Sounds a pretty interesting read. Must check it out soon.
I think your review, for the most part, is accurate but I do find myself disagreeing with one major point you make.
You see the book addressing the question of identity; I see it as delving into the nature of a soldier. Consider the word soldier. What comes to mind? I suspect that the most likely image is that of an automaton obeying orders whatever those orders might be. Soldiers are mindless; only their leaders have any thought processes.
Scaldi brings to the soldier the matter of choice, the issue of free will. Do the Ghost Brigades have free will or has it been clevery removed from their lives by the big bad government? Based on the education and training he was provided, could Jared have done anything other than what he did? Why did the Lieutenant react in that fashion, following Jared's lead? Because she could read his mind or because she made a choice, for better or worse?
Consider the conversation between the two generals at the end of the tale as they discuss what to do about the Lieutenant who now knows too much. Consider the actions of said Lieutenant and future plans.
That, for me, takes the tale a step above the run of the mill military sf. Soldiers doing their duty not out of a sense of discipline or fear of reprisal but because they choose to buy into the need and decide to do what must be done.
Interesting points HE. I think your points about the nature of soldier are good and make me reconsider the book a bit. I still see the nature of identity as the central theme.
However, the Ghost Brigades in particular know nothing other than to serve their military, so to have Boutin's mind in a Ghost Brigade does really illuminate the idea of a soldier following orders without thought.
if you like Scalzi's stuff, you might want to pop on over to www.scalzi.com and visit the 'whatever' blog. Its always interesting and entertaining, and occassionaly gives you some direct insite into a working writer's mind.
Nice review, Rob.
For what it's worth I actually ended up enjoying 'The Ghost Brigades' a lot more than I expected to. The more I consider it in hindsight, the more favourably I compare it to 'Old Man's War'.
I think Scalzi had two excellent angles, but didn't make enough use of them. I'd prefer to have seen a more detailed exploration of the tensions between the Special Forces and the rest of the military, which seems to be almost a miniature culture clash mirroring the one between the human military as a whole and the colonists they protect.
Secondly, I'd like to have seen a greater emphasis placed upon what exactly happened when the implanted 'traitorous' personality finally came to the fore. There's something horrific about the notion of the previous fledging personality being slowly extinguished or pushed aside.
To be honest, that wouldn't be what comes to mind when I think of soldiers at all, HE.Consider the word soldier. What comes to mind? I suspect that the most likely image is that of an automaton obeying orders whatever those orders might be. Soldiers are mindless; only their leaders have any thought processes.
When I think of what it means to be a soldier contemporarily I think about things like hard training, the risk of personal injury and even death in the service of ones' country, peace-keeping abroad, antimilitary sentiments in the media and popular culture, honour, history and ultimately the Heinleinian notion that there's no greater evidence of committment to civil society than the willingness to put your body in the way of anything which poses a threat to it.
What some might liken the obeying of orders to being an 'automaton', I'd consider it evidence of one of the most sterling and defining characteristics of a soldier: Discipline. To characterise a modern professional soldier as being 'mindless' in any sense beggars belief considering the level of training these guys and girls received and commitment to high standards which they embody.
Last edited by Ouroboros; January 24th, 2008 at 05:12 PM.