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review 2017-05-14 16:07
The Human Division, John Scalzi
The Human Division - John Scalzi

OK, let's keep score:
Old Man's War: John Perry (smart-arse)
The Ghost Brigades: John Perry's girl friend (mostly non-descript, mildly bad-ass)
The Last Colony: John Perry and now wife (smart arse and stereotypical loving Mum, (still mildly bad-ass))
Zoe's Tale: Zoe Perry (smart-arse)
The Human Division: Wilson (smart-arse, seems to have had a personality transplant from John Perry)
Fuzzy Nation: A smart-arse lawyer
Lock-in: Disabled (but is he really? That's the point) son of an over-privileged businessman-politician.

 

5/7 good score if you like smart-arse characters (which I do - I loves me some Bugs Bunny) but maybe Scalzi should try for greater diversity? Well, he does so with this one, to some extent, because in this episodic novel we are treated not just to Wilson, but a collection of other protagonists and characters who's stories overlap and complement each other as each stand-alone story builds up a picture of what's going on in the galaxy after John Perry radically alters the political dynamics by surprising Earth with a 400+ strong trade delegation from the Conclave.

 

They're good, fun stories with an on-going central mystery that is unfortunately never resolved. The episodic structure reminds of the '60s era of SF where the pulp mags were the main revenue source and people would routinely write story sequences for serial magazine publication that would later be assembled with minimal to zero editing into a paperback novel for further income. The necessity for some kind of resolution in each component story made for slightly weird novels and this example (which was deliberately conceived of and released as a series of e-stories, initially) is no different. The component stories are all good and it does build to some kind of climactic denouement but there's no escaping that it's a bunch of shorts, really.

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review 2015-01-07 19:39
RATHER UNIMPRESSIVE SCI-FI STORY
The Human Division - John Scalzi

I read The Human Division a few months ago. Since I thoroughly hated it, I tried to return it to the library where I got it from, put it out of my mind, and hope that after a few days/weeks/months, I’d have a more favorable view of it in hindsight. But that hasn’t really happened. Honestly, time has only cemented my personal dislike of this serialized novel, so please understand before you go further that I’m not really going to say anything favorable about The Human Division, which might or might not be what you want to hear. But let’s start at the beginning.

 

A couple years ago I picked up John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War novel from my local library. It had an interesting cover, lots of good word of mouth, and I needed something to read on my family’s beach vacation. Once I cracked the military sci-fi novel open, I was impressed by it. Loved the future universe. Loved the characters. And really enjoyed Scalzi’s writing style.

 

Fast forwarding to novel (I am using that word liberally with this serialized piece, I know) five of the Old Man’s War series I have to say that Mr. Scalzi has been able to change all my initial feelings. I’ve found novels 3, 4, and 5 to be inferior to the last one. I now find this future universe uninspiring and repetitive. The characters all sound alike to me. And Scalzi’s writing style has fallen into a formulaic pattern that is boring for me.

 

But what is The Human Division about, you ask?

 

For those who have not read the previous four novels, I would suggest that you stop reading this review, go read at least the first three before attempting this book, because it cannot be completely understood or appreciated without some knowledge of the previous going-ons in this future universe.

 

For those who have read the series, this book is basically a serialized mix of thirteen different stories that is suppose to come together to tell the overarching story of the Colonial Union, the Conclave, and the Earth’s ultimate fate as set up by John Perry’s actions in The Last Colony. Some of the stories indeed focus on this main plot line, while others are obviously filler material, even though they throw a few nuggets of information out there for the readers consumption. And though these terrific thirteen do – somewhat – serve as a conclusion to the Old Man’s War series, it was a less than enjoyable one for me personally.

 

But why, you want to know?

 

For me (And that is all we are talking about here, since I’m reviewing why I did not enjoy this book) the main problems can be condensed into two over-arching issues: the writing style and the characters similarity.

 

Like I mentioned above, I loved Old Mans War. While some readers say Scalzi copied (not was inspired by) Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein, I personally saw it as more a re-imagining for a new century, and damn, did I like it. It was fresh, fast-paced, and catchy. And the main character, John Perry, was just the kind of guy to lead me on the galactic tour; he was snarky, witty, and a guy who’d seen it all. And when Scalzi followed this up with Book Two: The Ghost Brigades, I couldn’t have been more impressed how he changed lead characters, dealt with some deep philosophical issues, yet still wove a fun military-scifi adventure. But then The Last Colony came along. I saw the warning signs of a standard formula beginning to develop in Scalzi’s work. A formula that made all the people act the same, sound the same, and the story develop and wrap up in the same way. And I’m sad to say this formulaic pattern really reached its pinnacle with The Human Division. Here the same cookie-cutter characters are everywhere, speaking in the same voices, using the same story pattern thirteen times to come to another standard Scalzi ending.

