The Human Division #13: Earth Below, Sky Above, by John Scalzi

Earth Below, Sky AboveI don’t want to say it, but it is true: I was more than a little underwhelmed by this story, the last in the 13-week adventure that was The Human Division. You’re going to read it if you’ve read the rest, so I’m going to skip over a summary (well, I’ll say it was still pretty cool!) and just give you my feelings about the series.

After the rollicking first episode and several delightful and/or awesome episodes thereafter, with conspiracy and questions and more questions at every turn, I suppose I thought I’d get some more explosions, perhaps a huge fight, and some big answers that maybe left me with a few more questions to gnaw at my brain for the next few days.

Instead I got… I’m not really sure what I got. There were definitely explosions and fighting, though the fighting was more or less one-sided, but I think the only answer I got was to the question, “What did happen to all those missing ships?” Unfortunately, this was pretty low on my list of questions I wanted answered.

I’m chalking my disappointment up to the format of this publishing experiment, which was part serialized novel, part collection of standalone but interconnected short stories. If Scalzi and Tor wanted people to be able to find this story and read it without any knowledge of what had gone on before, it would have had to have been more than its double-length to really recap everything that had happened in the first twelve stories and also it would have bored me to tears. So, by necessity, it leaves out most of the big questions that had been asked and instead briefly mentions a few things that would mean something to series readers and would be kind of interesting to new ones.

The story stands alone quite well, I think, but for my own personal reading happiness I would have preferred this series to be more truly serialized, so that this last story could have been that epic question-answering and question-creating finale rather than one that didn’t really do either.

On the plus side, Scalzi recently announced that there would be a continuation of this series, which I assume will again be in this short story/serial format. He’s also taking comments and concerns about said format over on his blog, so I’m hoping if enough people say, hey, meany-face, you forgot to actually end this series, it will at least be a consideration in writing the next one. (Fingers crossed!)

Recommendation: Do please read this series, because it’s pretty awesome, and might end up being awesomer in book form? Who knows?

Rating: Story, 7/10 for not answering any of my dang questions; series, 9/10 for being explodey and delightful.

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