02 May 2012

The Ghost Brigades - John Scalzi

Ghost Brigades.jpg

Here we have the second book set in the "Old Man's War universe". It tells the story of Jane Sagan (who we met in Old Man's War) and what she and the elite Ghost Brigades get up to. This story is slightly different in that it is a third-person narrative. Jane Sagan and Harry Wilson are the only primary characters returning from Old Man's War, with John Perry receiving only passing mention and reference to events at the Battle of Coral.

On a frozen world, an important individual in a secret scientific military installation is hustled to safety during the bombardment of the base. Following his capture, the individual, identified as Rraey Administrator Caeden, is interrogated by Special Forces Lieutenant Jane Sagan who informs him that he has been deprived a vital enzyme in his body and will suffer debilitating pain and death if he does not accept the treatments they provide. In return he will provide them with information relating a recent military alliance between his culture and two others (the Eneshan, and the Obin) that threaten the survival of the Human Colonial Union (CU).

It is revealed, on the CU planet Phoenix, that an eminent scientist and BrainPal expert, Charles Boutin has committed suicide. However, when the autopsy suggests that the body is actually a clone, and that Boutin has betrayed the human race after preserving his brain pattern in a computer, the top brass in Military Research decide to create a Special Forces body from Boutin's DNA and attempt to instill it with Boutin's consciousness to discern what happened to drive him to betray humanity. With the threat of the anti-CU alliance threatening the sovereignty of the Colonial Union, the need for an answer becomes increasingly important throughout the course of events.
The body and activated BrainPal of Boutin is born and named Jared Dirac, as all Special Forces are named with a typical first name and given the last name of a famous scientist or philosopher. When Dirac fails to express the personality of Boutin after receiving the transfer of Boutin's consciousness he is inducted into the Ghost Brigades and begins training, followed soon after by combat tours with Sarah Pauling, as his partner and 'best-beloved', and Jane Sagan as his commanding officer, who resents his presence due to the potential that he will betray his comrades.
Throughout the course of his tours of duty, Dirac has to deal with the loss of his friends, and flashes of memories of a life he never actually lived, while trying to find out who he himself really is.
After multiple tramatic experiences in combat, Dirac begins to recall certain aspects of Boutin's life and grows to develop several personality quirks seen in the traitorous scientist. He also begins to recall certain specific memories without truly adopting the frame of mind held by his physical and psychological template. However, as ships of the Ghost Brigades begin disappearing across human-controlled space, Dirac is hustled by his commanders to provide some clues to the aims of the traitor Boutin.
Finally, having regained the majority of Boutin's consciousness, Dirac joins Sagan and her unit in an assault of Boutin's laboratory deep in hostile territory. On approach, the team lose the function of their BrainPals, and with this, their ability to function as a cohesive unit or even use their weaponry.
Dirac is captured by the aliens and brought to Boutin, who reveals that he intends to use Dirac as a physical template for the direct transfer of his consciousness and then use Dirac's BrainPal to unleash a mental virus among the entire CDF and kill all of its soldiers. His reasoning is that without the tyrannical CDF, humanity will have a chance to broker for peace with the Conclave: a burgeoning alliances among other alien races, which promises to protect member states/species while potentially conquering the worlds of non-member states. Dirac's mind is overwritten during the transfer of Boutin's consciousness, but in a last ditch effort, Dirac leaves a program in his body that causes his blood to oxidize shortly after he is overtaken, thus eliminating Boutin's consciousness as well.
Boutin's daughter Zoƫ is taken from the scene by Sagan, who later adopts the young girl and plans to raise her with John Perry.

Rating from me: 10/10

Followed by The Last Colony.

Synopsis courtesy of Wikipedia

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