Apr 9 2013 10:00am

The Human Division Read-Along, Episode 13: “Earth Below, Sky Above”

The Human Division John Scalzi Read-Along Episode 13 Earth Below Sky Above

Welcome to the final installment of the Tor.com read-along for John Scalzi’s The Human Division—each week, as a new episode in this serialized novel was released, we’ve used this space to talk about how you think the story’s going so far and discuss your theories about where it might be headed. We’ve also gotten behind-the-scenes info from Scalzi, as well as the occasional insight from his editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden, too.

And though I strove to err on the side of caution when I talked about each episode’s plot points, this read-along was meant to be a zone where people who have already read the story could talk about it with each other. There were spoilers.

And there are going to be even more spoilers as we dig into the final episode: “Earth Below, Sky Above.”

First things first: Although the conspiracy comes to a spectacular boil with the assault on Earth Station—maybe my favorite action sequence in a science fiction novel since the Xiamen firefight in Neal Stephenson’s Reamde—we still don’t know who’s behind it. I thought that might have been baked into the story from the beginning, and I asked Scalzi as much. “It wasn’t always the plan to leave the conspiracy angle unanswered,” he assured me. “In the writing, however, it became clear that it was going to happen, and I as the writer was fine with that.”

That’s because The Human Division isn’t just a novel about an interstellar conspiracy, he explains:

“It’s primarily about Harry Wilson and Hart Schmidt and Ode Abumwe and the crew of the Clarke, and their transition from clinging from the bottom of the diplomatic ladder to becoming essential components of the Colonial Union’s continuing struggle for survival. That’s the arc of the novel right there.

The conspiracy is an important element, but to focus on that at the expense of the characters’ journeys would be putting the cart before the horse. I knew what—and who—my story was about.”

Scalzi thinks many fans have been realizing that a cliffhanger ending such as this was likely: “So many of the comments I’ve seen have shifted from ‘How is this going to get all wrapped up?’ to ‘There better be more!’” But before we talk about that, let’s take a look back at the process of writing a 13-episode serial....

“My favorite part of the episodic nature of The Human Division was being able to spend a little more time with characters who in other novels would by structural necessity be more in the background: Hart Schmidt, Halfte Sorvalh, Danielle Lowen and so on,” Scalzi says, and he believes readers enjoyed those scenes as well, once they got used to the idea of stepping away from the main story. “I think there was at least some initial resistance to the ‘side’ episodes,” he concedes, “because I think people were wondering how they tied into the overall narrative. I think here now at the end it’s clear that most everything coalesces into a single stream.”

If The Human Division was an experiment in writing serialized fiction and publishing it online, “I don’t think it would be terribly surprising to learn that the experiment was a success,” Scalzi continues:

“Artistically, I enjoyed the challenge of writing individual stories that also hung together as a coherent novel-length narrative, and it seems that the readers seemed to get it too—that they were willing to to take this flyer with us.

Commercially, it seems indisputable that the experiment was a success as well: Each of the episodes to date has landed on the USA Today bestseller list and has been in the top five in sales on Amazon’s science fiction list.

So I’m pretty happy with both sides of that equation.”

He’s also been paying close attention to the feedback from fans over the last four months, including what they’ve been saying about story length in relation to the price of the episodes. “This was a grumble that got less pronounced the further along we went in the series, as far as I could see,” he observed. “There was almost no length grumbling about ‘The Gentle Art of Cracking Heads,’ which was the shortest in the series.” And though readers seemed happy with the episodic nature of the novel, “[they] wanted more convenient ways to purchase and organize the episodes,” he noted. “A lot of that is wrapped up in the retailer relationship, so we’ll have to think about these aspects moving forward.”

Ah, yes, moving forward....

“I contracted for a single novel,” Scalzi reflected. “Originally the idea was one novel, one set of episodes and one narrative arc. And then in the writing it changed, partly because of the mechanics of how I write and partly because as I wrote I realized I had created more plot than could be elegantly stuffed into a novel of the length and structure we had planned for.”

