four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
23-July-Aug-2006
By: 
John Scalzi
user_rating: 
0

A-TheGhostBrigadesThe Colonial Defense Force has a problem: scientist Charles Boutin has defected from the military and is abetting his alien cohorts in a plan to wipe out his fellow humans. It seems just the kind of pickle that the new breed of genetically modified CDF soldiers was created to squash. But the rebellious Boutin has a trump card: he developed the semiorganic mind implant that controls these Special Forces (the "Ghost Brigades"). Hoping to beat their conspirator to the punch, the CDF soldiers download Boutin’s DNA (conveniently saved to a hard drive) into a fresh Ghost Brigadier named Jared Dirac, who then must figure out his creator as he tries to fight him off.
Tor. 320 pages. $23.95. ISBN: 0765315025

Dallas Morning News 4 of 5 Stars
"Mr. Scalzi does a clever job of reversing the standard dilemma of the science fiction genre: How do people cope with seemingly dehumanizing technology? In Mr. Scalzi’s creation, technology, mostly through the near-telepathic communication of BrainPals, connects people to each other in ways that we can only dream of." Victor Godinez

Philadelphia Inquirer 4 of 5 Stars
"The premise of the schizophrenic soldier allows Scalzi to explore the essence of consciousness and the ways in which it is shaped and influenced by memory, experience, and the individual’s intrinsic personality. Combine that with good battle scenes, clever storytelling, and the ability to juggle abstruse scientific principles without breaking a sweat, and it makes for an impressive piece of work." David Hiltbrand

San Diego Union Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"It’s a fast and deep stream, military machinations mixed with gorgeous technical notions, and cut through by the arc of Dirac’s life. I like the galaxy this author’s playing in, the characters he limns, the situations he’s playing with, and I’m glad there’s at least one more volume on the way." Jim Hopper

San Francisco Chronicle 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Told from multiple third-person viewpoints, The Ghost Brigade does not provide as solid an anchor for its narrative, its primary character intentionally a tabula rasa for roughly the first half of the book. Scalzi makes the best of this structural trade-off, however, and keeps the suspense high, the alien life forms intriguing yet credible, and the dialogue punchy without becoming gratingly jokey." Michael Berry

Critical Summary

Though it’s a sequel of sorts to his 2005 debut, Old Man’s War, John Scalzi’s new novel is hardly business as usual. Beyond the battles and the portent of humanity’s end, Scalzi plays with deeper issues of identity in an increasingly technological world in this second volume of a proposed trilogy. A switch from first person to third and one narrator (Dirac) who is unaware of his own role in the story might hold the book back from must-read status, but otherwise The Ghost Brigades gleams with the best traits of thoughtful SF.

First in the Trilogy

Old Man’s War (2004): What can senior citizens do in the future to keep busy? Join the Colonial Defense Force and receive a young body built out of their own DNA and turbocharged with some high-tech enhancements. But what does it mean to become a warrior at the age of 75?