I just finished up Scalzi's The Ghost Brigades, sequel to Old Man's War. While I don't think the sequel quite lived up to its predecessor (a new book in a new universe, I find, is always more exciting than its sequel -- as long as that universe is compelling enough).
One thing I found, especially reading this book, how much being a parent changes one's perspective. One of the characters of this book, Zoe, is the daughter of the primary antagonist. I also found this character the most empathetic (or at least the one I related to the most) because, I think, I have a daughter of my own. There were other elements of the book, mainly describing the things that can happen to children in conflicts, that I felt was a bit wrenching. Five years ago I might not have had as much an issue with this, but now that I have a child of my own, I found these elements a bit more disturbing. But then good literature (in my opinion) should have the ability to disturb us a bit, to get us thinking, and to force us to re-examine our beliefs and the like. While I hardly think _The Ghost Brigades_ is some existential epiphany of the nature of life, I think the book was effective in challenging me and entertaining (the most important aspect!). I look forward to reading Scalzi's last book in this series.
While we're at it, I also recently purchased Ken Follett's A World Without End. I'm going to do something a bit different and blog about the anticipation of reading this book. It is the sequel to Follett's excellent Pillars of the Earth. Historical fiction, Pillars of the Earth is centered around the construction of a Gothic cathedral in the fictitious English abbey of Kingsbridge. Set during the reign of King Stephen (1135-1154). The sequel jumps ahead a bit, using the descendants of many of the characters in the first book, and takes place starting in 1327 (at the end of the reign of King Edward II), though the bulk of the book follows the beginning aspects of the 100 Years War, and appears to end in the Plague Years (1349-1351). I can't say how excited I am of this. King Edward III is one of my "historical" heroes; a powerful warrior-king of England and very successful at what he did (despite, perhaps, the ridiculous allegation presented in Braveheart that Edward III was actually sired by Mel Wallace!), and the 100 Years War is probably one of my favorite periods as well.
Historical fiction (that is good historical fiction that is not the Harlequin romances) is not as common as I'd like. There's been some good books, but I don't think the genre is as popular, and largely overshadowed by the romance novel industry. Whenever a good "serious" historical novel comes along, its a rare treat indeed. I already started the book last night, and look forward to reading it...