“I didn’t want readers pissed off at the idea that some major plot points would not be resolved,” he emphasized. If The Human Division was succeeding from a sales perspective, then, “I was pretty sure Tor would be happy to keep things going, because it’s in the nature of commercial publishing to continue successful things.” And if things hadn’t worked out, and Tor didn’t want to finish the story of the Clarke, Scalzi was prepared to write a novella that would wrap up some of the major unanswered questions, which he’d release through a smaller publisher... or even independently, if need be.

“Either way, I wouldn’t leave readers and fans hanging,” he said. “Because that would be a dick move.”

All of which is prelude to this announcement: “I am happy to say The Human Division has been renewed for a second season.” Stay tuned to Tor.com and Whatever for updates as the details fall into place, I’m sure....

And that’s a wrap! So... what do you think?

Purchase and read The Human Division, episode 13: “Earth Below, Sky Above,” here.

Art by John Harris.

Ron Hogan 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. He is a big Scalzi fan from way back, and has had a great time with this read-along—thanks to everyone who participated, and to Tor.com for hosting us!

Steven Halter
1. stevenhalter
The action sequence was quite good. Leaping into space, walking through vacuum, crashing space ships and a bit of romance. So, for an episode it was very successful.
If we consider The Human Division as the opening act of a multi-act serial, this also works quite well. We've still got quite a cliffhanger. The fate of the CU hangs in the balance. What direction Earth will go and the Conclave also remains to be seen.
I would have liked a few more tantalizing clues thrown into the mix here at the end. Whoever is behind things remains pretty shadowy. They do continue to show that in addition to being shadow they are pretty much remorseless.
Overall, I think the book was a very good addition to the Old man's war universe. Well done.
2. Jr_one
I also felt that this was an exciting and effective expansion of the OMW story. I've enjoyed this serial and am up for the next one.

The lack of closure doesn't bother me as long as I know that the story will be continued. Mr. Scalzi is right in his thoughts that leaving us hanging would be mean.

***Spoilers below, don't read until you've read the story ***

I think the side episodes did help to flesh out and connect me to the characters. I was very afraid Hart was "done for" in this episode. Especially when he had his own episode. That felt like a way to get us ready to feel the impact of his death :-(. I'm glad he learned some resourcefulness from his time with Harry.

My question: why didn't Coloma try to stop the missiles from hitting the beanstalk? Could she have saved one of the elevators on the way down?
Steven Halter
3. stevenhalter
It doesn't seem like she could have saved an elevator. She had a very limited number of shots and the elevators would essentially be slowly moving ducks. She could have stopped one missle but not all of them.
Why the CDF only supplied one drone is a good question. Did the Shadowy Dudes spy know that and supply overwhelming force? Was only one drone available?
I guess we'll have to tune in later.
Stephen Rochelle
4. lomn
Almost completely tangent to the storyline, but I appreciated that the CU's engineers have read Red Mars and took steps to keep the beanstalk from painting an actual line around the equator.

As for only supplying one drone: I don't think the question is so much "why only one drone?" as it is "why just a drone, Coloma, and the Clarke?" Would it really have been that hard to bring a couple of honest-to-God warships along for the ride?
Steven Halter
5. stevenhalter
lomn@4:They probably thought warships would be threatening to the Earth. But, it does seem like having a couple of ships parked in closer would have been a good idea.
Steven Halter
6. stevenhalter
One very small quiblle is when Colonel's Egan and Rigney are talking and eating, they are described as eating pasta. Egan twirls it and then later spears it. The sorts of pasta one spears or twirls tend to be a bit different. A small description of say linguine would have helped the flow, I thought. For some reason the plain pasta just snapped me out of the story. Kind of like if they had been eating stew...
7. Jr_one
Nice book reference. I remembed the fall of a "beanstalk" type structure happening in a book - didn't remember which one. I don't attribute this to the CU's altruism - the CU didn't want the technology falling into the "wrong" hands.

I agree on the single drone/Clarke comment. The CU does come across as stupid - they've used overwhelming force before. Why make the assumption that the enemy will only use one ship?

On the other hand, maybe there are more folks with Nanobots in their heads MAKING them stupid.

Do you think that any of the characters in the current stories are already infected?
8. pandaferret
Thank god for a second season! I want to know what happens and who the shadowy bad guys are!

