Following the events of The Last Colony, John Scalzi tells the story of the fight to maintain the unity of the human race.
The people of Earth now know that the human Colonial Union has kept them ignorant of the dangerous universe around them. For generations the CU had defended humanity against hostile aliens, deliberately keeping Earth an ignorant backwater and a source of military recruits. Now the CU’s secrets are known to all. Other alien races have come on the scene and formed a new alliance - an alliance against the Colonial Union. And they’ve invited the people of Earth to join them. For a shaken and betrayed Earth, the choice isn't obvious or easy.
Against such possibilities, managing the survival of the Colonial Union won’t be easy, either. It will take diplomatic finesse, political cunning…and a brilliant "B Team", centered on the resourceful Lieutenant Harry Wilson, that can be deployed to deal with the unpredictable and unexpected things the universe throws at you when you’re struggling to preserve the unity of the human race.
©2012 John Scalzi (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
First and formost, if you haven't read the Old Man's War series and are considering picking up this book - what are you doing?
Even if you've stumbled onto this page by accident and your curiosity is naught but a faint glimmer in the distance, that's good enough. Go to the search bar and find his earlier works before coming to this one.
It's not that the Human Division (located in the same universe as OMW) won't make any sense (it won't) or even that there are spoilers in the Human Division for the previous series (there are) - the truth is that Scalzi's first foray into this world was better. As a matter of fact, it was fantastic.
His characters had more shades, the aliens were more interesting, the science was explored more deeply, and the plot line was more intricate.
Scalzi is true to his style in this newest novel - easy and interesting, funny without pandering to the audience, and the story zips along - but it's clear that the Human Division is propped up by the strength of the last series.
Don't get me wrong - Scalzi stands heads above the rest of herd, and is still one of the most engaging sci-fi writers around. I'll continue reading the series with the same relish as I read most of Scalzi's work, but given how high he set the bar with the first series, it's hard not to feel a little let down.
Also, as an aside: the dialogue tags. My god, the dialogue tags. In the written form it's easy enough to gloss over the word "said", but listening to it repeated over and over and over was occasionally, frustratingly, hugely distracting.
Every so often, I found myself thinking of synonyms that Scalzi could have used in place of the word "said" and noting the rare occasions he chose to use them.
If that's liable to bother you, you might want to consider getting the book.
This story takes place in John Scalzi's Old Man's War universe. Personally, I liked but didn't love Old Man's War, and the sequels dropped off fast for me. I'd given up on that universe, but this story was originally released serially, I'd heard good things about the first episode, so risked a buck. Enjoyed it so much, got the series, and then the collection when released.
For centuries, the Colonial Union didn't have a lot of use of diplomacy. When humans broke out into interstellar space, they were really good at this fighting thing. An overcrowded Earth supplied an unending number of soldiers and colonists, so the CU went where they wanted, kicked everyone out of their way, and killed anyone who wouldn't move. Their soldiers were highly developed cyborg forces that originally had been the old and dying from Earth (put them in a new body with genetic and nanotech improvements). Many died in the wars, but there were a lot of old people on Earth who wanted a second chance.
Unfortunately for the Colonial Union, the good times have come to an end. Earth has learned how much the CU was holding it back, so no more colonists or soldiers. And the other races have formed an alliance. So brute force won't work anymore, they have to be smart.
And I like smart.
The first story, for example, has a nice bit of problem solving at its core - how do you find a black box that isn't meant to be found unless it responds to the right signals, and the battery has run down. And once the black box is found - how to deal with the data inside and its implications.
This story builds on the tech from the OMW universe. It's possible, if you haven't read OMW, you may be at sea with some of the references (BrainPal, SmartBlood, and so forth). They get explained, briefly, I don't know if that will be enough (having come into it knowing about those).
As I said, the story was originally released serially. This collected edition includes two bonus stories. The first, After The Coup, was a prequel to the other stories, amusing but not at the same level I thought. The second, though, was a gem. Starting with the title, "Halfte Sorvalh Eats a Churro and Speaks to the Youth of Today", it is placed after the events in the other stories. It's a wonderful little vignette of an alien talking to some schoolkids after the traumatic events in the last episode.
Yes, traumatic events in the last episode. While this is a great tale on it's own, the final episode all but has a "to be continued" sign stuck on the end. I don't mind, and am looking forward to the "next season" of the Human Division.
One minor annoyance, though. First, when writing dialog, John Scalzi does way too much "Blah Blah", he said. "Stuff stuff stuff", she said. "But interjection interjection", George said. In an audiobook, that does get annoying. Annoying to the point that the performance got four stars. I know these books are "unabridged" when recorded - but maybe a little editing for things like that would be appropriate.
Audible listener since the late 1990s. I mostly listen to science fiction, fantasy, history, and science.
This book was originally a series of short stories released once a week, a format Scalzi will repeat again. Tellingly, in his announcement that he would be writing another Human Division novel, Scalzi said that he had been renewed for "Season 2." The metaphor of a science fiction television series exactly nails the good and bad of this novel.
The books are a loose story arc of self-contained episodes taking place in the Old Man's War universe. Some of the episodes- sorry, I mean stories - are very solid, some are pretty mediocre. The overarching plot is dished out in small doses, which makes the pacing feel uneven. At its best, it is like watching a great Star Trek episode. At its worst, it is like watching a bad one. There is never a moment where the novel breaks down, but it is rarely very compelling either.
