The Ghost Brigades – John Scalzi

Now its time to learn to fight like Special Forces…

The Ghost Brigades is the next part of the Old Man’s War series. But it feels different, the universe and the characters have moved on and the universe is a more complex place. I love how the “world”-building is so gradual here, smoothly adding depth and complexity at a manageable pace.

But the story is distinct here, not just a continuation of more of the same, but taking the end point and running off with it in a different direction. The writing is strong, and there are links there to bring it back to Old Man’s War, but it stands on its own. There is of course (given the setting) more soldiers and war, but also plotting, intrigue, Science! and politics.

The moral twist in this is then just perfect, although difficult to give more details without serious spoilers!

 

Old Man’s War – John Scalzi

“The colonies are saving their best technology for the military… I think you’re right, Harry. We have no idea what we’ve gotten ourselves into”

This is Scalzi’s first published novel, but is a strong opening to this series. I want to hear more about this setting and how characters develop, so will be picking up the rest in some form or other.

Old Mans War

The premise is interesting as a starting point, people are given the opportunity to become young again through joining the Colonial Defence Force (aka, off-planet army). Scalzi then, as always, handles the emotional and social considerations of this as well as he does the practical side.

Then we have some planetary wars, making friends and all the other fun stuff one could hope for.

I quite like the later plot development as well, although it does stretch suspension of disbelief a bit too far! There are only so many incredibly unlikely things that can happen to one character, even in a novel.

Lock In – John Scalzi

I recommend Lock In, both as a near-future science fiction novel, and as an exploration of how society considers disability.

Lock InIt opens with an essay explaining pretty much exactly what happened and who all these different players are, so much of the world-building is done in the first 3 pages. That then leaves the rest of the book as a crime novel with a twist.

It was a good call to have the protaganist be someone who is so comfortable with his life, which meant that as I interpreted his view of being locked in it wasn’t a negative experience. He was able to access technology and social spaces that made up much of his life and this is just how things are for him. Of course it helps being a very privileged child, which protects him from many of the possible negatives, but he is an active member of both societies.

There is also a political and greater social change aspect to this novel, and it all ties together beautifully (with a few unlikely coincidences to make the plot run a bit more smoothly).

I can’t help but draw comparisons to Charlie Stross’s Halting State and Rule 34, but possibly because they are the only other near-future science fiction crime novels I’ve read recently.

I read this in part because its a book in my GoodReads group, which also highlighted the prequel novella on Tor.com which gives some background on Hayden’s syndrome, the main concept underlying the book.

Fuzzy Nation – John Scalzi

Fuzzy NationAs I hadn’t heard of Little Fuzzy when this re-imagining was published I decided I would rather read the original first and give it time to settle before reading Fuzzy Nation. Then life happened and I entirely forgot I meant to get around to reading it.

Spoilers follow

I definitely like how Jack Holloway hovers closer to the anti-hero side in Fuzzy Nation. Its very clear that he isn’t an entirely nice person, with very few people liking him and having a few morally questionable acts in his past. But he has a fabulous dry sense of humour which made me chuckle at otherwise tense parts of the book. Plus the explosive-detonating dog. Who could fail to love an explosive-detonating dog?

Of course it is no longer a new idea, but I still love the Fuzzies. And I definitely love how instead of being entirely innocent beings who are foolish enough to trust humans, they are instead given sufficient intelligence to learn to speak English and to have used Jack by spying on him to find someone who will protect and support them as their planet is being plundered around them. It gives them more agency rather than being purely pawns of the humans. Given they are sapient beings it seems better that they have some freedom to choose how they want to approach life.

Quote of the book:

“I give you my word that I will not punch my client”

The Android’s Dream – John Scalzi

The Android’s Dream is a science fiction novel involving the many layers of bureaucracy in the government of earth manoeuvring around each other to meet their own aims, whilst (genearlly) trying to prevent an alien race from conquering Earth.

With the bureaucracy and legal frameworks, this is a brilliant story about world conquering, space travel and genetic engineering. The moral dilemmas are handled well, with smart solutions found, and the introduction of AI helping to enable a realistic “all knowing” character.