That being said, this feels much more like a TV series than a serialized novel, mostly because of the unresolved questions at the "end" of the "season". I was surprised at how much more strongly I reacted to the lack of wrap up here than I do when one of my TV shows does the same thing. I think it was because I wasn't sure there would be any followup to The Human Division, so I'm *really* excited to hear there will be a season 2!! Thanks John Scalzi!
9. Vitiosus
A few things that stick out to me in this episode.

Schmidt was underused. After we get to learn his background a couple of episodes ago, and we are being led to believe that he has hidden capabilities, he is basically Wilson's toady the whole episode. Trailing after Wilson and getting his beer. His calm demeanor and his ability to think on his feet and survive at the end was encouraging, and makes me hopefully that he will do more than be a toady next season.

The second thing is that it is awfully convenient that Wilson is given the one thing that needs to escape from the station. This is very blatant, and means one of two things, either lazy writing or else Scalzi is hinting at a deeper game. I'd like to suggest it is the latter. We know that someone in the CDF knew or suspected an attack and so they supply to Wilson with a plan B. So the question is how much did they know, and are they the good guys, or the bad? Either way I do not believe that it is a coincidence that the person he was skydiving, or is it orbitdiving? with was the cousin to the daughter of the Sec of State of the US. It does not seem to be coincidental that she is put near him, and his second suit either. Especially since we learn at the end that the saving of her life was the one good thing to come out of the whole disaster. It feels set up to me.

On the similar line of thought this is the second time that this has happened to the pair of them. Back a few episodes ago with the assassination of the Earth delegation member. The way they were able to foil the plot was by using the one piece of equipment that was conveniently available to them, the advanced medical scanners they were acquiring during the negotiations. Without this single piece of equipment Wilson and party could not have uncovered the altered smart blood. So again, lazy writing? Or a hint that someone chose that specific mission knowing the resource would be available for him to uncover the plot?

One of the things that I love about this series is the "lower decks" feel to the characters. The first episode is the "B-team" after all. While we as the readers and most of the followers of the events would applaud the ingenuity of the crew of the Clarke and not thing past anything else. I believe we should consider that there is something deeper going on. The only question is whether it is the good guys manipulating the crew of the Clarke to foil the plots, or if it is the bad guys manipulating them for their own reasons?

Lastly the ending conversation. What did they really accomplish on this mission besides survive? What makes them get promoted to A team status for that? I mean of the lot of them only the captain of the Clarke, Coloma? and Wilson accomplish anything spectacular. Ah, well I guess we will find out!
Ron Hogan
10. RonHogan
On the idea that Hart "is basically Wilson's toady the whole episode," or at least in the first half of the episode:

I don't disagree that Hart falls right into doing the same kinds of things he always does once he comes back from Phoenix, but I do believe that once you know his backstory, it's much harder to see him as the simple/doofus sidekick he appears to be in earlier episodes, and it gives his later interactions with Harry a bit of an edge.

This is a terrible analogy, but what if it's like imagining that Batman treated Alfred the way that Silver Age Superman treats his pal, Jimmy Olsen?
Stephen Rochelle
11. lomn
stevenhalter @5: yes, "viewed as a threat" would be the major objection. I guess I was mostly thinking having a warship pose as yet another diplomatic vessel -- but maybe that's a ruse that just won't hold up in-universe for whatever reason.

Jr_one @7 on infections: honestly, my first thought for Coloma's secret package was "OK, she's the mole". That hunch wasn't borne out, obviously, but yes, I think further infections are reasonable to assume. The problem (from a reader standpoint) is that, if the snitch from Cracking Heads is to be believed, this nanotech is good enough to alter opinions, motivations, and various sources of long-term planning, and it's not clear where Scalzi is restricted by what the tech can't do. This contrasts with David Weber's current Honorverse stuff, where he's also playing with mind-control nanotech. Weber, though, sets it up as "do a specific pre-programmed rote action when a specific pre-programmed condition is met", and so the reader has assurances that Joe Protagonist can't suddenly be switched to the other team. But if we're positing infections that make people aggressively inept -- how can you know? Anyway, all that said, I'll offer Lt. Lee and compatriot as excellent candidates for Trojan horses on the CU side, given their abductions in The Sound of Rebellion.

