Mar 19 2013 12:00pm

The Human Division Read-Along, Episode 10: “This Must Be The Place”

The Human Division Read Along Episode 10 This Must Be The Place

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 10, “This Must Be the Place.”

This was a “quiet” week for The Human Division: no life-threatening situations, no new developments in the rift between Earth and the Colonial Union, no threats from aliens or saboteurs. (I gave Scalzi a week off from my questions, but rest assured he’ll be back next week.) And yet, in its own way, “This Must Be the Place” delivers one of the most captivating stories of the season so far.

In this episode, Hart Schmidt takes a break from being Harry Wilson’s mildly clueless sidekick and steps into the spotlight during a holiday family reunion on Phoenix, the largest (and oldest surviving) human colony in outer space. And we learn, among other things, that while Hart may seem mildly clueless when standing next to Harry (or Ambassador Abumwe, for that matter), he’s actually a savvy and capable young man from an established political family that’s convinced he’s wasting his time and his talents in the Colonial Union. As his father, one of the most powerful politicians on the planet, puts it, “They stuck you with a diplomatic team that’s been catching lost cause missions for years, and assigned you to a CDF grunt who uses you for menial tasks.”

That’s one way of looking at it. Hart applies another perspective to what he admits “has been an eventful year,” positioning himself at the front of a crisis that will determine the future of the Colonial Union—and humanity—in space. Is he a nice guy who’s in a little over his head? Maybe. But if we’ve learned anything from Harry and Ambassador Abumwe and Captain Coloma these last two months, it’s that finding yourself in over your head can be a powerful motivation to come up with new ways of solving your problems.

One thing I like about this episode is that it gives us a breather from the previous four high-tension installments of The Human Division—granted, “The Dog King” was played for comedy, but the stakes were still intense—and gives us a sense of just what the Colonial Union is fighting so hard to protect: not just a set of colonies, but a way of life. I’m also going to assume, although I haven’t been reading ahead, that we’re going to need this brief rest before the buildup to the “season finale,” which is just three weeks away. (Have we really been at it this long?) Let’s see if I’m right next week, when Scalzi delivers Episode 11, “A Problem of Proportion.”

Purchase and read The Human Division, episode 10: “This Must Be The Place,” at:

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.

Ron Hogan
1. RonHogan
Scalzi sent me a note after this post had "gone to press," as it were, and he confirmed one of my impressions of the episode: "Hart Schmidt someone who I think up to now is mostly seen as Wilson's slight hapless, slightly fussy sidekick. Now, that's because that's how I've written him—but there's more to him than just a stack of twitches and neuroses." This episode lets Scalzi show what Hart's made of, the same way Captain Coloma was given the spotlight in "Tales from the Clarke."

"Mind you," he advised, "this stuff is there not just to give each of these characters a moment in the sun—they're not being portrayed by actors, so there's no ego issues to deal with here. The things you learn about these characters will have a payoff as the story goes along."

He also agreed with my characterization of this episode as a "breather," which helps keep readers from getting too used to the action and intrigue; these quiet moments put the dramatic blowouts in context. Then he warned me, "People are going to need for the last three episodes."

I've looked ahead to next week, and boy he's not kidding.
Jason Snell
2. Jason Snell
I love the title of this episode, which must be a reference to the Talking Heads song "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)," which begins with the line, "Home is where I want to be."
3. janetl
I enjoyed this installment. I wondered if Hart wasn't a bit of an Ivan Vorpatril character.
Jason Snell
4. Jennifer R
I think Ivan is a good comparison, yes. The less shiny star in a constellation of show-offs.

I dunno...it was a pleasant read, but there wasn't really a whole lot of plot or stakes in this one. I didn't for a second worry that Hart might quit his job for local politics. I felt like it needed more plot, otherwise it's just a scenic visitation.
Jason Snell
5. JR_One
The most interesting thing about the installment to me was how insular Phoenix appears. I assumed that the CU headquarters and the Phoenix global government would be integrated because I had always heard that the CU was on Phoenix. Instead, Phoenix is one more colony that has little influence on the CU.

My question is "will the CU take steps to be more of a civilian government organization?" Can Hart help that process with his contacts?

Or is this episode establishing that the "B Team" has contacts in high places if it needs them (on Phoenix)?
alastair chadwin
6. a-j
Jason Snell@2
Mr Scalzi states on his website, 'Whatever' that the title definitely comes from the Talking Heads song
Tyler Sprenger
7. Kappi
I found it interesting how Alistair Schmidt admits he's been keeping tabs on his son's diplomatic missions through his own contacts in the CU. I'm not point to him as a potential conspiracist (my understanding was the PHP was pro-CU, but maybe I misread that), but it does highlight that people outside of the CU State department get information from inside. Maybe Hart's missions weren't classified, yet the State Department is still worried about a mole inside learning about some of these missions.
Tyler Sprenger
8. Kappi
Oh, and I was still disappointed when the episode ended. I felt a little teased I guess. I wanted more Hart!
Jason Snell
9. joelfinkle
Character development is well and good, and necessary... but with only three episodes left, I felt like there should have been at least one "aha" or a thread picked up from an earlier episode. Unless I'm missing something... but it would seem to me that this would have been a place to establish a possible link to the mysterious not-so-much-benefactors in "A Voice in the Wilderness" or the suppliers of the arms used in "The B-Team".
Jason Snell
10. Jim Caplan
The episode was light and sweet. Kind of a sherbet between courses. Now, comes the fun.
Alan Dionne
11. amdionne
Hart Schmidt walks into a bar room and all his siblings are there. We get not a single word about what these people look like. Tall, short, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, fugly, bald, wrinkled, athletic, deformed? "Older than 30" and "Catherine and Wes are twins" is all of it. I guess Mr. Scalzi left these details out on purpose -- but why? How does the lack enhance the story? I felt like Heather Lee in Episode 8 -- blindfolded. If I only had a brain, pal.
Jason Snell
12. KevinH
I like how the phrase "this must be the place" can have two different connotations: one is sort of a result or conclusion ("we followed the directions on the map, so this must be the place"), and the other is a declarative statement, as it is used at the end of this episode -- if I want to make a difference, then this must be the place (to do it).

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