Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: The Ghost Brigades (Old Man's War)
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VINE VOICEon March 6, 2006
This book is billed as a sequel to Old Man's War, but it really isn't. While set in the same universe, it has only marginal ties to the earlier book, in the person of Jane Sagan, John Perry's love interest in that book. Instead, this book is a much closer look at the Special Forces, soldiers created from the genetic material of several people, including some now dead (hence the `Ghost' appellation). These people are force grown, then decanted into the world with their Brain Pal as their immediate mentor, giving them the capabilities and knowledge of adults when only hours old. The same Brain Pal technology allows them to integrate with their squad mates: a form of aided telepathy that allows not only for quick training but gives these individuals a sense of community and family they would otherwise not have.

The story revolves around the search for a traitorous scientist, Charles Boutin, who helped developed the Brain Pal technology and the ability to store and relocate a person's consciousness (or, depending on your point of view, their soul). Jared Dirac is a newly created clone (with enhancements) of this person, and an attempt is made to load Dirac's brain with a copy Boutin's consciousness in an effort to find out why Boutin became a traitor and where he might have gone. This attempt apparently doesn't work, and Dirac is placed with a Special Forces squad led by Jane. Dirac's development as a person is the main focus of the work from this point on.

The book starts well, with an action-oriented opening chapter that grabs, but then the next fifty pages drag somewhat, as Scalzi sets up the scenario for the rest of the book and explains the technology and military situation. This section is too long, and I felt that much of this material should have been better integrated with the prime story. When Dirac joins his squad, things pick up again; his 'training' and the first couple of military actions he is part of are probably the best part of this book. The last quarter of the book falls off a little again, as the thematic focus of the book comes to the fore - that of what makes an individual 'free' - free to make his own choices, free to decide for himself what is correct and moral, free to live his own life without being subject to the imperatives of not only others, but his genetic heritage. Only a little of this theme is directly explicated, but it dominates the action of the final portion of this book.

The political/military situation is nicely envisaged, with three alien races allied against humanity, and each of these races are well defined in their differences from humanity. The human's military strategy to break up this alliance is well thought out, and plays upon each race's unique characteristics. It also brings up a secondary thematic point of this book, about what actions are 'moral' and justified in war, when the very survival of the species is at stake, and just what the basis is for deciding whether humanity should survive.

Not as strong as Old Man's War, with too much poorly integrated 'background' material, but still a good read, with lots of food for thought nestled in its pages.

--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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on August 11, 2008
Other than names, no specifics (i.e., spoilers) are given in this review. Incidentally, I do not consider 3 stars to be a "bad" review--the book is okay. It is fine as a bridge between Old Man's War (O.M.W.) and the Last Colony [anyone else find that title to be a bit of a spoiler?].

Make sure you read OMW first. It comes first sequentially, but is also a much better book. While Ghost Brigades uses the same recipe as the first book, it uses inferior ingredients in cooking up a similar piece of fiction.

The protagonist from OMW (John Perry) is missing from this book. The other characters from OMW that DO appear in the sequel are flat. Jane Sagan, who should have a great deal more depth and empathy than anyone else in the Special Forces, is completely superfluous to the story [anyone could have replaced her as the SF commander]. She is not developed one iota from the first book, and appears to have actually flattened in the interim.
Harry Wilson returns in what could have been a great supporting role, but is made completely unnecessary by a scientist called Cainen.

The "mystery" inherent to the story suffers from at least one major plot-hole: no one ever reads the suspect's personnel file. The characters involved ALL have the highest level of clearances, including two generals, one colonel, and a military intelligence officer (Sagan), among others. They live in a world in which the internet more-or-less exists inside everyone's head. Files can be downloaded and read almost instantaneously. While trying to deduce the villain's motivations, it simply never occurs to them to access his file.
The mystery also suffers from other common problems: part I of the big reveal is obvious to everyone but the characters in the book, and part II is based on facts not given to the reader at any point in the story.

