The Human Division Parts 2 & 3, by John Scalzi

Some short, mostly spoiler-free notes on the second and third episodes of this fantastic series. I hope you’ll join me in reading these either now or in book form later!

#2: Walk the Plank

Walk the PlankAfter that kind of brilliant first episode of this series of short stories, I was like, YES MORE OF THAT PLEASE. Give me more crazypants space exploits and intrigue and danger! And then I read the second episode and I was like… um… what. It’s written as a transcript of an audio file, which I suppose is not a completely foreign concept for a Scalzi short story, but I was still thrown for a loop. Where The B-Team was all description and narrative and plot, this was dialogue and dialogue and a little bit of exposition by dialogue. And even worse, it was about a completely different planet and set of people and I was very very confused and a little worried about how the rest of this book was going to go.

#3: We Only Need the Heads

We Only Need the HeadsBut then this story happened and oh, goodness. It more or less explains everything that was described in the last story, and then it dials up the intrigue and the squick factor by bringing in the title. Thanks for that, Scalzi. But really, thanks for bringing back the plot and the humor and the conspiracies, because I am all about those! I am on the edge of my seat again for the next installments…

Rating: 5/10 and 9/10, but probably still a 9 taken all together.

The Human Division #1: The B-Team, by John Scalzi

The B-TeamSo I think we’ve established that I’m not terribly much of an e-book reader, because I only have back-lit reading devices and also I don’t like buying books if I don’t get an actual book for my money. We may also have established that I don’t do well with serialized novels because I forget things easily and like to read things all at once.

However, we’ve definitely proven that John Scalzi can write almost anything and I will read it and I will like it, and also that I would like to read it sooner rather than later. So when Mr. Scalzi said hey, I’m writing this book and I’m going to sort of serialize it (it’s really a set of short story “episodes”) in e-book form for thirteen weeks and you have to pay a dollar for each episode but then at the end of the thirteen weeks there will be a book you can pay an equivalent amount of money for, I protested at first but then figured I’d at least shell out a dollar for the first episode and see what happened.

OMG THINGS HAPPENED WHY IS IT NOT TUESDAY YET SO I CAN SEE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?!

So, yeah. I’m just gonna go preorder those other twelve episodes now.

Basically, if you’ve read any of the Old Man’s War series you’ll enjoy what’s going on here, and even if you haven’t, if you like space and politics and aliens and humor, this is probably a thing you will like.

In this first episode, we meet up with some new faces and some happily familiar ones in the OMW universe, and we find out what’s been going on since The Last Colony/Zoe’s Tale — namely, that things have gone kind of to shit in the alien relations department and also that Earth is like, hey, military branch that’s been helping us out with this overpopulation problem, we don’t really want to talk to you anymore, have fun out there in space with your Colonial Union. So the Union finds itself needing to do some serious negotiating, but of course there are some other people (aliens?) who would rather that not work out, hence the story at hand.

I absolutely enjoyed this, as you may have noticed, because of Scalzi’s patented fine blend of intrigue, explosions, science, and humor both subtle and completely juvenile, as when early on in the story several diplomats find themselves essentially vomited upon. It’s fun stuff, and at 93 Kindle pages for this “double episode” it only took maybe an hour out of my day, so really you have no excuse for not reading this, either now or when the book comes out in May.

Rating: 10/10

The Last Colony, by John Scalzi (19 March — 20 March)

Another good book! Hooray!

This is the last book for me (but not the actual last book) of the Old Man’s War series. I started with the previously linked book and then went back to the beginning to see what I’d missed. A lot, apparently. 🙂

Anyway, this book tells the last story of the original trilogy, which is the formation of the colony of Roanoke — aptly named. John Perry and Jane Sagan, our friends from the previous books, are put in charge of the colonization as it is being done not by humans from Earth, as is the usual MO, but by previous colonists, a first for the Colonial Union. John and Jane have to convince 2500 people of 10 different homeworlds to like each other, and it’s not easy. And, of course, when they do start figuring it out, other things come in to play, like the fact that the Colonial Union has been lying to everyone about the nature of the colony. And that there’re some people out there who want to destroy the colony. And that maybe it’s okay if that happens. Oh boy.

This was very interesting to read after reading Zoe’s Tale, since that book is just a retelling of this one from Zoe’s point of view. I can see why Scalzi wanted to write that second one… although this story is very good in and of itself, there are a lot of weird jumps and convenient things happening that I could forgive because I knew what happened by having read the other book. If I did it again, though, I’d read them in order.

Rating: 8/10
(Countdown Challenge: 2007, Support Your Local Library Challenge)

The Ghost Brigades, by John Scalzi (6 March — 8 March)

I finished up this book really early this morning (really, how does one wake up at 7:30 EDT on the first day of Daylight Savings when she doesn’t usually wake up until 8 or 9 in the first place?), and I must say that I was pretty much ready to move on once I did. I liked the book, for sure, but it suffers from that second-book-in-a-series problem of wanting to keep the story moving but also wanting to get people ready for a third book. And maybe I’m too ready for the third book, since the book that started me on this whole thing (the fourth in the series) is a retelling of it.

But it was good! Scalzi abandons John Perry for the moment to focus on Jane Sagan and, more particularly, a new Special Forces soldier called Jared Dirac. Dirac is special because he was created to house the consciousness of one Charles Boutin, who turned traitor on humanity but conveniently left a copy of his consciousness behind (he does consciousness research, it’s not that far-fetched…). It doesn’t take, and Dirac is just trained as a new SF recruit under Sagan, who knows his history and is understandably upset and skeptical about his abilities.

Thus the first half of the book takes a good look at the Special Forces (also called the Ghost Brigades) and what it means to be part of it, with lots of speculation about the soullessness of both the Special Forces soldiers and those who made them. Then, when (spoiler alert?) Dirac finally unlocks a bit of Boutin’s consciousness, it’s time to go track down the traitor and figure out whether Dirac or Boutin or anyone, really, is the ethical person in this shenanigan.

Rating: 7/10
(Support Your Local Library Challenge)

Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi (24 January — 25 January)

I read Zoe’s Tale, the most recent in this series, last month and it was quite good, so when I saw this first novel on the shelf at the library, I had to grab it.

The premise of Old Man’s War is that Earth, with its surplus of population, is off colonizing other planets, but then so are a whole bunch of other intelligent races. To make sure that humans get enough planets, the Colonial Defense Forces keep their ranks healthily supplied — with 75-year-olds.

John Perry is one of these “old farts.” The novel follows his story, from why he decided to join up to how 75-year-olds are prepared for intergalactic war and just what war means on a universal scale.

It’s a good time and a quick read and I definitely need to grab the next book tout de suite.

Rating: 8.5/10
(Countdown Challenge: 2005, Support Your Local Library Challenge)