The second book in the Old Man’s War series, this was an even more direct examination of what it means to be human. When reading Old Man’s War, I was reminded of Frankenstein but in this book, the soldiers of the “Ghost Brigades” are explicitly instructed to read Shelley’s classic as part of understanding their own heritage.
The Ghost Brigades are the Special Forces of the Colonial Defence Force. These troops were introduced in Old Man’s War and this story is their story. Engineered from the DNA of dead humans, they are literally born warriors, created solely to fight. The book centres on the story of one unique Special Forces soldier, focussing on his growth and what happens when his past, in the form of his genetic legacy, comes back to haunt him.
Like Old Man’s War, this book works well as an entertaining science fiction military adventure. It’s well-paced, and the messages about politics, identity and humanity never overwhelm the action. Even while providing an enjoyable story, though, Scalzi still keeps his readers thinking about our place in the Universe, the purpose and role of the military, and raises questions about where we might draw the line on what constitutes a human.
With this book, Scalzi reinforced my appreciation for good science fiction. I strongly recommend this series to anyone wanting to try the genre for the first time. Intelligent, entertaining and thought-provoking, with a very good mix of science and fiction, The Ghost Brigades is a worthy continuation of the quadrilogy.