The Human Division

The Human Division Read-Along, Episode 12: “The Gentle Art of Cracking Heads”

Welcome to the Tor.com read-along for John Scalzi’s The Human Division—each week, as a new episode in this serialized novel is released, you can use this space to talk about how you think the story’s going so far and put forward your theories about where it might be headed. You’ll also get behind-the-scenes info from Scalzi, as well as the occasional insight from his editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden… and maybe a few other special guest stars along the way.

Warning: Although I’ll strive to err on the side of caution when I talk about each episode’s plot points, this read-along is meant to be a zone where people who have already read the story can talk about it with each other. Expect spoilers.

Okay, then! Let’s talk about Episode 12, “The Gentle Art of Cracking Heads.”

Danielle Lowen, who initiated a fairly substantial flirtation with Harry Wilson when she was part of the diplomatic team Earth sent to the Clarke in “The Observers,” is the focus of this week’s episode, pressing a Brazilian functionary for information about Luiza Carvalho, the assassin who evaded capture by walking into an airlock and exposing herself to the vacuum of space. Clearly, there’s some level of conspiracy involved here—and the bombing of the Brazilian consulate shortly after she steps outside only underscores that point.

Then she has a conversation that answers several of the how questions that have emerged over the last few weeks, but still leaves us in the fog about the who. It’s entirely possible the “generically handsome” John Berger (a nod to the philosophy book Ways of Seeing?) is on the same “team” as Michael Washington from “A Voice in the Wilderness,” and that’s where my money is going, personally—but we don’t know for sure. (Heck, the physical descriptions we’ve got are scanty enough that it’s possible John Berger is Michael Washington.)

What we do learn dovetails with much of what we’ve been learning these last few weeks. Specifically, whoever’s working to keep Earth and the Colonial Union apart has capabilities, specifically a combination of SmartBlood-like technology and consciousness-altering nanobots, that seem like they could be cutting-edge extensions of Colonial Defense Forces technology… but are they?

(By the way, Berger’s explanation of how the nanobots might be introduced into someone’s system raises a really good question: What do we really know about what was in Lt. Lee’s drink?)

Next week’s episode, “Earth Below, Sky Above,” is the Human Division finale—so it’s reasonable to expect some major revelations. I’m not giving you any hints, though… and you’ll thank me for that when you get to read the episode for yourself.

(By the way, congratulations to Scalzi on the Hugo nomination for Redshirts! Also, in a unnaturally forced segue, here are the Human Division tour dates….)


Purchase and read The Human Division, episode 12: “The Gentle Art of Cracking Heads,” here.

Art by John Harris.


Ron Hogan is a big Scalzi fan from way back. He just launched a new website called The Handsell, where he recruits authors and indie booksellers to make reading recommendations for people based on books they already love.

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