, but as Boutin's memories slowly surface, Jared begins to intuit the reasons for Boutin's betrayal. As Jared desperately hunts for his "father," he must also come to grips with his own choices. Time is running out: The alliance is preparing its offensive, and some of them plan worse things than humanity's mere military defeat.

My thoughts:

May 25 - I expected to enjoy this novel, and I have not been disappointed. Scalzi's humorous style works so well in these novels - the shows the horrors of war, but never leaves me feeling weighed down or overwhelmed. This novel is answering a lot of questions I had after reading the first - there is a lot of backstory as to why and how certain technologies and practices came to be, and I'm finding that the fleshing out of the world is working well for me. I haven't become quite as attached to Jared as I was to John Perry, but it's still early going, and I do find him and his situation to be fascinating. Once again, Scalzi's characters are tackling some sticky ethical questions, and it will be interesting to see how Jared's unique situation is eventually resolved. So far so good!

May 31 - Well, that was fun. This was the third novel I've read set in Scalzi's world, and while it was my least favorite, that is certainly not to say that I didn't enjoy it. What was lacking for me in this novel was the immediate connection I normally feel to his main character. Something about Jared Dirac always just felt like I was kept at a bit of a distance - perhaps because his story was written in third person, whereas the previous books I've read in the series were first person narratives. However, I loved spending more time with Jane Sagan, and the rest of the Special Forces soldiers, who have such a fascinating place in this series.

Old Man's War dealt with humanity - what makes a person human, and what comprises a person's identity. The Ghost Brigades is all about choice - what role does choice play in making a person really alive? Is a person really free if she doesn't know her choice has been taken away? Scalzi's musings on philosophy are well-integrated into the story, so they never feel forced or unnatural, and he leaves the reader free to form their own opinions on the questions he raises.

I have very much enjoyed this series. I'm a little bit sad I only have one book to go - I'd love to read more of this world in the future. Once again, I recommend this series to any readers who are unsure about science fiction - when it's written this well, it's awfully hard to resist!

Finished: 5/31/11
Source: my shelves
MPAA rating: R for violence and sexuality
My rating: 7/10

Up next: The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter


bermudaonion said...

I don't think this series is for me, but I bet my husband and son would love it.

Zibilee said...

I also think my husband would love this series, and I am glad that this book answered questions that you had about the first book in the series. It sounds like it was a great read for you, and you wrote a really great review on it. Thanks, Elizabeth!