PrintE-mail Written by Andrew Marshall

Following on from Virtues of War and its tale of Earth’s brief war with its Centauri colonies, Ghosts of War deals with the realities for those returning home, along with the machinations of those who want to use the conflict’s aftermath for their own agendas, and those who just want to be left alone. Just because the fighting has stopped, for some of them it doesn’t mean the war is truly over.

While Virtues was a fast-paced and action-heavy story driven largely by intense and brutal combat sequences, Ghosts is a different beast entirely. Almost entirely devoid of fighting, it places far greater focus on its central characters and offers a different view of them with how they act in peacetime. Although it becomes apparent there are some Coles actually likes more than others, each is further fleshed out by their actions and reactions, while also emphasising the vast spectrum of how people can be affected by combat, something that as a military veteran himself would be well aware of.

To gives things an alternative perspective is new character Kete, a Centauri spy who offers a viewpoint of the war from the other side, his hatred of Earth an all that it stands for becoming entirely understandable as his own story is slowly revealed. In this regard the book builds on the stance of its predecessor by not assuming that either side is wholly in the right, and just as in any real-world conflict there are valid points to be made by each antagonist.

A problem with Virtues was that by the end its characters seemed largely unchanged, despite the various ordeals each of them had survived. However, now that everyone is back on Earth and the horrors they endured have truly sunk in, it’s now that we see to what extent the conflict has affected each of them. Infantry officer Katja in particular, having become emotionally crippled by PTSD and suffering from nightmares and hallucinations, finds it most difficult readjusting to civilian life, and with Kete’s thirst for vengeance targeting her most of all, you start to wonder what chance she even has.

Both an extended coda of Virtues of War and a set up for the doubtlessly action-packed closing chapter of the trilogy, Ghosts of War deals with one of the less considered realities of war. While the sci-fi trappings are all present and correct – and built upon to further expand this future world – it’s the people who drive it forwards, and they are each shown in their entirety, their virtues and their flaws.


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