The Human Divisionby John Scalzi, William Dufris
It’s a violent, competitive universe. And our home planet would have been an easy conquest, if not for the efforts of the Colonial Union the human spacefaring military organization that has defended our world for generations. But the Colonial Union kept many secrets from humanity, until John Perry revealed them to Earth’s
EARTH IS BETRAYED.
It’s a violent, competitive universe. And our home planet would have been an easy conquest, if not for the efforts of the Colonial Union the human spacefaring military organization that has defended our world for generations. But the Colonial Union kept many secrets from humanity, until John Perry revealed them to Earth’s billions.
The CU has fought an endless series of secret wars on (it claims) Earth’s behalf, while manipulating humankind into providing an unlimited supply of recruits who never return from space. And, it turns out, there are alien races that seem inclined toward peace and trade instead of battle. Indeed, Earth has now been invited to join a new alliance of multiple worlds an alliance against the Colonial Union. For the shaken and uncertain people of Earth, the path ahead is far from clear.
With that choice hanging in the balance, managing the CU’s survival won’t be easy, either. It will take diplomatic finesse, political cunning . . . and a brilliant “B-Team,” centered on the resourceful Lieutenant Harry Wilson a team ready to deal with the unexpected things the universe throws at you when you’re struggling to preserve the unity of the human race.
“A Heinlein-like adventure for a serious sci-fi fan.” Kirkus Reviews
Verdict Enjoyable, lol funny, readable, and realistic. Bradbury or Asimov fans will OD on this.
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Read an Excerpt
The Human Division
By John Scalzi, Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2013 John Scalzi
All rights reserved.
Ambassador Sara Bair knew that when the captain of the Polk had invited her to the bridge to view the skip to the Danavar system, protocol strongly suggested that she turn down the invitation. The captain would be busy, she would be in the way and in any event there was not that much to see. When the Polk skipped dozens of light-years across the local arm of the galaxy, the only way a human would register the fact would be that their view of the stars would change slightly. On the bridge, that view would be through display screens, not windows. Captain Basta had offered the invitation merely as a formality and was sure enough of its rejection that she had already made arrangements for the ambassador and her staff to have a small reception marking the skip in the Polk's tiny and normally unused observation desk, wedged above the cargo hold.
Ambassador Bair knew protocol suggested she turn down the invitation, but she didn't care. In her twenty-five years in the Colonial Union diplomatic corps she'd never once been on a starship bridge, didn't know when she'd be invited to one again, and regardless of protocol, she was of the opinion that if one was going to issue an invitation, one should be prepared to have it accepted. If her negotiations with the Utche went well, and at this point in the game there was no reason to suspect they would not, no one anywhere would care about this single breach of convention.
So screw it, she was going to the bridge.
If Captain Basta was annoyed by Bair accepting her invitation, she didn't show it. Lieutenant Evans produced the ambassador and her assistant, Brad Roberts, on the bridge five minutes prior to skip; the captain disengaged from her duties and quickly but politely welcomed the pair to the bridge. Formalities fulfilled, she turned her attention back to her pre-skip duties. Lieutenant Evans, knowing his cue, nudged Bair and Roberts into a corner where they could observe without interfering.
"Do you know how a skip works, Ambassador?" Evans asked. For the duration of the mission, Lieutenant Evans was the Polk's protocol officer, acting as a liaison between the diplomatic mission and the ship's crew.
"My understanding of it is that we are in one place in space, and then the skip drive turns on, and we are magically someplace else," Bair said.
Evans smiled. "It's not magic, it's physics, ma'am," he said. "Although the high-end sort of physics that looks like magic from the outside. It's to relativistic physics what relativistic physics is to Newtonian physics. So that's two steps beyond everyday human experience."
"So we're not really breaking the laws of physics here," Roberts said. "Because every time I think of starships skipping across the galaxy, I imagine Albert Einstein in a policeman's uniform, writing up a ticket."