Vitiosus @9: At least part of what Abumwe, et al, did to get promoted was survive. I read the attack as taking down the bulk of the CU's first-line diplomatic personnel right along with Earth's. That said, there's also the textual piece of regularly making something out of expect-nothing situations.

Finally, something I hope is explored in Season Two: the conspiracy deployed all of their hijacked human ships in the attack, but only their human ships and missiles (which paints the CU in the worst possible light from Earth's view, and leaves the Conclave conspiracy angle more plausible from the CU's).T hey also have a dozen-ish Conclave ships and alien missiles to match still lurking. What are those for?
George Jong
12. IndependentGeorge
I agree on the single drone/Clarke comment. The CU does come across as stupid - they've used overwhelming force before. Why make the assumption that the enemy will only use one ship?
Especially since they have an exact count on the number of missing CU/Conclave ships that have presumably turned into brains-in-jars. Hell, they likely have the names of the ships from their diplomatic back channel.

I think that Szilard and/or a faction in the Special Forces is behind it. The enhanced Special Forces bodies from The Last Colony should have been a socio-political game changer, but we've heard nothing about them since. I haven't thought through the exact mechanics yet, but it looks to me that the current, desperate position of the CU is the exact impetus needed to either spread the enhancements to the general population (to better defend the colonies), or to start mass-producing the Special Forces soldiers.
13. heteromeles
Few technical grumbles (such as using "ultrasonic speeds" when meteoric speeds might have worked better--perhaps this will get fixed in the published version?). Still, I was pretty sure going in that John was going to get a contract for book #2 of the trilogy even before he announced it, so I'm not surprised. What, you think it's not a trilogy? I mean, we even had the black riders (sixteen of them, anyway, properly zombified) show up. It would have been a massively brilliant stunt to tie up all the loose ends in a short story, and somehow, I didn't think John was going to even try pulling it off.

Anyway, fun read, and I'm glad there will be more of it.
15. majello
i love the story so far.

but i'm still annoyed. it feels like half a book, not a cliffhanger at the end of a book to me. and the serial aspect is still getting to me. the parts were just too small for me. and i really don't mind the price. it just can't hold the tension from one chapter to the next for a week, it seems, and the arc for the b-team simply wasn't strong enough for me to carry the whole thing.

but as far as i can tell, i'm in a minority here, so i'll keep buying. i just hope tor and john scalzi remember that sales aren't the only metric applicable here. which, btw, they seem to be well aware of in general.
14. Jennifer R
Love the comments on this thread.

lomn: Good point about the Conclave ships still around. Will we see some big Conclave thing blown up in season/book 2? Or are they even needed any more, now that the big horrible goal of breaking up the CU and Earth has happened?

Vitiosus: Good point. Either it's lazy writing, or there's more people than "John" in Cracking Heads that are on the side of the opposition that may be fed the hell up with how things are going, and are seeding things accordingly. Probably someone(s) who know Harry very well, would be my guess. Who would qualify for that? I'm not sure, we don't know enough of Harry's military career and who he has run-ins with in between OMW and this book to really ponder suspects. We can rule out the Perry/Sagan crew, but other than that, could be anyone.

Abumwe and crew may literally be the ONLY ambassadors left alive after this. I don't know if every single one in the CU was sent to Earth, but if that's the case, it's a field promotion due to lack of staff.

Hart is clearly Robin to Harry's Batman. I do wonder if he'll get to do stuff on his own in season/book 2.
George Jong
16. IndependentGeorge
They probably thought warships would be threatening to the Earth. But, it does seem like having a couple of ships parked in closer would have been a good idea.
If I'm not mistaken, skips out need to be outside the gravity well of a system, but skips in can arrive almost anywhere. The skip drone carrying the distress call was two light hours away from Earth (I assume that was minimum distance required for a skip), and the attack didn't take nearly that long.

