The Human Division #13: Earth Below, Sky Above, John Scalzi

The Human Division #13: Earth Below, Sky Above, John Scalzi

The Human Division #13: Earth Below, Sky Above, John Scalzi

And we’ve come to the end of line with John Scalzi’s The Human Division. “Earth Below, Sky Above” is the final episode and I’m going to say that Scalzi mostly stuck the landing. If I this were a gymnastics competition, imagine that I am the East German judge and I’m holding up scorecards that read “6.9”. A diving competition would probably be a better metaphor considering what happens here but I can’t be bothered to look up how they score diving. And yes, I know, the gymnastics scoring system has changed and it’s no longer a 10 point scale but it’s not like East Germany’s around anymore either.


This is mostly successful. Tons of great stuff happens in the episode, characters are put in peril, there are heroics and giant space explosions and technology so advanced that it’s more or less magic.  Lots of really wonderful narrative tension. Basically everything that is great about space opera.

However, there is no resolution of what’s been driving this whole thing–to wit, the mysterious conspirators who have been stealing spaceships and wreaking havoc on the CDF’s clumsy attempts to patch things up with Earth are still mysterious at the end of it all.

Which makes me a bit cranky because I am not a fan of unresolved plots in novels, especially one as big as this one; in fact, one could argue that this is the central plot of the text and to leave it hanging is sub-optimal. In my not very humble opinion.

So it comes as no surprise, then, to see an announcement of a “second season” in which, it is to be devoutly hoped, that there’s a bit more resolution.

That said, how did the serial format work? From a story-telling perspective, I don’t think The Human Division holds up as a coherent work–however, Donna has plans to read it in its entirety sometime soon, so she’ll be able to weigh in on that front. I think as a marketing ploy, though, it was brilliant. I don’t know if Tor would have been able to pull this off without an author without the social and commercial capital that John Scalzi has. I suspect not–and I suspect that they wouldn’t have been willing to risk it, either.

And I’ve discovered that I rather enjoy reading shorter pieces of fiction and serial novels, so I’ll be seeking out more of those for myself. I’ve said for years that I don’t have short story brain, but it seems that may be changing.

First up will be David J. Schwartz’s Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic, which has four parts out and of which I’ve read two so far. And there’s oodles of short fiction online, too: Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies. And that’s just for starters.

And so, I close out this series with one last image of Ivanova. I present Ivanova with a fantastically dubious look on her face. And a sex toy (do not click this link if you are at work or otherwise subject to internet filtering). I am, for the record, endlessly amazed that they were able to get this item on television uncensored. YOU ARE ALL WELCOME. I am to educate, after all.

This is used...where?

This is used…where?

Linkspam, 2/22/13 Edition

Unique photos of Chelyabinsk meteorite explosion

Unique photos of Chelyabinsk meteorite explosion (via)

The Human Division #5: Tales from the Clarke, John Scalzi

The Human Division #5: Tales from the Clarke, John Scalzi

The Human Division #5: Tales from the Clarke, John Scalzi

The fifth episode of The Human Division, “Tales from the Clarke takes us back out to what I’m now thinking of as the A plot and gives me, the reader, that little bit of forward momentum I needed–the CDF finally comes out and says that they know that someone’s got a cunning plan and that they’re trying to figure it out.

Captain Coloma of the Clarke has been relieved of duty as the decision has been made to scrap the ship.  And instead, they have this crappy old ship they want her to have–just temporarily, of course, as they’re selling it to a bunch of Earthlings at a good price as a goodwill gesture. Coloma feels like sharing the misery, so she decides that Harry Wilson can come along as well.

I kind of sort of totally love this wreck of a ship they’re given. It’s so old that parts haven’t been made in at least a decade and it’s terrifically inefficient. The hardware is too old to run the latest software so their engineer has to create a virtual machine in his PDA to upgrade it.

It’s just like where I work! Except I don’t work on a spaceship but at a manufacturing facility where both these problems are something that my co-workers deal with on a daily basis (I am the person yelling at them for overrunning their budgets). So I don’t know who Scalzi’s been talking to about this stuff, but he’s got this part absolutely dead on right–if there’s any way a capital budget can be safely cut, it will be. Which is cynical, but that’s what 10 years at my job tells me. Bubble gum and duct tape and maybe a little bit of string.

Anyhow. I really enjoyed this–I enjoyed the interactions between Harry and Coloma, I liked the contrast between new and old tech, I liked the sleuthing, I like that we’re starting to see thing coalesce a bit more, and I really liked the bits about the Cubs. This episode worked a lot better for me than last week’s did, that’s for sure.

And this is sort of what Coloma looks like in my head now. FOR REASONS.

Ivanova is Suspicious

Ivanova is Suspicious

The Human Division #4: A Voice in the Wilderness, John Scalzi

The Human Division #4: A Voice in the Wilderness, John Scalzi

The Human Division #4: A Voice in the Wilderness, John Scalzi

Yay, it’s the fourth installment of The Human Division! This week’s episode is called “A Voice in the Wilderness” and it seems to establish a pattern for the installments–one episode with Harry Wilson and Ambassador Abumwe and then one which illuminates the story from a different angle.

As usual, spoilers ahoy.

This week’s angle is from the perspective of a blowhard talk show host on the radio of the future. (The FUUUUUTUUUUURE.) Albert Birnbaum’s ratings are dropping and his show is in immanent danger of cancellation when he is approached by a stranger and given an offer which he really should look at more carefully.

However, since he’s the designated red shirt of this episode, he happily takes the Trojan horse back to the studio and starts spinning tales about a grand conspiracy theory involving the CDU and a one world government.

Birnbaum is a bit of a jackass and, I admit, that my mental image of him was a certain right-wing commentator who has been stinking up the airwaves for over 20 years now.  He’s so focused on getting ratings that he’s willing to make up whatever story his mysterious benefactors want him to–and it costs him dearly in the end.

This episode didn’t work quite as well for me as the others–I felt like I could see where it was going well before it got there. It also didn’t really give me any sort of idea about what most people on Earth felt about the CDU and Birnbaum, well, he’s a caricature. I didn’t care when things ended badly for him.

I’m getting a bit tired of the shadowy maneuvers of what I can only assume is the bad guys at this point (what with all the killing of people and stuff)–I am frankly surprised that their emissary wasn’t named Mr. Morden (that would have been a great shout out to the best SF television show of all time Ivanova is the best and I am still sad about Marcus adfskjafsudiofe). Ahem. Anyhow. This particular trope has been done and done extremely well–I’m hoping that future installments will force these dudes out of the shadows (SEE WHAT I DID THERE) and into the open because this skulking shit is getting old.

And now, just because:Ivanova is always right.