Hey John, I finished The Ghost Brigades, and I really loved it. I mean really. Loved it. A Lot. What did I like about it, you ask? Well:
1. The deeper look at the underpinnings of your universe. I liked Old Man's War very much, but it left me with a lot of questions about how that world operated (as any first book in a series should). Maybe I'm only happy when it rains, but I grokked this look at the darker underpinnings of the universe of the Colonial Defense Force, through the eyes of one of its descriminated against, non-"realborn" soldiers. There's some good old PKD paranoia running through your Heinlein now, and that makes me happy.
2. I really dig what you do with questions of personal identity, both in the questions that Jared faces (your character and not the Subway guy) and also who Jared is. Since you wrote the book, I don't need to give you a spoiler warning, but I was into the fact that identity wasn't an either/or question with the way Jared was a composit of two consciousnesses, one evolving out of the other. I don't think I bear much resemblance to the shy, intolerant, born again Christian good ol' boy I started life out as four decades ago, despite having inhereted his body, so questions of evolving consciousness and what constitutes the self fascinate me. That you layered discussions of consciousness throughout, from the "normal" way a regular Ghost Brigade soldier was reared to the exceptions in Jared's case was just great.
3. Your combat skills have improved since Old Man's War. Have you been in many fights since then? Maybe I'm misremembering - OMW was like a bizillion manuscripts ago for me - but I thought the action sequences here much more compelling and a little more believable. Again, I LOVE OMW. This is NOT a criticism. The trajectory a writer wants is for each book to be better. Stagnation or moving in the other direction = bad. But I felt the combat was more intense. I don't know, maybe it's just me. Certainly, I've been in more fights since OMW.
4. For a book that is supposed to be part of the New Comprehensible, you don't skimp on ideas. Both these books are really "readable" and everyone is talking about how you write "entry level" SF, but the fact that they are entry-level on one level by no means means that a jaded editor who reads a manuscript or more a week like me can't find enough stimulating concepts and sense-a-wunder to feel like a kid again. I saw your post on how entry-level SF is actually harder to write than writing for the initiated, and I agree. But as far as I'm concerned, the golden age of science fiction is anytime I'm lost in one of your books.
5. Finally, and not least in importance, I could read it without taking a week away from the reading I am paid to do. It's very hard for me to justify reading outside my own submission pile. I'm a slow reader - not a good thing for an editor to be but I've found I share that trait with a fair number of us - and so it's very, very, VERY hard for me to read non-Pyr and Pyr-potential books. But I allow myself to read for pleasure on airplanes - so 130 pages on the flight to Boskone and 120 pages on the flight back. (We were stuck on the runway for 30 minutes on the way too, hence the extra pages. I was pretty tired at that time from getting up at 4:30am or I'd have done better than 10 pages in 30 minutes though.) Anyway, that's not the whole book, but close enough I could justify taking an hour or two to finish when I was home before returning to my prodigious submissions pile. I love that The Ghost Brigades did what it needed to do and was done. I, for one, get tired of 700 page tomes. Likewise, I dug that this took place in the world of OMW rather than being part two of a story that picked up right where the other ended. Gives me a nice sense of accomplishment and makes me feel okay about having to wait for the next airplane trip to read you again.
This isn't really a point but I'm psyched to have completed one of the books on my list of the Top Ten Books I'd Be Reading Now If I Weren't Reading Other Books. So now that I've read this, I can go ahead and pick up The Android's Dream. Hopefully, I'll be able to read that before The Last Colony comes out. But if it takes me until a year after the book is out, as it did this time, well, then you can expect another belated blog post sometime in 2008. Because however long it takes me, I am so there.