"We're not breaking any laws. What we're doing is literally exploiting a loophole," Evans said, and then launched into a longer explanation of the physics behind skipping. Roberts nodded and never took his eyes off of Evans, but he had a small smile on his face that Bair knew was meant for her. It meant that Roberts was aware he was doing one of his primary tasks, which was to draw away from Bair people who wanted to make pointless small talk with her, so she could focus on what she was good at: paying attention to her surroundings.
Her surroundings were not in fact all that impressive. The Polk was a frigate — Bair was sure Evans would know what type specifically, but she didn't want to train his attention back on her at the moment — and its bridge was modest. Two rows of desks with monitors, with a slightly raised platform for the captain or officer of the watch to oversee operations, and two large monitors forward to display information and, when desired, an outside view. At the moment neither display was on; the bridge crew were instead focused on their individual monitors, with Captain Basta and her executive officer walking among them, murmuring.
It was about as exciting as watching paint dry. Or more accurately, as exciting as watching a crew of highly trained individuals do an action they have done hundreds of times before without drama or incident. Bair, who by dint of years in the diplomatic corps was aware that trained professionals doing their thing was not usually a gripping spectator sport, was nevertheless vaguely disappointed. Years of dramatic entertainments had prepared her for something more action oriented. She sighed without realizing it.
"Not what you were expecting, ma'am?" Evans asked, turning his attention back to the ambassador.
"I didn't know what to expect," Bair said, annoyed with herself at having sighed loudly enough to be heard, but hiding it. "The bridge is more quiet than I would have assumed."
"The bridge crew has worked together for a long time," Evans said. "And you have to remember that they pass a lot of information internally." Bair looked over to Evans with an arched eyebrow at this; Evans smiled and pointed a finger to his temple.
Oh, right, Bair thought. Captain Basta and the rest of the bridge crew were all members of the Colonial Defense Forces. This meant that aside from the obvious distinguishing genetically-engineered characteristics of green skin and a youthful appearance, each of them had a computer called a BrainPal nestled up inside their brains. CDF members could use their BrainPals to talk or share data with one another; they didn't have to use their mouths to do it. The murmuring indicated that they still did, however, at least part of the time. CDF members used to be normal people without green skin or computers in their heads. Old habits died hard.
Bair, who had been born on the planet Erie and had spent the last twenty years stationed out of the Colonial Union home planet of Phoenix, had neither green skin nor a computer in her head. But she had spent enough time around CDF members during her diplomatic travels that they no longer seemed particularly notable among the variety of humans she worked with. She sometimes forgot that they were, in fact, a genetically-engineered breed apart.
"One minute to skip," said the Polk's executive officer. Bair's brain popped up a name: Everett Roman. Aside from Commander Roman's notation of the time, nothing else on the bridge had changed; Bair suspected the announcement was for her and Roberts's benefit. Bair's eyes flicked over to the large monitors to the fore of the room. They were still dark.
"Commander Roman," Evans said, and then motioned his head toward the monitors when he had gotten the executive officer's attention. The XO nodded. The monitors sprang to life, one with an image of a star field, the other with a simple schematic of the Polk.
"Thank you, Lieutenant Evans," Bair said, quietly. Evans smiled.
Commander Roman counted off the last ten seconds of the skip. Bair trained her eyes on the monitor showing the star field. When Roman counted zero, the stars in the field seemed to shift at random. Bair knew that the stars hadn't actually shifted. These were entirely new stars. The Polk had, without fuss or noise, instantly traveled light-years.
Bair blinked, unsatisfied. If you thought about what just happened in terms of what was physically accomplished, it was a staggering event. As a personal human experience, however ...
"So that's it?" Roberts asked, to no one in particular.
"That's it," Evans said.
"Not very exciting," Roberts said.
"Not exciting means we did it right," Evans said.
"Well, where's the fun in that?" Roberts joked.