I am a Scalzi fan, but, as much as I like his work, he can be extremely uneven. His most compelling work (Old Man's War, for example) is like a smarter, modern-day Heinlein, with wonderful characters and interesting settings. At his less-than-best (Redshirts, this novel) he is still entertaining, but the formula of witty, insubordinate characters and repeated low-grade mystery-solving becomes a little obvious. He is still one of the best writers of fun science fiction out there, but I keeping hoping for another home run. While a solid entertaining time, with occasional moments of brilliance, this is a base hit.
A TV show.
Probably not. See below for why.
Mr. Dufris is a competent and consistent narrator. He does a good job with Human Division.
I loved Scalzi's Old Man's War and the next two books in the series. I laughed at Agent to the Stars. I'm having a hard time finishing this story. I've met the primary character before. He's the same sarcastic, wise cracking guy we saw in Agent to the Stars, Red Shirts and Fuzzy Nation. The name has been changed, but not the voice. I want new characters in a new book.
A small but irritating point is that Scalzi almost never omits the "he said - she said" after dialog. This intrudes into the narration. Wilson said. Schmitt said. Wilson said. Schmitt said. Wilson said. Schmitt said. Wilson said. Schmitt said. Wilson said. Schmitt said. That works fine for written work, but with more and more books getting made into audiobooks there should be a class for writers that brings home the point that not every utterance needs a he said after it to keep the conversation clear.
Another minor point is that this, strictly speaking, isn't a novel. It reads like a series of TV shows that loosely revolves around a theme and cast. Honestly, it isn't working to hold my interest, and I've read or listened to every novel that Scalzi has had published.
Each of the books in this series captured my attention with complex story lines and characters, great narration and unexpected twists. This book never brought it together.
The quality of the narration is still there but the story never makes sense and leaves the reader up in the air. If there is to be another book in the series to wrap this all up, I can honestly say I've lost interest and won't bother with any more
It would have been much better if it was written as a contiguous story rather than a choppy set of short stories.
Characters were very shallow and the science and motivations were not consistent. A lazily written book.
The narrator said all of the "he said" and "she said" in a way that became very irritating. Either act the conversations such that these statements are not needed or use other ways to indicate conversation identity.
I would have required the author to start over and write a novel rather than gluing together a loose structure of short stories.
Not up to what I have come to expect with John Scalzi. This was a great disappointment.
When reading a book I often was wondering what happened to the secondary characters. What they did when not helping the hero? What kind of life they lived? Now I had the possibility to get to know more about some of them.
In The Human Division I met Harry Wilson of the Old Farts. If you haven't read the Old Man's War, you may not know who the hell I'm talking about. I can tell to you: you missed a great story, so you better go and read it. If you did, probably you remember the group of old people who signed up for the Colonial Defence Force, got a new enhanced body and became green in the process. Yes, they were the good Old Farts. They went in different ways in the CDF, Wilson became a Lieutenant in the technical service. Lately he got assigned to assist diplomats, who - well, to put it mildly - were the B Team. But don't get it wrong, in this dangerous universe even the B Team saves the ass of the Colonial Union once or twice. You may think that the most dangerous in diplomacy could be that you die of boredom during endless speeches in meetings. But rest assured: even diplomats get shot at or sucked out into vacuum from the space lock of the ship. And the assisting personnel may be beaten up by half size aliens and they may have to perform skydiving while the space station they just left is blown up. Yo know, the usual space stuff.
The book consists of 13 seemingly separate stories, but by the end a grandiose conspiracy plot takes shape against the Colonial Union. Or the Conclave. Or both. It's not really clear who is behind the scenes, and what is their purpose exactly. This is why I can hardly wait for the next book of the Old Man's War universe.
I really enjoyed Scalzi's sarcastic humour, it is one of the reasons he became one of my favourite authors. The narration was excellent, William Dufris got Scalzi's humour right.
This book expanded on the stories from old mans war series
Good Characterization of the voices
Looking forward to the next book
Have a renewed interest in books after falling in love with audio books. I am listening to all different genres and exploring different authors.
This is actually probably more like a 3.5 star read. I read "The B team" which is the first episode of the full book - "The Human Division." Since I started the book, I wanted to finish it. I never considered myself as a sci-fi reader, but I did like it. When there is no Star Trek, Firefly, or Battlestar Galactica on tv to fill my sci-fi fix -- this book filled the void. I liked the characters and the relationship between them. The only criticism is that "he said, she said, he said" that is constant through the audible version.
One note for audible listeners --- this book is sold in episodes. I purchased several episodes before I realized that they were available in the full book.
As always, Scalzi is very good at wry, cynical dialogue and his space-battle scenes are both exciting and horrific, but he seems to have concentrated more on the novelty of the episodic format here than on a coherent story. I get the feeling (or at least hope) that this book is mostly a transportation step towards an even better story to come.
To my taste, the book has too much politics and conspiracy and too little technobabble. I like my space opera technobabble-heavy.
Still, as usual, a great gallery of well-defined and convincing characters are given extra depth and plausibility by William Dufris great narration.
Worth the listen if you don't expect much from it.
"Survives with the relation between lead characters"
A light story with some engaging character relationships. It feels like the author is attempting to convey flat irony too often and the constant repetition of ...said ...said ...said is, well, repetitive. Please be a bit more creative.
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