The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi(Cover picture courtesy of Geeky Scifi.)

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, fast, strong, and totally without normal human qualms.

The universe is a dangerous place for humanity—and it’s about to become more dangerous.  Three races we’ve fought before have allied to halt our expansion into space.  Their linchpin: the turncoat scientist Charles Boutin, who knows the CDF’s biggest secrets.  To prevail, the CDF must find out why Boutin did what he did.

Jared Dirac—a superhuman hybrid, created from Boutin’s DNA—is the only person who can provide answers.  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.  then, as Boutin’s memories slowly surface, Jared begins to intuit the reasons for Boutin’s betrayal…and the fact that some of humanity’s enemies have worse things in mind than our mere defeat.

Just like the first book in the series, Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades was nothing like I expected.  If you thought it was a little cliché for the Colonial Defense Forces to be the undisputed ‘good guys’ as it seemed in the first book, you’ll love the spin John Scalzi puts on the CDF in his sequel.  Trust me, you do not want to read this book if you’re squeamish because here we see the ugly side of the CDF and its Special Forces, the Ghost Brigades.

Enter our protagonist, Jared Dirac.  With some questionable ethics, he was specially grown and implanted with the consciousness of another man in an attempt to figure out why one of the leading scientists turned traitor.  I won’t even pretend to understand John Scalzi’s science-filled explanations for consciousness transfer, but fans of hard sci-fi will love them.  There’s also some throwbacks to earlier sci-fi writers who experimented with the ethics surrounding consciousness and souls.  Of course all this involves some pretty heavy ethical debates, but that’s just a sign John Scalzi actually puts faith in the intelligence of his readers.

Jared is an interesting character.  Since he’s born an adult, he’s also born without a personality and must develop one when it’s seemingly clear that Charles Boutin’s consciousness hasn’t taken.  We get to see the Ghost Brigades very intensive training, see some of their horrible missions and watch as Jared’s personality slowly develops through all of the crazy events.  And just when you think you’ve guessed how things will end for poor Jared, you’ll find out that you’re wrong.  John Scalzi is just that good at making believable plot twists motivated by the characters themselves.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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