"Other people can do fun," Evans said. "We do precise. We get you where you need to go, on time. Or ahead of time, in this case. We were asked to get you here three days ahead of the Utche arrival. We delivered you three days, six hours early. Here you are, ahead of time twice."
"About that," Bair said. Evans turned his head to the ambassador to give her his full attention.
The deck of the bridge leaped up at the trio, with violence.
Voices on the bridge suddenly became very loud, detailing damage to the ship. Hull breaches, loss of power, casualties. Something had gone very wrong with the skip.
Bair looked up from the deck and saw that the images on the monitors had changed. The schematic of the ship now featured sections blinking in red. The star field had been replaced with a representation of the Polk in three-dimensional space. It was at the center of the representation. At the periphery of the representation was an object, heading toward the Polk.
"What is that?" Bair asked Evans, who was picking himself up off the deck.
Evans looked at the screen and was quiet for a second. Bair knew he was accessing his BrainPal for more information. "A ship," he said.
"Is it the Utche?" Roberts asked. "We can signal them for help."
Evans shook his head. "They're not the Utche."
"Who are they?" Bair asked.
"We don't know," Evans said.
The monitors chirped, and then there were multiple additional objects on the screen, heading quickly toward the Polk.
"Oh, God," Bair said, and stood as the bridge crew reported missiles en route.
Captain Basta ordered the missiles lanced out of the sky and then turned toward Bair — or, more directly, to Evans. "Those two," she said. "Escape pod. Now."
"Wait —," Bair began.
"No time, Ambassador," Basta said, cutting her off. "Too many missiles. My next two minutes are about getting you off the ship alive. Don't waste them." She turned back to her bridge crew, telling them to prep the black box.
Evans grabbed Bair. "Come on, Ambassador," he said, and pulled her off the bridge, Roberts following.
Forty seconds later, Bair and Roberts were shoved by Evans into a cramped box with two small seats. "Strap in," Evan said, yelling to make himself heard. He pointed below one of the seats. "Emergency rations and hydration there." He pointed below the other. "Waste recycler there. You have a week of air. You'll be fine."
"The rest of my team —," Bair said again.
"Is being shoved into escape pods right now," Evans said. "The captain will launch a skip drone to let the CDF know what happened. They keep rescue ships at skip distance for things just like this. Don't worry. Now strap in. These things launch rough." He backed out of the pod.
"Good luck, Evans," Roberts said. Evans grimaced as the pod sealed itself. Five seconds later, the pod punched itself off the Polk. Bair felt as if she had been kicked in the spine and then felt weightless. The pod was too small and basic for artificial gravity.
"What the hell just happened back there?" Roberts said, after a minute. "The Polk was hit the instant it skipped."
"Someone knew we were on our way," Bair said.
"This mission was confidential," Roberts said.
"Use your head, Brad," Bair said, testily. "The mission was confidential on our end. It could have leaked. It could have leaked on the Utche side."
"You think the Utche set us up?" Roberts asked.
"I don't know," Bair said. "They're in the same situation as we are. They need this alliance as much as we do. It doesn't make any sense for them to string the Colonial Union along just to pull a stupid stunt like this. Attacking the Polk doesn't gain them anything. Destroying a CDF ship is a flat-out enemy action."
"The Polk might be able to fight it out," Roberts said.
"You heard Captain Basta as well as I did," Bair said. "Too many missiles. And the Polk is already damaged."
"Let's hope the rest of our people made it to their escape pods, then," Roberts said.
"I don't think they were sent to the other escape pods," Bair said.
"But Evans said —"
"Evans said what he needed to shut us up and get us off the Polk," Bair said.
Roberts was quiet at this.
Several minutes later, he said, "If the Polk sent a skip drone, it will need, what, a day to reach skip distance?"
"Something like that," Bair said.
"A day for the news to arrive, a few hours to gear up, a few hours after that to find us," Roberts said. "So two days in this tin can. Best-case scenario."
"Sure," Bair said.
