Serial novels, a concept as old as book publishing itself, finds new life in John Scalzi’s episodic novel “The Human Division”. The first “episode” in this thirteen part book series is titled “The B-Team” and tells the tale of a group of misfits sent to take over a crucial negotiation after the “A” team disappears under mysterious circumstances.
Set in the popular “Old Man’s War” universe, “The B-Team” nonetheless is accessible to “newbies” to the series. Some of the tactical and intergalactic political elements remind me of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, though Scalzi has a wicked sense of humor Weber’s earlier books lack. In particular the way in which the B-Team’s last set of negotiations are concluded.
The Colonial Defense Forces are teetering on the brink of destruction. A new alliance of alien worlds threatens the many colony worlds, and CDFs greatest source of soldiers, Earth, has just broken away. Without them humanity has about 30 years left on the clock. In the midst of this intrigue a diplomatic team sent to negotiate with a long time enemy goes missing and is believed destroyed. It’s up to a misfit crew to complete negotiations and find out what happened to the other team.
The best part of this tale is the Schmidt and Wilson relationship. It reminds me of the two engineers from Asimov’s robot tales, complete with arguing and daring tactics. There are many amusing as well as action packed moments, most of them from these two.
The close of the episode definitely leaves you with a lot of questions as to where the overarching story-line is going, but the tale contained within wraps up reasonably well. If you only feel like reading the first you don’t have to go further (though I think you’ll want to).
At 99 cents it’s definitely worth the look, and with titles delivered every Tuesday you’ll soon find yourself waiting for the next episode. You can also buy the audible version at a discount if you buy the eBook (you can get both for $1.48). They are also being sold without DRM which to me always engenders goodwill (a deeper look reveals most or all of Scalzi’s work is published this way).
The only downside to the episodic format is that the episodes do not seem to be of a consistent length. The first is about 90 pages (for me two night’s reading), but most of the upcoming episodes are shorter (though the same price). Some are as short as 23 pages. 90 was a good size for a novella\ novelette length story and I am a little worried the upcoming episodes will feel rushed or cut off, but I’m definitely willing to take the trip. In the meantime I also picked up a copy of Old Man’s War to read in the interim periods.
At the time of this posting the second episode “Walk the Plank” will be released and I imagine I’ll have torn through it (at 32 pages it’s a lot shorter). Anyone interested in taking this thirteen episode journey with me (our little blogo-verse book club maybe)?