Monday, January 6, 2014

The Ghost Brigades: John Scalzi

From the summary at Fantastic Fiction:
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.
The Ghost Brigades is military science fiction, not my normal reading fare.  It is part of the Old Man's War series by John Scalzi, but it is not a traditional sequel. It is set in the same universe and the events follow the previous book, and there is a bit of overlap in characters. I read the first book in the series, Old Man's War,  mostly because it was written by John Scalzi and had a lot of good reviews, and I was glad I did. I look forward to reading the third book in the series someday (The Last Colony).

The main character in this book is Jared Dirac, a member of the Special Forces group. However, he is different. He was specifically created to house the consciousness of a scientist who has turned traitor, in hopes that he can help the Special Forces track the scientist down. Because the process of transferring consciousness is new and untested, he ends up developing his own personality and sharing his "self" with the memories and attitudes of another man.

So, what did I like about this book? The military scenes and maneuvering were definitely not my favorite part. What I liked were the characterizations: the portrayals of all the humans working at all levels , the portrayals of the alien species.  Also the moral issues surrounding using clones bred to defend earth and its colonies are explored. The soldiers in the Special Forces are trained to see themselves as elite because they have one purpose: to protect the colonies. Yet, in reality they have no freedom of choice. Some say that they are treated as slaves. And Jared is in the best position to see the situation from both sides.

This book gives us more information about the universe created by the author, the Colonial Defense Forces and their motivations. This is a universe where we cannot judge who are the good guys or the bad guys. There are just a lot of civilizations competing.

My review of the first book in the series, Old Man's War, is HERE.

Check out this list of Scalzi's publications at his website, Whatever.

I read this book as a part of the 2014 Sci-Fi Experience at Stainless Steel Droppings. The event began in December 2013 and runs through January 2014. The Review Site can be found here; check out other bloggers reviews and related posts.

14 comments:

  1. Interesting, but not something I'm going to be reading myself. I probably do the genre a dis-service by dismissing it mostly out of hand and assuming it's all techno-sciency stuff I don't understand or to be truthful have a lot of interest in trying to either. I possibly read one book of this type last year.....Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon and didn't particularly enjoy it. Characters and motivations and morality is always interesting though.

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    1. Col, mystery / crime fiction will always be my first love, but I do think there are good works in all genres. The problem is finding them. And what is good to one is not to another... Anyway, I know what you mean. I thought I liked sci fi over fantasy but now I have a whole list of fantasy to read later in the year so ... who knows. (I also like fantasy or sci fi that crosses over with mystery.)

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  2. Sounds great TracyK but I haven't tried this author yet - I'll be adding to the Sci-Fi Challenege very shortly too as you've inspired me! Thanks.

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    1. Glad to hear that Sergio. I saw you were reading an Isaac Asimov sci fi / mystery, which I enjoyed when I read it.

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  3. Tracy - I must admit to not being a sci-fi person, although there are a few authors whose work I've liked. I'm honestly not sure this one's for me, though I give you a lot of credit for 'branching out.' Fine review, too!

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    1. Margot, if I could read faster, I would read more sci fi (and non fiction and fantasy and ....) but as it is, I just read non mystery novels occasionally.

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  4. The OMW books are great in large part because of the characterization. You really get to know John and Jane, in particular, over the series as well as their daughter, Zoe.

    Always thrills me to see people reading these as they are far and away on of my favorite SF series.

    Before you read The Last Colony I strongly recommend tracking down the novella The Sagan Diaries. It used to be free online and probably still is, either in print, its audio version, or both. It is told from Jane's point of view and is somewhat different than what you've come to expect from these two novels. It is really about Jane and John's relationship and is more of a romantic story and sets things up nicely for The Last Colony.

    And then you get to venture into YA fare with Zoe's Tale which retells events from The Last Colony from her point of view, but rather than rehashing a story you'll then be familiar with it fills in gaps and is its own lovely thing.

    Not that I like these books or anything. :)

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    1. Carl, I do know how much you like these books. I hope to get through more of Scalzi's books faster. We will see. I will definitely find a copy of the Sagan Diaries to read before The Last Colony. Thanks for all the additional information about the series.

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  5. I'm sure I'm missing out, but I probably won't be reading this, sci-fi just isn't my thing. If only there weren't so many other books in my favoured genres, I might have more time to experiment with books like this - your review is very intriguing.

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    1. I do understand, Moira. Too many wonderful books to choose from. As far as straight fiction goes, I only read that if I have strong recommendations, like the ones I get from you. Sci fi and fantasy, either my son or husband make recommendations.

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  6. Tracy, I like sf and so I'll probably like military sf too. I like the title and the cover of this book though I might try the author with OLD MAN'S WAR, to begin with, and take the series from there.

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    1. Prashant, I think you would like this book and the first one. I always recommend starting at the beginning but in this case, I don't think it matters too much.

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  7. I spotted a book by John Scalzi at the library, I think it was Old Man's War, but am relatively new to the genre, and wasn't sure if I'd like it. Even this one sounds a little too complicated, but you've mentioned liking the characterization, so I might as well give it a try!

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    1. Priya, the development of the characters is what I enjoyed most about this book ( and the first one). It isn't as complicated as it sounds, the book does a good job of setting up the universe that they are living in. From that point of view reading the first one before the 2nd might be better, but not essential.

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