Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars
“The Ghost Brigades” is the second book by John Scalzi set in the “Old Man’s War” universe. It is a very fun read, but parts of the story just didn’t connect with me. While “Old Man’s War” was a very high four stars, “The Ghost Brigades” rates a very low four stars. There are plenty of scenes of the Scalzian brilliance that made “Old Man’s War” so memorable, but they are muted somewhat by a plot that seems forced.
The biggest problem for me was the motivations of Charles Boutin. John Scalzi is usually very good at describing characters in such a way that makes them both unique and believable. Aliens seem alien yet still relatable. Special Forces soldiers seem like kids in grown peoples’ bodies. Charles Boutin seems like a paper cutout character who, despite being a brilliant scientist, makes very hard to understand choices which just happen to further the plot. I imagine John Scalzi had a bunch of great ideas that could be thrown into a story about the Ghost Brigades but then struggled mightily to tie all the great ideas together. The result being a great book with a passable plot.
Those bunches of great ideas are pretty great, though. The Ghost Brigades are infinitely interesting. Reading how they are created and trained, how they relate to each other and to others, the ethical and practical implications of their existence is some fascinating material. You are not going to find much better sci-fi out there than the inner workings of the Colonial Defense Force and the aliens that they fight.
I am definitely hooked on the “Old Man’s War” universe. I’ve already started reading the next in the series, “The Last Colony”, and am already enjoying it immensely. If John Scalzi put the “Old Man’s War” tag on a coloring book, I’d probably read it. Heck, I’m likely to read everything Scalzian in existence at this point. Not only does he write incredibly well, he also seems like a pretty cool cat. Check out his Whatever blog if you get a chance.