Stories, movies and books featuring reanimated soldiers are not common, but they aren’t unique, either. The “Universal Soldier” franchise managed to make four movies based on the concept of dead soldiers re-animated and moderately re-engineered to fight. “Old Man’s War” became a book series, though it has a somewhat different premise. In Scalzi’s book, your brain is downloaded to a genetically engineered, enhanced version of yourself.


The Pros of the “Old Man’s War” Method

  • You have your pick of recruits. You could have tens of thousands or millions of applicants. You can choose who you want based on needed skills and personality types.
  • The logistics are simpler. Upload when you’re ready and they are.
  • Your engineered soldiers could still be used in this universe as interstellar explorers. They’re ready and able to travel to alien worlds.


The Cons of the “Old Man’s War” Method

  • The costs involved in this method would be incredibly high, such that it might be cheaper to give many, younger soldiers better gear and send them out.
  • Their government was creating clones without uploaded human minds from the intended occupants, fighting on behalf of “realborn” humans. Hello, slave conscripts.

The Pros of the “Universal Soldier” Method

  • It is near-future tech, thus much more plausible. The Marvel Universe has quite a few characters in this situation, too, like Bucky.
  • They look human, and they might be able to blend into the general population when not in use. The second movie in the franchise actually shows this with Deveraux.


The Cons of the “Universal Soldier” Method

  • Unwilling victims of conversion may regain consciousness and rebel. Even “Robocop” featured that trope.
  • Your supply of eligible candidates is tiny. A lot of modern methods of mass murder like bombings don’t leave enough material to work with.
  • The legal ramifications of “you’re dead, no you’re not” would be a nightmare in and of itself. Death benefits were paid, families notified, estates settled. Now what?
  • Oh, crap, that terrorist you killed is back to blow you up. No joke, that’s almost the plot of “Universal Soldier 3”.



I wonder how much of the emotion tied to the genre is the knowledge many governments would try to recycle their dead conscripts like this, and how much of it is the fear of your afterlife becoming a real-world Valhalla. In short, it is fear that your war is never really over.

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