Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Book Thoughts - The Human Division by John Scalzi

The Human Division by John Scalzi
published online January-April, 2013
published in print 5/14/13
432 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

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.

Being published online from January to April 2013 as a three-month digital serial, The Human Division will appear as a full-length novel of the Old Man's War universe, plus — for the first time in print — the first tale of Lieutenant Harry Wilson, and a coda that wasn't part of the digital serialization.

My thoughts -

I should preface this review by saying that I am a fan of John Scalzi. I enjoy and respect his writing across the board, both fiction and nonfiction, in both formal published work and informally on his blog. If this post becomes a bit gush-y, just keep that in mind.

I've been eagerly anticipating Scalzi's return to his Old Man's War Universe, and was especially intrigued when I learned of the unique method he'd chosen for publishing this story. I decided to wait and read The Human Division as a complete work, and so the anticipation was (if possible) even greater. Then my awesome sis got me an AUTOGRAPHED copy, and my excitement was complete.

I'm happy to report the story lived up to my high expectations. Science fiction often doesn't click with my reading sensibilities for some reason, but Scalzi always manages to find a way to draw me in. It's partly his sense of humor - he thinks up such bizarrely hilarious situations, and then somehow makes them seem plausible (like having a carnivorous plant "eat" a dog, who then had to have its heart stopped and re-started).  But mostly it's his fantastic characters. Harry Wilson is sarcastic and bizarrely brilliant; Hart Schmidt is earnest and idealistic; Ambassador Abumwe is prickly and tough, but by the end of the novel you have to admit she's one of your favorites. Scalzi develops relationships so perfectly, and it's his relationships that make his novels so rich and rewarding.

The Human Division ends with many of its questions unanswered - presumably to be picked up in season 2, which has been confirmed. (Yay!) It might seem odd referring to a book as a "season", but in many ways that is very much what the experience of this novel was. Each "episode" felt completely contained in itself, and occasionally it seemed unclear how a certain chapter would fit into the greater whole. But by the end, the loose threads draw together, and the "season" feels complete. I mentioned that I chose to wait and read the book as a whole - while I certainly enjoyed the experience, I think for the next season I will read each episode as it is released. It's unique and exciting to have an author willing to experiment like this, and I'm looking forward to seeing where the story takes us next.

I think Scalzi's Old Man's War series is a great way to dip into sci-fi if you aren't sure of the genre - his work is engaging and highly entertaining, and I think almost everyone will find something to enjoy. I highly recommend this fantastic series.

Finished - 7/7/13
Source - my shelves via my sister - thank you!
MPAA rating - R for violence and adult situations
My rating - 8/10


bermudaonion said...

I'm not a science fiction reader but you've made me think I should try this series.

TipiTopi said...

I love this series,I've read the Old Man's War the first book, now I am reading The Ghost Brigades.

LeahV said...

I read it in installments, but got interrupted about half way through so i haven't finished it. Now I want to get back and complete the season!