I wrote the following review of The Ghost Brigades back in July of 2009 when I first read the book. I am in the process of reading the Old Man’s War books for what must be the fifth or sixth time. I’m just as excited about them and it seemed silly to write a new review
The Ghost Brigades is the second book of four set in a future universe where humanity has a precarious foothold in the universe. The colonies are protected by clones enhanced through genetics and technology. The rank and file are volunteers from Earth in the twilight of life who have their consciousness moved into modified soldier’s bodies.
For the dirtiest of dirty missions, Special Forces are born without consciousness. Referred to as Ghost Brigades these super soldiers are thought to have no soul.
Our hero is Jared, a cloned Special Forces soldier implanted with the consciousness of a scientist who betrayed humanity. The transfer from a computer data bank is an experimental process. Consciousness had always been transferred from brain to brain.
Jared is not informed of his unique origins. He is trained with other Special Forces for the purpose they are born for – protecting humanity.
In training, Jared is assigned to read Frankenstein then disseminate what he finds to his training mates through their wireless brain connection via an implant called a BrainPal. Frankenstein gave them an understanding of how humanity views them. Dangerous, unpredictable, and nonhuman.
Jared’s research leads him to other science fiction nonhuman intelligences including my lifelong friends Data and R. Deneel Olivaw, along with several notable others. Everyone knows Data, of course. R. Deneel Olivaw is the humanoid robot detective of Asimov’s robot novels, my personal favorite Asimov novels. I was excited at Scalzi’s skill in connecting this future world to Earth’s past. It lends reality to the universe he builds, along with winning my eternal devotion.
Since I don’t do spoilers there is only so much I can say about the details. Both action/adventure oriented sf readers and those who prefer more ideas and philosophy based science fiction will find something to excite their imagination. No doubt an Asimov devotee such as myself can live without action, but not without discussions about the big questions about life. A perfect balance is at the heart of The Ghost Brigades.