The Ghost Brigades is the second book from John Scalzi, set in the same world as Old Man’s War. There are couple of cross-over characters but the main protagonist from Old Man’s War is not present (although he is mentioned). The story revolves around a few characters (including Jane Sagan) which sets it immediately apart from it’s predecessor and indeed The Ghost Brigades is a better book.
Three intelligent races appear to be ganging up against the humans backed with knowledge from a human traitor, and it’s up to the CDF’s Special Forces unit to find out what’s going on and shut it down before it turns into a disaster. But to achieve it, they have to recreate the traitor to learn exactly what their enemy is up to.
The Ghost Brigades reads more smoothly than Old Man’s War and the increased number of viewpoints throughout the story give it more depth. On one level this is a less personal story, more a story of humanity’s attempt to survive in the great Universe; and yet it retains a very personal core in the form of Jared Dirac and his struggle to work out who he really is or might become. We learn more about the CDF’s technology, get a hint at some greater machine turning in the background behind all the action and experience some thrilling and tense combat action. Character interaction is excellent and while the nature of the CDF special forces might seem to prevent much character growth, Scalzi manages to do it anyway in a satisfying way.
The science / sci-fi element is interesting although I’m not a fan enough of sci-fi to tell you if it’s credible or crazy. Sclazi also manages to provide some truly interesting aliens races to think about who are more than just humanoids with head prosthetics.
I’m a sucker for all the emotional triggers in this book (I’ll say no more in case I give too much away) so was very moved and touched by the latter few chapters. That results in me almost forgiving the initially slow and slightly clumsy start, but not enough to give it 5 stars.
The Ghost Brigades is a worthy successor to Old Man’s War, and in many ways surpasses it. Strongly recommended.