This is the sequel to the excellent Old Man’s War. John Perry, our hero from that book, is absent though mentioned. This novel deals with the genetically engineer supersoldiers of the Ghost Brigades, which comprise the Special Forces of the Colonial Union. Jared Dirac is created to house the recorded consciousness of Charles Boutin, a traitor to the Colonial Union. But the consciousness doesn’t take. He becomes just another Special Forces soldier, until the traitor’s memories and personality start emerging.
While a good read, this book has a problem. The macro story of political intrigue is rather dull and stretches believability. The first half, where most of the action deals with Jared’s development as a soldier and person, is excellent. Scalzi is playing to his strengths here, just as he did in Old Man’s War. There is lots of humor and focus on character. The second half is less enticing. While Jared is still an interesting character to follow, the background story is both abstract and dull. There is a great message in the plotline involving Boutin’s daughter, but it gets bogged down in Boutin’s evil genius posturing. While crazy geniuses with convoluted plans work fine in a James Bond movie, the whole thing falls a bit flat here. A decent read, but not as good as its predecessor.