These reviews are based on the audiobooks narrated by William Dufris.
Episode 2: Walk the Plank
The second episode is the transcript of a recording. In it the members of a colony interrogate the last survivor of a terrible crash. The young man, in terrible pain throughout, tells a tale of pirates, terror and death.
None of the characters we met in the first episode are present here and it is not entirely clear yet how this story fits into the main narrative. But it is a great short story on its own. The story the boy tells is horrific and well told. And more than that, in 40 short minutes, using only dialogue, Scalzi helps us get to know the colony leaders, their struggles and the terrible decision that they must make in the wake of the crash.
Episode 3: We Only Need the Heads
In the third episode we return to the crew of the Clarke. Ode Abumwe is sent to negotiate with the Bula but her work is complicated by a recently destroyed Wildcat (or unsanctioned) colony in Bula territory. Harry Wilson is sent to investigate the remains of the colony and what he discovers could shut down negotiations entirely.
Episode 3 ties Episode 2 back into the main story. We begin to get the sense of a deeper, darker plot at work. Much as in episode 1, Scalzi combines diplomacy and technological investigations. Only it doesn’t go as well for our heroes this time. We meet another interesting alien species as well; there isn’t much time to develop it but as I’ve said in the past, Scalzi has a rare gift for describing truly alien creatures.
Episode 4: A Voice in the Wilderness
Albert Birnbaum was once a very popular radio personality on Earth but his ratings are dropping and it might soon mean his job. So when a mysterious man approaches him and asks to argue in favor of the Colonial Union in exchange for listeners and fame, he jumps at the chance, but he may be getting more than he bargained for.
Like Episode 2, this one takes us away from Harry and the Clarke. Birnbaum is not nearly as likable as the many cast of the series but you can’t help but feel a bit bad for the trouble he gets himself into in his quest for fame and money. Like Birnbaum, we learn very little about the mysterious man and why he wants to change popular opinion about the Colonial Union. We are left with the sense that this is somehow tied to the plot that the Clarke keeps encountering but not how. This was my least favorite of the episodes thus far but the format, mainly radio shows, lends itself well to audio.
Episode 5: Tales from the Clarke
Captain Coloma is back and facing an inquiry for the destruction of the Clarke. In order to redeem herself, she is given command of a 50-year-old ship that the Colonial Union wishes to sell to Earth. She must convince the emissaries from earth that they are getting a good deal. But there is something odd about the emissaries and something wrong with the ship beyond its age.
Harry’s knowledge of Earth and his technological expertise will be once more put to the test and Coloma gets a chance to really shine. Another exciting episode with a great twist.
Episode 6: The Back Channel
The first 5 episodes were from the point of view of the Colonial Union, this is the first to show us what the Conclave thinks of humanity, and it isn’t good. But not all the members agree on how to deal with earth and the Colonial Union. When the existence of a number of Wildcat Colonies comes to light, General Gau sends his adviser Sorvahl to meet the humans by back channels and make the colonies disappear before they can be discovered by the war mongering elements of the Conclave.
This has been one of my favorite episodes. Sorvahl is a pleasure to read about (a fascinating alien with intelligence, wit and sneakiness) and her methods for getting rid of some of the more difficult colonies brought a smile to my lips.
Episode 7: The Dog King
The Colonial Union continues to negotiate with alien species. This time they have come to mediate a civil war that began with the disappearance of a king. Abumwe is not in charge of this negotiation but Harry Wilson has been given a very important task, one very different from his usual work. I won’t say anything more, it would ruin the surprise. 🙂
This is a comparatively silly episode, a nice bit of lightness between darker stories, and great fun to listen to.
Episode 8: The Sound of Rebellion
Lt. Heather Lee had been sent with her platoon to put down a separatist rebellion. They succeeded but they were abducted in the midst of their celebration. Now she is bound and naked, unable to see or move as unknown people interrogate her. She knows that this can only end in her death. She must employ all her enhanced senses in order to escape.
This episode is a great showcase for the skills of the colonial marines. There isn’t much action until quite near the end, instead Lee uses her intelligence and deduction to get free, which is even better if you ask me.
Episode 9: The Observers
There are once more human emissaries on the Clarke, here to observe negotiations with an alien race. After the events in Tales from the Clarke, the crew is understandably wary. When the lead ambassador is found dead, however, all clues seems to point to the Colonial Union. Harry Wilson must find the true murderer.
Technology ultimately answers the question of guilt but there is plenty of good old fashion investigation and analysis of motivation. It’s really starting to look like someone wants war between The Earth and the Colonial Union.
4 more episodes left! I’ve really been enjoying the series and plan to get back to it as soon as I finish another Dresden Files book. Look forward to more reviews soon.