Tuesday, July 9, 2013

John Scalzi’s The Human Division: Adventures in Diplomacy


Typically, I try to not do the same author twice on this blog, however, I am compelled to break my self-imposed rule with John Scalzi’s recent novel, The Human Division. First, the book itself is unique as each of the thirteen episodes was written to stand alone (each episode was published serially as an ebook) but to also function as a complete novel in the end. Since Scalzi did not think this was enough of a challenge, all thirteen tales take place in his Old Man’s War series, but arguably, can stand alone from the main books of the series. Now, added to this complex set-up, Scalzi departs from the majority of the characters being genetically augmented soldiers fighting for the very survival humanity, to ordinary diplomats negotiating for the very survival humanity. This diplomatic crew, with soldier-turned-tech-advisor Lt. Harry Wilson, are shuttled from one diplomatic emergency to the next, with little expectation of success. With critical details of each mission kept from them, the diplomats have to try to stave off impending conflict with myriads of other alien species, all vying for a limited number of habitable planets.

Now, the trials and tribulations of the diplomatic corps might not seem to be exciting or even the usual fare for science fiction tales, Scalzi, in is unique and humorous way, pulls it off. As the diplomats are negotiating, Lt. Wilson and his reluctant partner, Deputy-Ambassador Harry Schmidt manage to get themselves into plenty of non-diplomatic adventures, to include escaping from an exploding space station, rescue a Lhasa apso from a carnivorous alien plant, and generally avoid being blown up.

As an author, I cannot recommend John Scalzi enough. The Human Division is certainly in keeping with his excellent and humorous style. Also, if you are a fan of sci-fi or of Scalzi’s writing, and have not delved into the Old Man’s War universe, I would strongly suggest you do so soon.

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