Read Recently — March 2008 — Space Opera! Opera in Spaaaaaace!

Crystal Dragon: a Liaden Universe Novel: Book Two of the Great Migration Duology by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

This is part two of the prequel to the entire Liaden Universe writings. Like the first one, it focusses mostly on the actions of M. Jela Granthor’s Guard, a genetically engineered soldier, and Cantra yos’Phelium, a pilot and smuggler, as they try to save the universe, or at least themselves, from the powerful attacks of a class of beings known as Sheriekas.

The two books together do provide a complete origin to the Liaden novels already published, but it isn’t an origin that works for me. I said of the first one that I thought it was trying to do too much, and that stands for this one and the duology as a whole.

Not recommended, except for completists, and for them only cautiously recommended.

The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

Sequel to Old Man’s War. Once again, Scalzi chooses an evocative title, but also one that leaves me, once again, resisting the urge to filk (it doesn’t help that “The Ghost Brigades” not only rhymes with “the Black Parade”, but has exactly the right number of syllables, too).

The actual book, set a short time after Old Man’s War ends, involves the discovery, by Earth’s Colonial Defense Forces, that one of their best scientists is cooperating with three of humanity’s enemies to betray humanity. The scientist in question, Charles Boutin, is believed to be dead, a little deception he set up with a clone and a shotgun. If it weren’t for the capture of an alien scientist who knew about Boutin, the CDF still wouldn’t know anything was wrong.

The CDF got another break: Boutin had used an experimental technique to store a record of his consciousness. The CDF clones his body, and downloads that consciousness into it. Alas, it seems to have no effect, so they namethe clone Jared Dirac and send him to the Special Forces, the titular Ghost Brigades, in a squadron commanded by Jane Sagan, who we met in Old Man’s War. Sagan is to watch Dirac, and make sure that if any traces of Boutin’s personality come out, or any useful memories, the CDF is able to act. Meanwhile, the CDF will do what it can to end the danger by conventional means.

Most of the story focuses on Sagan and Dirac, but we do occasionally get to hang out with the generals of the CDF.

Of course, Dirac does, eventually, start getting flashes of Boutin’s memories, and eventually the two of them (and Sagan) are brought face-to-face (to-face).

I do want to say, without spoiling anything, that Boutin’s plan, when we learn it, is (considering the way the Old Man’s War universe works) absolutely brilliant, as is Dirac’s reply to it. It’s hard for a writer, especially one who isn’t him/herself a genius, to create brilliance in their characters, but Scalzi has managed it here and it just makes me more eager to read his next work,

Highly recommended.

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