Thursday Reviews: The Human Division by John Scalzi

The Human Division

John Scalzi

John Scalzi returns to the Old Man’s War universe. At the end of both The Last Colony and Zoe’s Tale, which had parallel plotlines, Earth found out that the Colonial Union was using humanity’s cradle as a farm for new colonists and soldiers. Well, you can imagine how well that went over.

Scalzi picks up the story in an unusual format. The story was released on ebook over a year formatted almost like a television series. The “episodes” alternated between the crew of the diplomatic vessel Clarke and happenings elsewhere in the universe. The main focus is on the Clarke, used by Ambassador Ode Abumwe and commanded by Captain Sofia Coloma. The main characters are Hart Schmidt, a junior diplomat who is often reduced to grunt duty assisting Lt. Harry Wilson, a technology specialist on loan from the Colonial Defense Forces. Wilson is green, super-enhanced, and came to the CDF as a 75-year-old man before they gave him a new body designed for the express purpose of kicking alien ass. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Wilson was one of John Perry’s fellow recruits in the original Old Man’s War.

It’s a dark universe out there. Four hundred races have banded together into something known as The Conclave, sort of like the United Federation of Planets in Star Trek, only not as happy to be there. The Conclave is formed to control competition for planets, which has resulted in more bloodshed than any known civilization has experienced before venturing into interstellar space. The Colonial Union isn’t having it, but when Earth suddenly cuts off relations with the CU, Colonial officials estimate the human race is only thirty years from extinction. So Abumwe and her assistants have to walk a fine line trying to get Earth either back into the Union, or, at least, talk them out of joining the Conclave, and making sure the Conclave knows they don’t want a war. All this time, the Colonials are looking for allies.

But someone doesn’t want them to have those allies. They are using missing Colonial ships controlled in a bizarre manner and CDF weapons to fake attacks on anyone – Colonial Union, the Conclave, aliens looking to make a deal. Even Earth is in their crosshairs, and it’s up to Schmidt and Wilson, the real stars of this unusual story, to figure out who. Do they find out?

Oh, now why would Scalzi do that? Then there would be no season-ending cliffhanger or a second season.