What I wonder about is why Earth Station didn't seem to have any defensive capabilities in the first place. Even before the schism, you'd think that the CU would be interested in defending their sole pipeline for soldiers.
17. Jennifer R
Upon rereading: the Conclave offered "their own administrative rock" as a "neutral third party" location for the summit. I'm guessing either that's a future target or could have been blown up had things gone the other way.
Steven Halter
18. stevenhalter
IndependentGeorge@16:I was thinking that a few ships could have been stealthed pretty close by. It seems entirely likely that the CDF technology could hide ships from Earth sensors.
If nothing else, put them on the other side of the moon and they could still send missle support fairly quickly from what we have seen.
George Jong
19. IndependentGeorge
@18 - actually, now that I think about it, a dozen Gamerrans probably could have ended the battle before it began. Does their absence support or contradict my theory that Szilard is behind the conspiracy?

I still don't understand why Earth Station was completely unarmed. I'm not even talking about offensive weapons (which would probably be provacative to Earth) - you'd thnk it'd at least have ECM or point defense stations to knock down incoming missiles.
Stephen Rochelle
20. lomn
IndependentGeorge @19: I think you're overstating what the space turtles could accomplish re: ship-to-ship combat; it's not the same sort of mission as sabotaging the Conclave fleet.

Point defense on Earth Station, on the other hand.... My best guess is that it's a function of whatever interstellar agreement keeps Earth safe. The nature of planetary defense in this series has never been discussed to any great degree, but it's relatively common knowledge among local aliens that Earth is the original home planet of the CU and is key in supplying the CDF with manpower. Logically, it should be a military target, and yet it isn't. So if Earth Station isn't going to be attacked by aliens, and isn't going to be meaningfully threatened by Earth, maybe the laser cannons get left out of the blueprints.

Jennifer R @17: yeah, having the stolen Conclave ships to sabotage any Conclave-related negotiations (because they'll jump to concluding that the CDF must be responsible for those thefts) makes a lot of sense.
Richard York
21. rfyork
Since this is Tor's page, I'll comment on format and process.

As background I need to say I read the series on the Kindle apps for iPad(4) and PC.

My first frustration is with having to pay for each episode separately. Really? That seems as obvious as tomato sauce on a white napkin.

But, far more frustrating, is the inability to properly link the stories to create a readable book. The iPad app does not even have a "collections" capability. So, THD is scattered all over the place in no rational order.

The PC app has the "collection" capability but no way to put the episodes in proper sequence.

Now, someone will say that one couldn't link episodes in the dead tree world. And, she'd be correct. However, this is another case of carrying over a print trope to the digital universe. In the ebook world this would require a small addition of software.

I understand that this may be an Amazon issue so, I'd like to know if any other ebook publisher has some sort of linking capability. I doubt they do, for the reasons mentioned above.

Tor, you folks need to re-examine your paradigms when it comes to publishing digital serializations. This is only one way in which the publishing industry has carried over print paradigms to the digital world.

I may be asking you folks to pioneer in this effort but, I really think serials have a very good chance of succeeding if you change your way of thinking. You are not restricted by the limitations inherent in print publishing.
Tyler Sprenger
22. Kappi
I overall enjoyed the book / series. However, with the unresolved conspiracy plot I feel like I got a prequel to a book that hasn't come out yet. I was hoping for an answer, or at least some clue as to the identity of the conspirators halway through this episode, even though I should have known better by then.

@11 "Cpt. Coloma is the mole!" was my first thought as well.

@Re: Only one drone
The drone was described as "experimental" at one point I believe. Maybe that's Coloma's point of view and not fact. However, if it is then it makes some sense to not have 20 of them ready for this situation.

Re: Defenselessness of Earth
It was my perception that the CU made Earth look like an insignificant planet to the other races. In the Ghose Brigades, I believe, the Raery or some other race was confused as to why the Obin only wanted the "backwater planet" Earth as their reward for the anti-CU coalition. Pheonix was seen as the CU's capital and possibly as humanities homeworld. Still, I agree, why leave the home planet and space station almost completely undefeneded? The lack of defensive CU ships can be attributed to the political and desparate situation of the CU. But why did the station itself not have any defensive capabilities?

Re: The Conspirators
I still support a Special Forces conspiracy theory. Another theory with less supporting evidence is former Boutin collegues with an anti-CU agenda.
23. GreatNorthernTroll
Hey! Grade this...

