After three chapters of talk and exposition, The Ghost Brigades, by John Scalzi really wakes up with Jared Dirac. He’s the second clone of the purported traitor Charles Boutin, who shot the first one in order to fake his death. Luckily, Boutin was a researcher in consciousness (sort of a critical field when you’re decanting old minds into new bodies), and the Colonial Union still has Boutin’s last recording of his mind. So they played the tape into Dirac’s brain, hoping to recover Boutin’s memories. Naturally, it doesn’t work quite the way they expect.
Dirac is a really cool character. He confronts some interesting speculation about consciousness and personality. And choice. And good and evil. I was moved by his grief over the acquired memory of Boutin’s daughter, Zoe. I was most impressed with the way Dirac’s thoughts and speech changed as he acquired more of Boutin’s personality. He becomes more passionate–and human.
Unlike the other characters. Even when Dirac finally meets the original Charles Boutin, Boutin blathered like all the other expository yakkers in the book. In general, the characters do not act the way we are told they act. The Ghost Brigades, who are supposedly clones awakened as adults, don’t seem any more brusque or socially inept than the other people. Everyone seems pretty blunt. The only time you see them act as childish as they are said to do, is during Dirac’s initial training.
In contrast to the gung-ho fighting of Old Man’s War, it was a relief to get another viewpoint on this unfriendly universe. I really like Boutin’s rant about how evil the Colonial Union is. He’s clearly right. And it’s pretty creepy that Dirac can’t quite agree with him even though he was party to a war crime. I can respect Dirac’s choice to destroy Boutin, thought I doubt it was the right one.
So I there was a fair amount that I enjoyed in this book. I liked seeing Jane Sagan a bit more. But then, the last few chapters dissolve into sentimental goo. For one thing, finding out that Zoe wasn’t dead after all robs the story of power. Then it turns out that Jane Sagan and John Perry are going to be raising Zoe on a new planet, a proposition that Zoe accepts far too readily. Just in case you forget this book is part of a series.
Next: Surely not the last book by John Scalzi.