Plot: Humanity is in danger of going extinct and diplomacy with the various alien races that share the universe with us is becoming increasingly important. When a ship on one such diplomatic missions is mysteriously destroyed, a team of lower ranked diplomats, advised by Lieutenant Harry Wilson, is sent in their place. But it will take more than talk to survive the negotiations.
This review is based on the audiobook narrated by William Dufris.
This is a very short audiobook, only a little over 2 hours long, and paced just like an episode of a science fiction TV show. This makes it great fun to listen to, especially for fans of Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and the like. Dufris is not quite the narrator that Wil Wheaton is but he still captures the tension of the atmosphere and the personality of the characters.
The story takes place in the Old Man’s War universe but you can understand and enjoy it without having read the previous books. Scalzi does a great – and quick – job of setting up the dire straights that humanity finds itself and of introducing Harry and the abrasive diplomat he works with. Then he jumps right into the action: the mystery of the missing ship, the challenge of finding and retrieving the black box and the danger of ending as the first ship did. The tension never lets up and yet Scalzi somehow finds the time to flesh out the important characters too.
I must also pause to mention and be impressed by how many of the high ranking characters – two diplomats, a captain and a soldier (no romantic interests as yet, you might note) – are women. Not only women but women with different personalities, goals and world views: characters in a word. And it is never an issue.
There are 13 episodes in The Human Division, most about an hour long. You can by the whole series as a single book, but where’s the fun in that? Look for my review of the second book, Walk the Plank, very soon.