The Ghost Brigades, by John Scalzi, is the second novel in the Old Man’s War trilogy. Existing in the same basic time period as the first book, we see new and familiar faces. My general feelings of this book can be summed up by a simple statement: it existed to connect the first and last book. While it wasn’t a horrible read, it felt largely superfluous to the overarching story, and I had a hard time caring about the main character. Since it is the middle book of a trilogy, I’ll call this one a READ WITH CAUTION. It wasn’t bad, but I had little patience for a lot of things that took place, and I felt like it was a bit of a deviation from what made the first book, Old Man’s War, interesting.
Here, There Be Spoilers
Scalzi’s The Ghost Brigades follows Jared Dirac, who was created in a manner slightly different than his fellow members of the Ghost Brigades. He is thrust into a world where he must cope with being born an adult and slowly learning that his consciousness is a copy of a traitor to his species, though he isn’t an exact copy in the sense of feelings and emotions. He is eventually key in tracking down and bringing justice to the traitor, along with Jane Sagan from the first book.
We’re introduced to the concept of the Ghost Brigades soldiers in the first book, where the main character ends up directly interacting with them after the intrigue of seeing his dead wife’s body. While the creation, design, and moral implications of the Ghost Brigades are interesting in concept, the focus on them in the book felt largely like a repeat of the training sequences in the first book, but with less interesting characters. The reader is forced to relive the training that occurred in the first book, only in a more rapid manner, and is introduced to an upgraded version of the CDF soldiers.
Jared’s journey to find himself and come to terms with the fact that his consciousness was a copy of a traitor is fairly interesting, though it doesn’t really feel compelling to me in a larger sense. The cast of characters here just isn’t what I had expected, and I felt myself yearning for the charisma that the first book’s protagonist had. I feel like Scalzi wanted to develop Jane’s character a little more before he got to the third book, so he created this story arc in order to add a little more oomph to her character while revealing a bit more of the galaxy’s politics.
I did enjoy learning more about the alien species in the galaxy, as well as the ways the CDF was furthering their research when it comes to human modification and those sorts of things. I feel like this could have been an intriguing standalone novel, but as a follow up to the first, it fell a bit short.
While not an altogether unenjoyable story, I will label this READ WITH CAUTION. Breeze through it in order to get to the next book, in my opinion.