Sunday, February 21, 2010

Review: The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

The Ghost Brigades
Author: John Scalzi
Publication: Tor Science Fiction; 3rd THUS edition (May 1, 2007) (Purchased on Sept. 13, 2008)

Product Description: 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 reason’s 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: I love space opera science fiction. If you choose, you can read for the adventure and the cool planets and cool weapons and cool aliens. Or you can read a little deeper and look at the choices the character makes and the philosophy behind the world and the choices. This book has me thinking about the choices the main character -- Jared Dirac -- is making. Check out this quote:

"I've made a choice," Jared said, more than two hours later. "I want to go on."
"Can you tell me why?" Cainen said.
"Because I want to know more about all of this," Jared said. He motioned to the image of the third consciousness. "You tell me that I'm changing. I'm becoming someone else. I believe that. But I still feel like me. I think I'll still be me, no matter what happens. And I want to know."
Jared pointed to the Cainen. "You say we Special Forces are slaves. You're right. I can't argue that. But we are also told that we are the only humans born with a purpose: To keep other humans safe. I wasn't given a choice for that purpose before, but I choose it now. I choose this."
"You choose to be a slave," Cainen said.
"No," Jared said. "I stopped being a slave when I made this choice."
"But you're choosing the path that those who made you a slave would have you follow," Cainen said.
"It's my choice," Jared said. "If Boutin wants to harm us, I want to stop him."
"That means that you might become like him," Wilson said.
"I was supposed to be him," Jared said. "Being like him still leaves room to be me."
I enjoyed this book very much and am very grateful that I didn't find this series as it came out. Waiting for the next book would have been unendurable.

Jared Durac makes a number of difficult choices in this book beyond the choice quoted above. Although he is the clone of Boutin and has been given his memories, he is not Boutin. His choices are very different. It was intetersting to watch him grow up and learn about himself. The bits of humor in the book were engaging.

Charles Boutin makes a very credible villian. It is first thought that he turned traitor because of the death of his daughter Zoe. Boutin blamed the CDF for not protecting the space station where Zoe was. But Jared learns that the CDF's failure to protect Zoe was only one part of Boutin's treason. Boutin wants to destroy the CDF because he feels they are on the wrong course and holding humans back. He is willing to do anything, commit any atrocities, to bring the CDF down.

We also get to learn more about Jane Sagan in this book and more about the Ghost Brigades themselves. One review I read on Amazon says that the first book -- Old Man's War -- explores the consequences of old people in new, young bodies. And this book explores the consequences of newborns in grown up bodies. Both books have been very thought provoking and entertaining.

We also learn more about the Colonial Defense Force in this book that makes me question the choices and decisions that are being made by them and makes me rethink what I thought was true about the CDF. I can hardly wait to see how this plays out as I read the next book. The next book will reunite John Perry, Jane Sagan, along with the child Zoe Boutin.

I highly recommend this series to those who love character-driven science fiction.

Challenges: RYOB Challenge, Bottoms Up Reading Challenge

1 comment:

  1. Great review. This is a new title for me, sounds like a fun read.


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