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John Scalzi – The Ghost Brigades

Title: The Ghost Brigades
Author: John Scalzi
Year: 2006

Since I liked most of what I saw in the prequel to this book, Old Man’s War, I decided to continue with the series. The second book, The Ghost Brigades, uses a quite different chronology than the first book, although Jane Sagan is still one of the main characters. This time, a human scientist, expert on the brain pal (the computer enhancing the Colonial Forces’ natural brains) , has gone renegade and betrayed humanity to a triple alliance of hostile aliens who are planning a war of extinction on mankind. To get closer to this traitor and understand how he works, the military leaders of the Colonial Union decide to clone his body and imprint his mind on a new consciousness. The result is somewhat ambiguous. Of the new person thus created, how much is from the mind of the traitor and how much is formed by new experiences? To what extent is personality and identity a function of memory? In addition to this, there are further questions going to the core of the Colonial Union. Is the universe really so hostile as they proclaim it to be, or is there a truly rational and cogent argument why one should betray the union? Identity, choice and the latter’s implications on the former lie at the heart of this novel.

Even though the setup is nice and the book almost stands alone (however, I do recommend reading Old Man’s War first), the frequency of new, interesting things is simply lower than in its predecessor. Most of what was good in the first novel is good also in this, but there’s not much new. Also, I’ve begun to become irritated at some of the author’s bad habits, such as an exaggerated use of “she said” or “he said” in dialogues. I don’t need Stephen King’s On Writing to tell me that this is not only unnecessary, but outright bad workmanship. Still, taken as a whole, it’s still a worthwhile read, only superseded by the first book by half a snail. This is nice. but I agree with the outcome of the last few year’s Hugo Award ceremonies, which nominated both books, but without giving any of them a Hugo. The third and last book, The Last Colony, was also nominated, and also didn’t win. Give me a few days to see if I agree with that, too.

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  1. Xhakhal’s avatar

    I was thinking of borrowing On Writing from Elin, but she’s got it in Swedish. King is funny even in Swedish, but I’d like to read a book about writing in he language it was written in.

    This books does sound interesting, and I’m a bit surprised at you reading series, but it sounds like a book better read on paper. Or what do you think?