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The Human Division (The Old Man's War series) Paperback – January 28, 2016
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Sort of a mixed bag here from the author of Redshirts (2012) and other fine sf novels. Scalzi’s writing is as readable as ever, but the story—set in the universe of his Old Man’s War (2004)—is a bit unfocused. But that’s probably unavoidable, given that the novel began life as a 13-part online serial. Here’s the premise: the Colonial Union is on the outs from planet Earth, the union’s big secret—that it has used humanity as a sort of factory for its soldiers—having recently been revealed. An allied group of alien races, the Conclave, is courting humanity, offering safety in their vast numbers, but this could spell disaster for the CU. Each of the book’s 13 interconnected stories adds a piece to the picture, using multiple points of view to move the narrative forward. Readers expecting a straightforward sequel to Old Man’s War and its follow-ups may be disappointed, but any new novel from the extremely talented Scalzi is always good news, and this one, despite its experimental feel and shifting narrative, is one more proof that he’s an unqualified A-lister in the genre. --David Pitt --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“If anyone stands at the core of the American science fiction tradition at the moment, it is Scalzi.” ―The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition
“John Scalzi is the most entertaining, accessible writer working in SF today.” ―Joe Hill, New York Times bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box
“All the heart and smarts I've come to expect from Scalzi.... Run, don't walk, and get another copy for your kids while you're at it.” ―Cory Doctorow on Zoe's Tale
“Heartstopping in its absolute rightness.” ―RT Book Reviews, Top Pick! on The Last Colony
“Astonishingly proficient.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review on Old Man's War--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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I had skipped the serial method of delivery because I wanted to be able to read through to a conclusion and because I did not want to have one story split into 14 titles on my kindle. So I guess I am still ahead if this is volume 1 of 3, or whatever it turns out to be.
I wish it would have been clear before I bought. This seems so near the border between an honest miscommunication and sleazy marketing that it is irritating.
Books 5-6 don't really carry the story forward. And I can't help but think Scalzi stopped taking the series seriously. Seems like there are more joke-aliens and silly scenarios and he's just "having fun with it", which is fine if I'm reading Terry Pratchett's Discworld series which is meant to be a parody to begin with but it makes for a disappointing continuation of the previously serious Old Man's War.
Unfortunately, however, Scalzi simply neglected to provide an ending to the novel. Much of the novel is devoted to describing the various ways in which unknown actors are attempting to sabotage a peace process and a number of other diplomatic initiatives. Suspense is very skillfully built up until the reader is simply aching to know who the unknown actors are and what their motives are... and then the novel simply ends.
Ordinarily, I would give this book 5 stars but this Hideous Sin forces me to deduct two stars (at least!) from the rating. Fortunately, Scalzi has not committed this Terrible Deed in his previous works. If you're curious about John's Scalzi, and I think you should be, you should check out his previous works such as Old Man's War and Redshirts in which he positively shined.
Many of these stories focus on Lieutenant Harry Wilson of the Colonial Defense Force and the Diplomatic team he is assigned to. This team is the B team which doesn't usually get sent in for important missions. And they are often expected to fail.
Other stories focus on the Conclave - a group of 400 alien species - and on one of its diplomats Hafte Sorvalh.
The big problem is that someone is trying to keep the Colonial Union and the Conclave at odds. Each side believes that it is the other that is responsible for ship losses and other activities. Both are also rivals for Earth. The Colonial Union needs Earth for its survival. The Conclave is also courting Earth though they wouldn't be accepted as a member until they had one unified Earth government which they do not.
I enjoyed all the stories and like how they ranged in tone from serious to humorous. I enjoyed the characters especially Harry Wilson. I liked that all of them were trying to do their best for peace no matter how large or small a role they play. The ending is unresolved but not a cliffhanger. Luckily, I have the next book in the Old Man's War series so that I can find out what happens next.
The Human Division weaves a multitude of short stories together in an attempt to form a cohesive novel. Despite the fact that Scalzi’s story matches the sarcastic, witty style in which he has written previous books, the story just didn’t feel cohesive, instead it was often apparent each section was a separate yarn unto itself. Still, delving back into Scalzi’s Old Man’s War universe felt good and, despite some flaws, each tale was worth reading unto themselves. The Human Division is worth picking up if you’re a fan of Scalzi’s and appreciate his sharp wit and colorful characters.