Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Book-A-Day #185 (1/17): The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

I run hot and cold about reading genre books for pleasure -- sometimes, there are so many things I want to catch up on (like this, and the two Al Reynolds collections, and Kage Baker's Dark Mondays, which I think will be next) that I jump from a work SF book to a pleasure fantasy novel, or vice versa. Other times -- usually when I'm reading things for work that are not entirely to my taste (he said, politely) -- I find I have to run as far away from genre for my other reading as possible.

No points for guessing what kind of week this was.

So far Scalzi is writing zippy novels that are fun and quick to read. (I've read Agent to the Stars, Old Man's War, and now this.) This one is a bit more serious and resonant than Old Man's War, though it's set in the same universe (and could be called a sequel, if one was being loose with the term).

Parenthetically: I'm still hoping that the Old Man's War-iverse is not exactly as we have been led to believe. When I think about the background, there's a lot of stress on my suspension of disbelief: see my post on Old Man's War for the details. To make it worse, in this book we learn that there are six hundred intelligent starfaring races in our neighborhood (without quite defining how large that neighborhood is or how many inhabitable planets there are), all of which are at roughly technological parity and a large fraction of which are at least at cold war with everybody else. Somebody's thumb is on the butcher's scale there, and if it's not some entity in this universe, then it must be Scalzi, which would be too bad.) On the other hand, we learn in this book that the human government has been explicitly lying about/covering up some important information about the wider universe, so Scalzi may have an answer to this dilemma up his sleeve. I hope so.
Ghost Brigades has many of the virtues of Old Man's War, as well: it's a book that's easier to just keep reading than to put down, which is rarer than it sounds. It's written in limited third person, with several important viewpoint characters, but it still moves along as swiftly as the first-person Old Man.

I liked it, and I'll keep reading more Scalzi books, even though my boss is the one who acquires him for the SFBC. That's a pretty serious recommendation from me; he's a writer in the genre who I'll go out of my way to read when I don't have to.

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