Perhaps twice a winter, I enjoy making a big pot of chili, suitable for snowy nights and bone chilling cold. I spend much of the morning slicing, dicing and simmering. Although I follow the same general recipe every time, on occasion it just doesn't turn out as savory. I don't know if I boiled instead of simmered, uncovered instead of covered, or failed to sneak in extra secret spice. All the same ingredients and yet it doesn't quite spark. Still decent, mind you--I wouldn't throw it out--but I also wouldn't enter it in any competitions.That pretty much sums up [b:The Ghost Brigades|239399|The Ghost Brigades|John Scalzi|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1316729668s/239399.jpg|18279845].Like that second pot of chili, The Ghost Brigades just doesn't quite have the right composition. A fascinating and action oriented start tease the reader into adrenalin surge. Unfortunately, long passages of info-dump quickly take over, and not merely in the guise of mission briefing. While the main character has an intriguing set-up as a decanted member of the Ghost Brigade, he fails to develop much of an identity--even other characters describe him as 'passive.' While that may be the point, it doesn't help the reader establish an emotional connection, so it's a relief to have Jane and Harry from [b:Old Man's War|51964|Old Man's War|John Scalzi|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1346671475s/51964.jpg|50700] drop in. I did struggle with what was supposed to an attempt at a more traditional sci-fi exploration of consciousness and soul. Scalzi's handling seemed awkward and unfinished to me, perhaps because Ghost is more like an action book with a sci-fi setting and theme than an exploration of ethical and philosophical issues. ([b:The Sparrow|334176|The Sparrow (The Sparrow, #1)|Mary Doria Russell|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1230829367s/334176.jpg|3349153] handled quite similar threads of inter-species encounters and souls with a much better degree of success). Overall, still a decent read--a filling bowl of soup on a cold night. It'll deserve another attempt.