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Shelf Indulgence

Books. Reviews.

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Aftermath
Chuck Wendig
Dhalgren
Samuel R. Delany
Jackals
Charles L. Grant

The Human Division

The Human Division - John Scalzi The Human Division is the last in the chronology of the Old Man's War series, which really wrapped up with The Last Colony, but then went on for some minor edits with Zoë's Tale. And where Zoë's Tale was mostly a repeat of the book that preceded it, The Human Division winds up being more a marketing ploy than anything else.

The book (I hesitate to call it a novel) is made up of fifteen different short stories, each one released originally as an e-book about a year ago. The short stories can stand alone, but they also work together as a continued narrative to give a broader overview of what the universe is like after Earth discovers the truth of the Colonial Defense Forces. In fact, most of the stories involve diplomacy, shrouded with a conspiracy that the ambassadors are trying to uncover before the end of the book. It works pretty well, but it also felt really disjointed to me.

For one, each story felt kind of random. They were complete stories, as I mentioned, just with a puzzle piece buried at the end. Each puzzle piece led to a larger picture that revealed the larger story, and that larger story led toward the conclusion of the book. While most of the stories focused on one ambassadorial team, the others were weird, "let's showcase an alien" stories that just felt like comedy relief at best, or diversions at worst. And the one about the talk show host? The less said the better.

The thing is, if all of that had led to a big reveal at the end of the book, I wouldn't have minded so much, but instead Scalzi takes us all the way up to reveal the conspiracy, and then yank everything away so there are no more answers at the end of the book than there were at the start. It felt like I had read the entire book for no real reason, save to revisit the universe of Old Man's War. And while the stories read and felt like traditional Scalzi stories (nothing wrong with that, nosir), they didn't have the same kind of punch that his other stories have.

The ending may be that Scalzi isn't quite ready to abandon this universe, which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but I'm glad that after this book (well, really, after The Sagan Diaries, but I don't expect that to take too long), I'll be done with the series for a while. As good as the books are, and as good of a storyteller as Scalzi is, I think it's time I moved on to something different. Reading too much of one author at a time, no matter how good he is, can grow a little tiresome.