But all is not lost: the protagonist's (Jared Dirac's) development is fairly engaging. The concept for the story which drives the action is excellent (but only mediocre execution). The action sequences, though sparse, are generally well-written and exciting. If you are a reader anxious to revisit OMW's universe [but not its characters], you will get your wish. This book gives quite a lot of secondary information to understanding past and current events of the Colonial Union, as well as some technological explanations for the science-minded. [I'm not saying they are good explanations--I'm no scientist--but they are there.]
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on February 22, 2006
Like Old Man's War, this new novel is somewhere between a fanboy's homage and a real work of art- but it's a lot closer to the latter than the former. The alliance of three hostile species alluded to in the blurbs adds more than enough tension to keep the atmosphere sizzling, and the habits of some of the species encountered bring horror to the table as well. The surprises keep coming as we learn more about the CDF's Special Forces, and Jane Sagan (from OMW) plays a large part in the story.

It's been a long time since I sat down with a new book and read it from beginning to end, probably since Rosenberg's 'Paladins.' Thanks very much, Mr. Scalzi.
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This book continues the 'Old Man's War' series, here focusing on the 'Ghost Brigades' and bringing us closer to understanding how those troops have been created and how the universe at this point in time has evolved. The ghost brigades had been a part of the first book but without detailed explanation. Now, their background and capabilities become much more clear.

The story is excellent and introduces several major new characters, some of whom will continue into one or more of the following stories.

These books by John Scalzi have brought me back to reading science fiction, after several decades away. Scalzi's style of writing is very reminiscent of Robert Heinlein, and since Heinlein was my favorite author as a youth, I've found myself quickly drawn to these stories. I'm working my way through the series and coming to them late, as I have, has been beneficial since I'm able to read them one after the other, without waiting for each to come along. I'll be through the five existing books well in advance of the publication of the sixth later this year.

Books in the 'Old Man's War' series, to date:

Book 1: Old Man's War (2005)
Book 2: The Ghost Brigades (2006)
Book 3: The Last Colony (2007)
Book 4: Zoe's Tale (2008)
Book 5: The Human Division (2013)
Book 6: The End of All Things (to be released August 11, 2015)
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on October 10, 2007
The Ghost Brigades (2006) is the second novel in the Old Man's War series, following Old Man's War. In the previous volume, John Perry became an official CDF hero and made barnstorming tours around the colonies. Jane Sagan went back to work in the Special Forces, AKA the Ghost Brigades.

In this novel, Jane leads a raid on an Obin colony world. The Special Forces take one Rraey prisoner from the Eneshan facility. After a slight biological adjustment of his body, Jane convinces the Rraey to cooperate.

The prisoner Cainen tells of a concerted effort by the Rraey, Eneshan and Obin to conquer the Terran colonies. This alliance has resulted from the defection of one human -- Charles Boutin -- who had been a senior scientist in Military Research. The Colonial Defense Forces were greatly surprised at this news, since Boutin was already dead and buried.

When Harry Wilson finds a recording of Boutin's consciousness among his effects, the CDF decides to create another version of the man. The standard Special Forces processing is used to produce a modified body from Boutin's DNA. Then the recorded consciousness is downloaded into it. Everything goes according to plan, except that the resulting mind seems to be a tabula rasa.

In this story, the new body is named Jared Dirac and integrated into a Special Forces training squad. After his training, Jared is assigned to a Special Forces ship under Lieutenant Jane Sagan. He serves in the Special Forces for almost a year before something brings back one of Boutin's memories.

Jared is reassigned to Military Research to try to stimulate more memories. Cainen and Harry Wilson work with him on the project. He is gradually gaining more memories and his mind displays are looking more like Boutin's every day. Then they send him to Boutin's former home station in hopes that the familiar surroundings will bring further progress. Since the station is now in Obin hands, Jared has to sneak into the habitat and the aliens detect his presence.

This story provides more information on the CDF, the Colonial Union, and their relationships with the nearby aliens. It also mentions weapons of mass destruction: nuclear weapons and biological warfare. The nukes are used as shipkillers and one passage implies that they have been used against alien colonies. The Obin have also used a virus to destroy an army of alien clones.

This tale also introduces a new type of WMD: cybernetic weapons. Computer viruses and other hostile softwares have appeared prominently in many SF stories. Now, however, the author has created a possibility of mass destruction through such a virus.

This sequel builds upon, but differs greatly from, the first novel. Some continuity is provided by characters and institutions, but the plot is nothing like the first story. A difficult effect, but well done. Enjoy!

Highly recommended for Scalzi fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of military operations, transferred consciousness, and dutiful persons.