 

Now, am I saying that is bad and that it means you will dislike The Human Division as much as I did?

 

Nope. In fact, you might love this book. I myself have some writers that I adore who do the exact same thing as Scalzi in their books: formulaic story with the same archetype characters who are merely renamed. And even knowing that this is what I’m going to get with these authors, I love their novels, adore them even. Somehow, the issues don’t matter to me as I lose myself in the story, and you might be able to do that with this story collection, but I couldn’t. It just did not work for me. Rather it was more of the same old thing regurgitated thirteen times, which is why I doubt I’ll be journey into the universe of Old Man’s War anymore in the future.

Source: bookwraiths.com/2015/01/07/the-human-division-old-mans-war-5-by-john-scalzi
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review 2014-06-30 00:00
The Human Division
The Human Division - John Scalzi The Human Division is the last in the chronology of the Old Man's War series, which really wrapped up with The Last Colony, but then went on for some minor edits with Zoë's Tale. And where Zoë's Tale was mostly a repeat of the book that preceded it, The Human Division winds up being more a marketing ploy than anything else.

The book (I hesitate to call it a novel) is made up of fifteen different short stories, each one released originally as an e-book about a year ago. The short stories can stand alone, but they also work together as a continued narrative to give a broader overview of what the universe is like after Earth discovers the truth of the Colonial Defense Forces. In fact, most of the stories involve diplomacy, shrouded with a conspiracy that the ambassadors are trying to uncover before the end of the book. It works pretty well, but it also felt really disjointed to me.

For one, each story felt kind of random. They were complete stories, as I mentioned, just with a puzzle piece buried at the end. Each puzzle piece led to a larger picture that revealed the larger story, and that larger story led toward the conclusion of the book. While most of the stories focused on one ambassadorial team, the others were weird, "let's showcase an alien" stories that just felt like comedy relief at best, or diversions at worst. And the one about the talk show host? The less said the better.

The thing is, if all of that had led to a big reveal at the end of the book, I wouldn't have minded so much, but instead Scalzi takes us all the way up to reveal the conspiracy, and then yank everything away so there are no more answers at the end of the book than there were at the start. It felt like I had read the entire book for no real reason, save to revisit the universe of Old Man's War. And while the stories read and felt like traditional Scalzi stories (nothing wrong with that, nosir), they didn't have the same kind of punch that his other stories have.

The ending may be that Scalzi isn't quite ready to abandon this universe, which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but I'm glad that after this book (well, really, after The Sagan Diaries, but I don't expect that to take too long), I'll be done with the series for a while. As good as the books are, and as good of a storyteller as Scalzi is, I think it's time I moved on to something different. Reading too much of one author at a time, no matter how good he is, can grow a little tiresome.
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url 2013-11-02 16:28
Blog Birthday Countdown, Day 3
The Human Division - John Scalzi

Marking today with a return to the beginning of John Scalzi's The Human Division - an experiment in sci-fi writing, done remarkably well!

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review 2013-08-05 00:00
The Human Division - John Scalzi

John Scalzi seems determined to set himself a challenge with his latest entry in the "Old Man's War" series: tell several stories in a series of stand-alone parts that nonetheless can be brought together into a larger narrative. Though this can seem a writerly stunt, Scalzi pulls it off successfully. His stores tell of the fallout from John Perry's decision to end Earth's enforced isolation at the end of The Last Colony. with the Earth now denying the Colonial Union the steady stream of recruits necessary for them to wage their constant wars for interstellar turf, the CU is forced to dust off their underused tool of diplomacy in an effort to salvage the situation.

Scalzi develops events primarily (though not exclusively) from the perspective of Harry Wilson (one of the "Old Farts" from the first novel) and the team of diplomats to which he is often attached. Theirs is hardly a string of unbroken successes, as they are constantly challenged by a shadowy conspiracy determined to foment discord between the Colonial Union and the Earth, as well as between the CU and the alien alliance known as the Conclave. Here Scalzi demonstrates that he can make political intrigue every bit as exciting as futuristic combat, an achievement enhanced further by the nature of his self-imposed format. It all makes for an impressive work and a worthy contribution to his series, one that demonstrates how much of his tale remains to be written.

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