Damn You Scalzi!!!


Actually, I loved all 13 episodes... But, Damn!
24. Jeff in Albany
This is not a complete book. The last chapter was great, and I enjoyed the whole series, but to release this story without having negotiated sequels and a timeline for getting the stories out there is not fair to the readers. I feel like I was sold the Hobbit and given the first draft of the first half of the Fellowship of the Ring.

I'm glad that Tor and Scalzi had their chance to experiment, but I can safely say that I will not be participating in the next go around of the grand experiment. Not because I disliked the format, but because I feel that we as readers deserve better. (I would have liked to buy them all at once and receive them serially, and in some type of format so that I don't have 13 "books" in my kindle app).

If this is how we can expect to be treated then I'm going to do what I did with Stephen King and the Dark Tower series. Not read it until it's done, oh wait, I never did buy another Stephen King book or finish that series. Huh, maybe Tor and Scalzi can learn something from that?

I'm glad my faithful readership helped Scalzi to negotiate "Season Two" but I'm done being a pawn in your experiment. Hopefully Scalzi will finish this up in the next few years and I'll still remember it and want to come back.
George Jong
25. IndependentGeorge
The drone was described as "experimental" at one point I believe. Maybe that's Coloma's point of view and not fact. However, if it is then it makes some sense to not have 20 of them ready for this situation.
But it doesn't make sense that you'd use a single prototype as the sole defense system on a critical mission; at the very least, you'd also want battle-tested technology there as a backup in case the beam drone didn't work correctly. Not that an extra missile drone would have made a difference, but it's stupid to rely entirely on a prototype for your defense.

I'm starting to flesh out my Special Forces theory. It's still in its infancy, but here's how I look at it:
1. The fact that SF soldiers are now able to breed naturally increases
the likelihood that they will retire themselves after ten years.
2. Increased retirements among Special Forces will make the manpower shortage even more acute.
3. The CU's manpower shortage now forces them to both increase
production of Special Forces soldiers, and possibly give colonists the
soldier enhancements to allow them to defend themselves. The downside to giving colonists enhancements is that dissident colonists are likely to get enhanced as well.
4. The new wave of retired SF soldiers will not likely want/need their own colony worlds for retirement, distinct from mundane humans. Instead of being an evolutionary dead end, as described in Old Man's War, these new SF worlds see themselves as the next step in humanity's evolution.
5. If the Conclave is preventing them from creating these new worlds, then, as Egan speculated, maybe the Conclave is their next target.
6. Or, alternately, might these colonies of SF retirees see themselves as their own culture, and decide to join the Conclave themselves?
7. Maybe 'The Human Division' doesn't refer to Earth & the CU, but between the SF soldiers and the Realborn?
8. Maybe there is no mole - after all, who needs a mole when you can read the thoughts of CDF officers?
9. Maybe the second series focuses on the Conclave being targeted by the conspirators?
10. Maybe the third series focuses on the evolution of the conclave into a new, Unified Union with the humans at the center of it?
11. Khaaan!!!!
26. Jeff M.
I loved the episodes. I looked forward to reading something new each week. I don't always have time to read a full book so the episode format worked well, especially on the go.

I purchased the books through amazon and was able to sync across android and iOS. I would recommend correcting the text titles because they do not sort propery., I.e. you end up with 1o,11,12,13,1, etc. it would also be nice to have the ability to preorder the whole series/season in one go.

lastly, I really enjoyed the stories, characters and overall plot. However, I too wish that season 2, was already in the works and negotiated sooner than later. In regards to the experient of episodes and what ifs surrounding season two, I am always happy to fund a scalzi literary adventure. Even if that means he has to use kick starter to publish a novella to wrap it up :-D
27. janetl
I enjoyed this series, and particularly this last installment. Suspense! Pathos! Explosions! Dramatic rescues!
I'm not actually a fan of the OMW books, so this change in delivery has hit a sweet spot for me that the novels don't.