-Arthur W. Jordin
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on April 17, 2016
There were lots of words in this book, good words that were strung together quite well to make a great story. Words that, when assembled into fine, working sentences, gave depth to the characters that other words created. Words that were very descriptive and explained how the world works in the here and now, even though other words were all science fictiony. And there were entertaining words that made the few philosophical words seem less boringly educational and more fun. Reading all the words that were used, in the order they were written, or at least edited, made terrific use of the years I spent learning those words, so much so that I thoroughly enjoyed reading them all; and you very probably will, too.
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on August 25, 2008
I enjoyed reading The Ghost Brigades - but I have a hard time describing why. The story is pretty convoluted, and felt like three different stories in a season-of-a-choppy-television-series way. While Old Man's War was very Heinleinian to me, this book felt more like an Asimov Robot mystery - lots of classic goodness, fun ways of using some new ideas and repackaging many older ones.
I was entertained, but did find myself wondering when he would get to the meat of the story a number of times. The comings and goings of key characters is very `serial drama' feeling, somehow different enough from other fiction to be a little confusing at times.
Mr. Scalzi is a wiz at repackaging the ideas of others - and doing them justice (admittedly and with flair). Having fun with other people's special effects may be wearing a little on me though because I didn't enjoy this installment as much as OMW.
I think I'd rather see it on screen - on television (as it doesn't strike me as a strong or long enough story for a feature length film). It feels like a Sci-Fi channel screenplay to me.
Too little detail is given about the aliens though they are a main feature in the book - we aren't entirely made aware of how they look or behave.
During the course of this book I was annoyed with the author referring to `taking a dump' 4 times. I don't think `taking a dump' rates a mention every 65 pages or so, at least not using the same niche characterization language each time (from different characters).
Glad to have a lot of Jane Sagen in this book.
All in all - it was a book I was happy to have read, but not one I will probably return to in the future like I will with OMW. Looking forward to reading the progression of the characters of this world in the books that follow.
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VINE VOICEon April 3, 2006
In the brutal universe Scalzi envisions, the various sentient species are always at war with one another. Humans fit right in, of course, and have created the Colonial Defense Forces (introduced in Scalzi's first novel, "Old Man's War") to protect their colonies.

Most of the CDF fighters are old humans in young, gene-enhanced bodies, but some, the Ghost Brigades, are cloned from the dead and born as adults. These are Special Forces troops, dedicated and ruthless.

Educated on instant demand by their "BrainPal," which also allows them to link to one another telepathically, they are ready to fight within months of being "decanted," though their emotional maturity often reflects chronological age, an amusing quirk.

The book opens with the capture of an alien scientist who admits that humanity's three major enemies have stopped killing one another and created an alliance to annihilate humans. The architect of this plot is a brilliant, traitorous human, Charles Boutin.

Created from Boutin's DNA to try and discover Boutin's motivation and intent, Jared Dirac becomes a Ghost Brigades soldier when a computer copy of Boutin's consciousness fails to take. His commanders are naturally wary of him, however, and with good reason, since Boutin's memories begin to surface piecemeal.

Is he genetically disposed to become a traitor? Will Boutin's memories turn him? How much of individual consciousness is experience, how much is biology? Scalzi plays with these questions while delivering a rousing good action tale, complete with devious twists and tricks and lots of high-tech firepower.

He also has a lot of fun with character and motivation, and his military milieu is a credible mix of training, indoctrination and personality. Entertaining and thought provoking, for readers who want more from military SF than death rays.

--Portsmouth Herald
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on February 23, 2006
I just finished The Ghost Brigades, I am one of those that for my favorite authors I sit down and read the book as soon as I get my hands on it. It fulfilled the promise of his first, Old Man's War, and more. At first I found the secondary issue of Boutin's consciousness as an irritant to the general story line, but I believed that he would eventually become important and of course it did.

The climax of the story when the villain explained his reasons for his villainy was pretty poignant. I think that it is an excellent example of how people who only have part of the reasons why government does things can be so sure that they have a better way and then go to extremes that they would heartily denounce in others to try and implement their own world view.

Yes, I am tip toeing around the facts to give my impressions without giving away the story, but it comes down to this an excellent novel.
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on January 21, 2013
......After Old Man's War. Gone is the humour, the perhaps naive sense of wonder. Ghost brigades does its worst with its more than human protagonists, wading through one info dump after the other to climax with the bad guy explaining is cunning plan so that the hero can thwart it. As much as OMW reminded me how I liked Space Opera as a kid, TGB confirmed that there is more interesting SF to read out there.
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