The Human Division by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This installment of The Old Man’s War series offers a look at the Colonial Union and this universe from a different perspective. Previous books have mostly been from the point of view of the CU soldiers (or ex-soldiers). Here the main characters are diplomats. Wilson is a military guy, but his job isn’t fighting, it’s technology and he’s attached to a diplomatic mission. The conflict, then, that structures the plot is different. It’s not direct violent conflict with alien races but the conflict between the characters (of various species) and what they don’t know. That is, the plot revolves mostly around the characters dealing with situations where what they know (or thought they know) is rapidly changing and they need to improvise. It makes for intense and engaging story-telling.
The characters are well drawn and each chapter pops. In part this is because each chapter (or episode) was written as a stand-alone piece, albeit with Scalzi always intending it as a novel. So each chapter can stand on its own, but also fits into the bigger picture. The overall mystery of the novel is not solved here – I presume (hope) it is in the next book.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed the book, it doesn’t offer much in terms of breaking new ground either in terms of the universe or in terms of wider science-fiction. In regards to the former, we don’t learn that much more about the CU, Earth, the Conclave, or other species in this universe. In regards to the latter, just about the only thing interesting is the brain in the box (I won’t say more to avoid spoilers). But we have to wait until the next book, I think, to learn more about that.
If, like me, you like the universe of The Old Man’s War and Scalzi’s writing style, you will enjoy The Human Division as well.
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