The Ghost Brigades is the 2007 sequel to John Scalzi’s stunning debut, Old Man’s War (see my review here). Back when I read Old Man’s War I promised myself that I would get around to reading the rest of the books in this series. After all, the first book had did appear to make it very worth it. I forged on, perhaps a bit later than I thought I would, but I’m glad I did. The Ghost Brigades is more of a pseudo-sequel as it centers around a new character, though with many familiar faces from the first book, but it retains all the intelligence, wit and intensity that made Scalzi’s debut such a hit.
They are the special wing of the Colonial Defence Forces, elite troops created from DNA of the dead and turned into the perfect soldiers for the CDF’s toughest operations. The universe is a dangerous place for humanity as three hostile races combine to halt our further expansion into space. Their linchpin is a turncoat scientist, Charles Boutin, who unfortunately knows the CDF’s biggest military secrets. And to prevail against this alliance they must find out why Boutin did what he did.
Jared Dirac is meant to provide answers, a superhuman hybrid created from Boutin’s DNA so as to access his electronically recorded memories. But when this attempt seems to fail, Jared is sent to the Ghost Brigades. As Jared fights for his own survival Boutin’s memories begin to surface, and with them a plan for something much worse than mankind’s defeat.
As sad as I was not to be reunited with John Perry and his characteristic off-hand humor, I was well content to return to his universe. The story takes off in quite a different direction than its predecessor. All the lengthy introductions are of course unnecessary, and so Scalzi chooses to throw readers right into another exciting space adventure, this time following a group of Special Forces soldiers. And what a ride it is.
Immediately, The Ghost Brigades rushes off at a brisk, often exhilarating pace and presents us with all that makes these books good; the humor, the action, the neat science fiction-ness of it and the interesting, vivid characters. This is why I love Scalzi. Just like Old Man’s War, it’s sequel wraps a captivating space story around a bunch of even more captivating characters which make the story stand out.
I’ll admit it, I probably preferred John Perry to Jared Dirac. But beyond that, I found Jared to be a very engaging character. True, it was also great to have an all-new character through’s eyes to rediscover once more the universe of the Colonial Union and the hectic, dangerous, but oh-so-entertaining to read life it’s defenders enjoy. Also new and notable in this book is Zoe, the innocent, irresistibly-cute daughter to the man Jared is a clone of, and one of the few characters who instantly one my heart. Yes, that sounds cheesy, but I think you’re going to have to deal with it.
The Ghost Brigades differs strongest from its predecessor in the way Scalzi has built the plot. Into the nice, diverting standalone-feeling storyline, he works in the semblance of a series arc which I felt was not present in the first novel. This is great in that his novels have now become much more than simply novels but now are the individual parts of a greater whole. If that makes any sense.
Anyways, readers who enjoyed Old Man’s War should definitely be checking out The Ghost Brigades. If its not quite as good as the first, then it is at least another great opportunity to get some Scalzi and explore the universe he has created and interact with his lovable characters. I am very much looking forward to making my way to The Last Colony which, among other things, promises the return of John Perry, something which, you must have gathered, I’m excited to get to. After that readers may also direct their attention to the last book in the series, Zoe’s Tale.
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Reading Age: 16 and up
John's Scalzi's Website: http://whatever.scalzi.com/
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