Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Book Report: The Human Division

John Scalzi told us he wouldn’t be revisiting the universe he created in Old Man’s War and the three novels which came after it. Part of me was a bit saddened by this news, but I would rather the series end while on a high note rather than fade into mediocrity.

The Human Division was written and released in parts over several weeks. Each installment cost a dollar, and fans of Scalzi were excited about this new format. Being a person who hates cliffhangers, I opted to wait until the book was for sale in its entirety.

This is an interesting way to sell a book to the public. I love having the option to buy a small part of a book and deciding for myself if I want to get the rest of it. No matter the form of media you enjoy, no one wants to get burned by accidentally purchasing a full Nicholas Sparks book.

This serialized release structure harkens back to the day of novellas being released piece by piece in science fiction magazines over weeks and months. The biggest issue the writer must deal with is maintaining reader interest by creating small microcosm stories inside of a larger book. These days you can best see this style in TV shows which have weekly stories set inside of a larger story (Buffy the Vampire Slayer springs to mind)

In this sense, the book did well. Reading the book after every chapter had been released allowed me to appreciate how each section ended without having to wait a week for the next chapter.

Overall though, I feel as though the book fell flat. The ending of The Last Colony gave the feeling of finality to the series. One of those moments where you know there can be more story and the lives of the main characters will continue to be full of adventure, but nothing on the scale they have already dealt with.

Zoe’s Tale, the fourth book in the series, gave us the unique perspective of John and Jane’s adopted daughter Zoe while continuing the story in a different direction.

The Human Division, however, brings us into the unexciting world of diplomacy in the Colonial Union. When you create a universe where all of the soldiers are genetically modified supermen, I suppose you have to give the diplomacy to the squishy humans. Though their bravery and dedication to service is unmatched, it doesn't lend to exciting battles.

It's feel Scalzi wrote this book to test this new style out and kept it in a universe he and his fans knew in the event that it turned out to be a bad idea. It certainly wasn't, and I would recommend the book to anyone who is a fan of the series, but don't expect to have your mind blown by it. It's like reading any Star Wars books that take place after the original movies. The main fight is over. There is plenty more story to be told, but the Empire has fallen. The literary load has already been blown already.

Overall, good installment in the series. The story is solid, the characters are well written and the ending is unexpected. I will say that it leaves me hoping Scalzi keeps breaking his promise and gives us more of the fight between humanity, the CDF and the rest of the galaxy.

1 comment:

  1. I loved Old Man's War. But I think I'll avoid this book. I had been avoiding it because I just can't get down with the weekly novella/chapter thing.

    I just finished reading one of John Ringo's series (Legacy of the Aldenata Series) and it's just got too many spinoffs. I really enjoyed them all, I just got to feeling like it was work reading, not enjoyment reading, at a certain point.

    My favorite series at the moment is the Safehold series by David Weber.