The Human Division by John Scalzi is Scalzi’s writing at its very best. Scalzi’s ability to take over a dozen different stories, with a different tone in each, and weave them together, to form one unifying overarching storyline, that has this many complexities, is simply fantastic.
5/5 21/25 possible score
Type of Story: Sci-Fi space opera with multiple short story like segments.
Plot – 4(Strong)
Characters – 4(Strong)
Setting/World Building – 4(Strong)
Writing Style – 5(Very Strong)
Heart & Mind Aspect – 4(Strong)
The Human Division is the fifth book in the Old Man’s War series. Many things have happened in the series, but to try not to give many spoilers from the previous books, this book starts out with the Colonial Defense Force, the main human space army, on the back foot. The CDF has to now rely on their relationships with other alien races much more than any other time and that is why diplomatic missions are so important. A diplomatic team consists of Harry Wilson, a CDF technology officer that Old Man’s War fans know, Hart Schmidt, and Ambassador Abumwe. This diplomatic team is one of the best at thinking on their feet and stopping intergalaxy incidents from becoming massive confrontations. The Human Division tells the stories of this diplomatic team, called The B Team, as they find themselves in situations that require all their cunning to navigate. Also, there are stories about unfortunate things happening all across the galaxy that shows a political situation that is unlike anything the CDF have encountered.
Why you might enjoy this book:
The Human Division showcases Scalzi’s ability to create a narrative from multiple different parts to form one whole. The book is the summation of all the digital serials that were published in e-book format. There were 13 digital serial episodes. Each episode was released separately and had their own story. Each episode, didn’t quite build on the one before it, but built upon a larger story being told. The ability of Scalzi’s writing was to create individual stories that were strong on their own accord but also create enough unknown elements for the reader to want to get the next episode. Other author’s work might not have worked so seamlessly together as these 13 stories did, but Scalzi did remarkably well. None of the episodes were worse than any others and each one stood on its own as a great contribution to the overall story.
Where all the Old Man’s War stories are full of humor, The Human Division is without a doubt the most funny of them all. I laughed out loud while listening to this audio book multiple times. William Dufris, once again is the narrator, and he is just absolutely hilarious delivering Scalzi’s upbeat sarcastic humor. I think that the jokes would be good on paper too but after listening to the Old Man’s War series on audio book, I can’t imagine it being as good. The chemistry and humor between Harry Wilson and Schimdt is such an entertaining and cheerful thing to read. They jostle and joke with each other all the time, even during important diplomatic situations, or dire times. They bring so much fun to this book.
Don’t let the humor fool you though, this is the most technical, and political Old Man’s War book so far. Because Wilson is a technology expert, Scalzi can have him battle technical problems that other characters in the series could not. This opens up a lot of possibilities for things to go wrong technically, as Harry Wilson can now save the day. The political climate is on the precipice of full out chaos. Even the slightest mistake could cause ramifications that could cause the death of billions of innocents. The reader realizes that life and death is no longer just about the gun but from the tongue too.
Why you might not like this book:
The largest reason you might not like this book is bringing expectations from the previous books. We all love John Perry, however, the reader must accept that Harry Wilson is the main protagonist in this chapter of Old Man’s War. If you keep wanting to have Perry instead of Wilson, or you just don’t care for Wilson as a character, you might not enjoy this installment of Old Man’s War as much as I did. Also, The Human Division is a slightly harder book to follow and read than the previous Old Man’s War books. Even though it isn’t difficult, it isn’t as approachable as the previous Old Man’s War books. Lastly, if you don’t care for humor in your sci-fi book, you may have issues with this book. I find it absolutely hilarious but some people might not appreciate the humor as much as I did.
I highly recommend you try both the Old Man’s War series and this installment of it. Scalzi writes some of the most easy to approach sci-fi. These are the books that I will always recommend to people starting out science fiction. The Human Division is written beautifully, hilarious, and a decent political installment to the Old Man’s War.