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The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

The Ghost Brigades

by John Scalzi

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Old Man's War (2)

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Showing 1-5 of 118 (next | show all)
The beginning of this book was not easy: first, I was surprised, and maybe a little disappointed, to discover that it did not go on with the storyline concerning John Perry (the main character in Old Man's War) and second, it took some time before clicking into gear. But once it did it hooked me in a major way, so much that I raced to finish it at record speed.

The initial disappointment in the change of p.o.v. did not last long: once I overcame the surprise that the story would be told by a new set of characters, I found myself enjoying very much the in-depth look at the famous Ghost Brigades and what makes them what they are. Moreover, I became quite invested in the journey of Private Jared Dirac and the unusual circumstances surrounding his "birth".

My earlier suspicions that there was indeed a darker side to the Colonial Defense Force were confirmed in this book: I already knew that cloned bodies of potential soldiers, those who did not live long enough to enlist at 75, were "recycled" into the Ghost Brigades, but here I learned more about these special forces, and what I saw was beyond chilling.

These soldiers look nothing less than an ongoing experiment carried out on people deprived of any rights: born without the experience or the memories of a previous life – as it happens for the rest of the recruits – they are bonded in something approaching a hive mind, compensating their lack of accumulated background with a forced sense of belonging implemented through the BrainPal connection. The severing of that connection with the rest of the group is often depicted as a subtle means of control, not so different from the pressure exerted by a pusher on his clients/victims. As it's stressed several times in the book, Ghost Brigade soldiers have no real choices in life and represent the ultimate form of exploitation: the CDF's facade starts to show some ugly cracks in here.

Private Dirac's personal story starts from this premise to explore the concept of self-awareness and choice, and does this in such a poignant way that it took me no time at all to feel strongly for this character and to become emotionally invested in his journey. There is a huge measure of childish innocence in Dirac, whose consciousness has been implanted with the memories of turncoat scientist Boutin in the hope that they will surface, giving the CDF a strategic advantage over their enemies. My sympathies would have gone to him anyway, considering the premise, but the moment when he became aware of the implanted experiences is the one where my heart went out to him, because the first triggered memory is that of Boutin's lost daughter Zoe. In a way, these two innocents – children both of them, because Dirac is emotionally a child – are the true protagonists of the story and Zoe becomes the catalyst for Dirac's decisions and for his first meaningful choice as an independent individual.

This book moved me deeply more than once and further raised my appreciation for Mr. Scalzi's way of dealing with important issues in a deceptively light and offhand way. This universe is expanding and acquiring more facets with each new installment and I more than look forward to the next books in the series.
( )
  SpaceandSorcery | Dec 25, 2018 |
Really 3.5 stars. It is a good follow up to Old Man's War. I liked the exploration of what makes an individual personality or consciousness. We got to know the aliens better, too. The brutality was sometimes over the top for me but it did fit the plot and the characters. ( )
  JanetNoRules | Sep 17, 2018 |
I will only offer the below excerpt beyond my star rating.

In the early evening of the second day, Andrea Gell-Mann introdued the 8th to the concept of profanity, which she picked up at lunch and shared just before dinner. At dinner members of the 8th enthusiastically told each other to pass the fucking salt, you fucking sack of shit, until Brathe told them to quit that goddamn shit, cocksuckers, because it got old pretty goddamn quick. ( )
  ZachDecker | Jun 26, 2018 |
The Ghost Brigades is the second book in the Old Man's War series by John Scalzi. While this book is touted as a sequel to Old Man's War the story is a different beast entirely. Gone are John Perry and most of the characters we became familiar with. Also gone is the humorous, light-hearted tone of the first book. This book is darker and more serious, featuring a new protagonist, Jared Dirac.

The Colonial Defense Forces has discovered that their top research scientist, Charles Boutin, has turned traitor and done something completely unexpected: he has attempted a fake suicide, escaped the CDF and convinced three alien races to ally against humanity. Boutin had also had a scientific breakthrough and somehow store a copy of his consciousness in a computer, something never before achieved. Needing to know what's in Boutin's head but unsure where the scientist has disappeared to, the CDF decides to create a Special Forces soldier from Boutin's DNA and attempt to plant his consciousness in the body. When the memory transplant appears to have failed the body is given a new identity, Jared Dirac, and sent off to the Ghost Brigades. Jared enters training and is the perfect soldier. Right up until Boutin's memories start coming back.

Once the story gets going it moves right a long. I liked seeing inside the training of the Special Forces and how different it is from "regular" CDF training. The idea of integration and how the squad members communicate is fascinating.

Scalzi touches on a lot of interesting ideas in this book. A persons consciousness and what makes us who we are is a big focus of Jared's story. So are the ideas of free will and the importance of choice. There is also a question of ethics around the Special Forces units themselves. Since they're created for one purpose only and aren't given a choice about it, does that make them little better than slaves? Some great ideas here. Too bad Scalzi doesn't go too deep with any of these. I'd love to see all the ideas explored in more depth.

Jared's short life story is a tragedy. That is the down side of being a Special Forces soldier. From the trauma of his "birth", to figuring out how to operate his new body and integrate with his platoon, to a short romance with a fellow recruit, to the horror of loss in war. He experiences it all in little more than a year and we are constantly reminded how these soldiers are more like children and simply aren't equipped to deal with the emotions involved or to fully understand everything that's going on. In many ways his character development was rushed. Again, I'd like to have spent more time with this to have an even bigger emotional impact.

While it is not a bad entry into the series there was something lacking. I think I'd have it enjoyed it more if there were another couple hundred pages to spend more time exploring Jared's character development and all these interesting concepts we've been given. ( )
  Narilka | Apr 14, 2018 |
This is the second book in the Old Man's War Series. While not as original as the first, this book explored human consciousness and continued the story of the relations between humans and other races. I enjoyed the story, but was a bit disappointed that the while many of the characters returned, the main character of the story was completely new. Other than that, the science did make me think and while the action wasn't as solid as the original, it still made for a fun read. I will continue the series. ( )
  msaucier818 | Apr 9, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Scalziprimary authorall editionscalculated
Chong, VincentCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harris,JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Shara Zoll, for friendship and everything else. To Kristine and Athena, for their patience and love.
First words
No one noticed the rock.
Fear isn't the desire to avoid death or pain. Fear is rooted in the knowledge that what you recognize as yourself can cease to exist. Fear is existential.
Harvey lived for this sort of shit.
His chief worry as they approached the science station was that Lieutenant Sagan would do one of her patented thoughtful, methodical approaches; something sneaky that would require him to tiptoe around like a goddamn spy or something. He hated that crap. Harvey knew what he was and what he was best at: He was a noisy son of a bitch and he was good at making things fall down and go boom. In his few introspective moments, Harvey wondered if his progie, the guy he was mostly made from, hadn’t been something really antisocial, like a pyromaniac or a professional wrestler, or maybe had done time for assault. Whoever or whatever he was, Harvey would have been happy to give him a nice big smack on the lips. Harvey was absolutely at peace with his inner nature, in the sort of way that Zen Buddhist monks could only dream about. And so when Sagan told him his job was to draw attention to himself so she and Seaborg could do their jobs, Harvey did a little dance on the inside. He could definitely draw attention to himself. The question was how.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0765354063, Mass Market Paperback)

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…

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:13 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

When humanity is threatened by three adversarial races who would halt the world's expansion into space, Jared Dirac, a super-power clone, tries to discover why the scientist who gave him his DNA has revealed key military secrets.

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