Now, putting the content aside for the moment, I agree with rfyork's @ 21 in wanting to see some technical improvements in serialization. This isn't a complaint -- obviously, this was an experiment, so it's natural that we see things we'd like to improve. I was buying it from iTunes and reading it in iBooks on either my iPad or my iPhone. I tried to buy all the episodes in advance, but it seemed as if sometimes that 'took' and other times is didn't. If I could have purchased in advance in the Kobo store, I would have used my Kobo instead.
I absolutely want to be able to organize them tidily as one object, be it a collection, folder, whatever.
If the published book has a coda or additional info of some kind, I want to be able to buy that "extra" individually as an e-book, too. Or, as someone who bought the entire series, get a free download of the novel. (I can hear someone whimpering "The schema doesn't support tracking that one person bought all of them! What if them bought two through Kobo and the rest through iTunes? Oh, why didn't I major in nursing instead of computer science?")
28. janetl
Oh, and I would cheerfully buy episodes from a Tor.com website to get fancier options in organizing them/trading up to the novel/whatever.

I would not buy from Amazon.
29. Nyanie
This was another excellent episode full of action and witty dialogue. Oh and the destruction of an iconic oppressive piece of history. That said...

I am just left with this feeling of being underwhelmed. Each episode was its own very self contained story you could read on its own, which meant there were no cliffhangers as we progressed through the story and the only story induced speculation / anticipation we had to pull us through to the next episode wasn't even close to being revealed.

Instead we created our own anticipation based on our previous experiences with Scalzi. He has a proven record, and based on that we all kept assuring ourselves that something big was coming and it was all going to make sense and every episode would contribute to the finale in some unexpected way.

In my mind the series was building towards this big reveal and the take down of Earth Station in a blaze of glory, but instead we just got 16 ships skipping in, destroying Earth Station and the Beanstalk, and the skipping away. It was not satisfying, it felt cheap, and it felt like all the weeks I spent building my anticipation were for nothing.

The Human Division: The whole is so much less than the sum of its very excellent episodes.
30. Arlington
As a huge fan of Scalzi, I found myself underwhelmed at the whole serial concept. In fact, I hated it. Loathed it, even. Other serialized works I've stumbled across, even if read in their entirety (like the Renewal series), didn't feel so chopped up from "episode" to "episode."

The Human Division just, well, had a complete lack of fluidity from one episode to the next. It didn't flow. I have no idea how one would read these at once, in order, and have any notion that they were reading a novel. Maybe that wasn't the point, but the concept, if meant to be truly like one season of TV episodes, is severely lacking.

I won't be participating if it is presented this way the next go-round. I'll wait for everything to be put together or, as one previous commenter said, just never come back. Which is a shame considering how big of a fan I have become of the Old Man's War universe and the wonderful characters that populate it. For that, at least, I can thank Mr. Scalzi.
Jim Crumley
31. crumley
BTW, the Human Division index got botched and episode 11 is not on it. Though it is not a big deal, since googling Human Divsion 11 finds it quickly.
Hank Roberts
32. hankroberts
Please, if you do write more, write more that fills in between and around and inside the thirteen pieces done so far -- as well as writing past the WileECoyote cliffhanger hovering in the air ending, which wasn't even funny.

I understand publishers insist "thin trilogy is more salable than 'big solid book' (look what they did to Peter Watts's Rifters).

For $13. I can't see doing that two more times to end up with one solid book.

My problem? I read fast even when I slow down. I couldn't afford to buy what I read, at the prices publishers want; thank you public libraries and used bookstores.

But, hey, you're #6 at Amazon at the moment. That's why I went for the whole set, promotion and applause.

