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The Ghost Brigades    by John Scalzi order for
Ghost Brigades
by John Scalzi
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Ghost Brigades is a loose sequel to Old Man's War, set in the same war-torn universe, but with a shift in character focus. In a universe reminiscent of that in Heinlein's Starship Troopers and with a nod to David Brin's amazing Uplift series, with fierce competition for real estate, mankind does what it takes to survive. This includes recycling septuagenarians into genetically engineered clones to serve in the Colonial Defense Forces.

This was essentially the story told in Old Man's War, in which John Perry, one such rejuvenated soldier, recognized his dead wife (now Jane Sagan) in the Ghost Brigades - elite CDF Special Forces engineered from the DNA of the dead, and given special abilities including telepathic communication with their peers via BrainPals. Jane has a key role in this sequel, which stars a soldier created from the DNA of a traitor to mankind, researcher Dr. Charles Boutin. Boutin has planned - along with three alien races, the Rraey, the Enesha, and the Obin, who have not cooperated in the past - the annihilation of his own species. Unfortunately, Boutin's Special Forces clone, named Jared Dirac, lacks his original's memories, so is of no use for interrogation. He's assigned to Sagan's unit, so that she can keep an eye on him.

We see him move through integration with his peers, training, and deployment. He loves and loses Sarah Pauling, dislikes and then befriends Steve Seaborg. They're involved in missions involving the Rraey and Enesha. What Jared sees and does - as well as an exposure to black jellybeans - begins to leak memories of his alter ego into his own consciousness. He eventually discovers why Boutin turned traitor, and is sent on a mission, with Sagan, to stop him and the Obin. A paternal alien prisoner reminds Jared, 'Remember who you are ... Remember that you're not him. And remember that you always have a choice.' After thrilling action sequences, Dirac exercises that choice in an innovative fashion, and Jane Sagan honors it.

Though not quite as enthralling as the first in the series, The Ghost Brigades is an exciting story, in which humans fight desperately for survival in a Darwinian universe. I look forward to John Scalzi's next book, The Android's Dream.

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