More please, and slower.
33. Jeff Weber
I like Scalzis writing and will continue to read what he writes, but I really did not like the weekly episode format. By the time I hit chapter 6 or 7 I was already forgetting what happened in 1 and 2 and by the time I got to 10 I hardly cared anymore. In fact I didn't bother to read 10 and up until 13 finally came out and I could at least read them all together.
Sorry, but when I sit down to read a book I enjoy sitting down and reading the BOOK. I wound up reading multiple books in between the beginning and end of the Human Division, which is probably one reason I got tired of constantly going back for another chapter.
I now see that the book as a whole looks like it is being published. If I had known that would happen I would simply have waited and bought it then. In the future, if he uses this format again, I will wait and see if the book is going to come out as a whole before I buy it.
James Caplan
34. caplanjr
Did everyone forget that as part of the pre-negotiations leading up to the sessions the CDF was forbidden to bring warships or CDF personnel into Earth space? Even hiding them would have broken faith with Earth. Besides, they were so sure there would only be one attacker.
I was very disappointed the series ended with us gentle readers no closer to understanding the "who" of the mystery. Scalzi could have dropped a few more clues, IMHO. I enjoyed looking forward to Tuesday mornings - it made my commute more tolerable.
35. Ian B. Miller
Are you going to do an episode for the short story from the published novel? I quite liked it!
36. Edith I.
Just finished it. I liked the individual stories but the non-ending SUCKED. It pissed me off, honestly. I would NOT have read it if I'd know there wasn't going to be a resolution to the conspiracy thread. I have no idea if this is going to be a duology or a trilogy or a what-the-fuckery. But I will pay more attention to reviews before I read the next book. No resolution, no read.
37. Procrastigator
I waited for the book to come out and I'm quite glad I did : judging by the comments there are still several technical gripes that would probably have annoyed me and diminished my enjoyment of the series. I would be willing to participate in the serial format if I could pay in one shot in advance and have the episodes neatly add themselves in order to a reading device of one kind or other, but we don't seem to be quite there.

I will note however that, episodic format or not, I found reading the whole thing in one go in book form perfectly enjoyable. It definitely is somewhat outside of the normal narrative formats of novels, but I have nothing against some novelty, and M. Scalzi has consistently been able to deliver that.

Still, I have to agree the ending makes the whole thing feel a bit too incomplete, and at least some solid clue to the villains' identity would have been nice. It's a complaint, but it won't stop me from reading on as soon as the next instalment is available!
Kristen Templet
38. SF_Fangirl
I finished reading the dead tree version from my local library and I really enjoyed it. I definately enjoyed it more than Red Shirts; it's hard for me to compare it to the rest of the OMW universe because I have forgotten all the details. I am much more a fan of Scalzi's fan writing than I am of his fiction. Apparently while I enjoy his novels; I find them very forgettable because no details remain in my head to provide any background for universe of The Human Division.

Anyway I really enjoy these 13 episodes. I did make a concerted effort to read these as short stories (often 3 in one night), but I would stop and take a break and read the read-along blog in between each episode. I think if I wasn't entirely aware of the "novel's" episodic format and that it was picked up for another season, I might have been more annoyed by the non-ending. Somehow because I knew that already and I was reading it as a short story, I wasn't angry that the last episode ended with no resolution for the "season." It was really anticlimatic because the end result was they didn't die. They didn't even stumble across a new clue about the conspiracy or conspirators.

I think the "problem" is that Scalzi had a different idea of what the story was about than most of his readers. Scalzi: "... their transition from clinging from the bottom of the diplomatic ladder to becoming essential components." I thought the whole series was about uncovering the conspiracy especially since the even numbered episodes without the main cast had nothing to do their transition to the A firefighting team and everything to do with the conspiracy.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed the format even in the dead treee version. I do wish that we'd have gotten "cover art" at the start of each chapter though. That is something I missed that I assume the eBook chapter consumers got. I will probably borrow the next book in the series from the library in too unless they offer in as a eBook or eChapters. (I'm cheap and my local library is great.)
39. vampiredoctor
Didn't care for the non-ending. All of the characters are snarky sarcastic know-it-alls. I like the world he's created and the concepts but I was hoping for more substance here.
40. Alan G
The publisher promised us a 13 episode novel. Sure they're well-written. But too many are way short. And as a literary form, a novel needs a beginning, middle and an end. There's no end here, there's just the start of a middle.
The publisher has badly damaged the Scalzi brand, as well as the Tor brand. Electronic purchases demand trust, and unless the publisher comes up with some way of compensating us 13x$0.99 buyers of the promised novel, I, and we, just shouldn't buy anything more on trust from Scalzi or Tor. Period.
Doing the right thing here is also good business here. What's your offer, Tor? Over to you....

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