"And then we'll be debriefed," Roberts said. "Not that we can tell them anything about who attacked us or why."
"When they look for us, they'll also be looking for the Polk's black box," Bair said. "That will have all the data from the ship right up until the moment it was destroyed. If they were able to identify the attacking ships at any point, it'll be in there."
"If it survived the destruction of the Polk," Roberts said.
"I heard Captain Basta tell her bridge crew to prep the box," Bair said. "I'm guessing that means that they had time to do whatever they needed to to make sure it survived the ship."
"So you, me and a black box are all that survived the Polk," Roberts said.
"I think so. Yes," Bair said.
"Jesus," Roberts said. "Has anything like this ever happened to you before?"
"I've had missions go badly before," Bair said, and looked around the confines of the escape pod. "But, no. This is a first."
"Let's hope the best-case scenario is what we get here," Roberts said. "If it's not, then in about a week things are going to get bad."
"After the fourth day we'll take turns breathing," Bair said.
Roberts laughed weakly and then stopped himself. "Don't want to do that," he said. "Waste of oxygen."
Bair began to laugh herself and then was surprised as the air from her lungs rushed the other way, pulled out by the vacuum of space invading the escape pod as it tore apart. Bair had an instant to register the look on her assistant's face before the shrapnel from the explosion that was shredding the escape pod tore into them as well, killing them. She had no final thoughts, other than registering the feel of the air sliding past her lips and the brief, painless pushing feeling the shrapnel made as it went through and then out of her. There was a final, distant sensation of cold, then heat, and then nothing at all.CHAPTER 2
Sixty-two light-years away from the Polk, Lieutenant Harry Wilson stood stiffly near the edge of a seaside cliff on the planet Farnut, along with several other members of the Colonial Union diplomatic courier ship Clarke. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, warm without being so hot that the humans would sweat in their formal attire. The Colonial diplomats formed a line; parallel to that line was a line of Farnutian diplomats, their limbs resplendent in formal jewelry. Each human diplomat held a baroquely decorated flagon, filled with water brought specially from the Clarke. At the head of each line was the chief diplomat for each race at the negotiation: Ckar Cnutdin for the Farnutians and Ode Abumwe for the Colonials. Cnutdin was currently at a podium, speaking in the glottal Farnutian language. Ambassador Abumwe, to the side, appeared to listen intently, nodding from time to time.
"What is he saying?" Hart Schmidt, standing next to Wilson, asked, as quietly as possible.
"Standard boilerplate about friendship between nations and species," Wilson said. As the sole member of the Colonial Defense Forces in the diplomatic mission, he was the only one in the line able to translate Farnutian on the fly, via his BrainPal; the rest of them had relied on translators provided by the Farnutians. The only one of those present at the ceremony was now standing behind Ambassador Abumwe, whispering discreetly into her ear.
"Does it sound like he's wrapping up?" Schmidt asked.
"Why, Hart?" Wilson glanced over to his friend. "You in a rush to get to the next part?"
Schmidt flicked his eyes toward his opposite number on the Farnutian line and said nothing.
As it turned out, Cnutdin was indeed just finishing. He did a thing with his limbs that was the Farnutian equivalent of bowing and stepped back from the podium. Ambassador Abumwe bowed and stepped toward the podium for her speech. Behind her, the translator shifted over to stand behind Cnutdin.
"I want to thank Trade Delegate Cnutdin for his stirring words about the growing friendship between our two great nations," Abumwe began, and then launched into boilerplate of her own, her words delivered with an accent that betrayed her status as a first-generation Colonial. Her parents had emigrated from Nigeria to the Colonial planet of New Albion when Abumwe was an infant; traces of that country's speech overlaid the New Albion rasp that reminded Wilson of the American Midwest that he had grown up in.
Not too long ago, in an attempt to start a rapport with the ambassador, Wilson had noted to Abumwe that the two of them were the only members of the Clarke crew who had been born on Earth, the rest of the crew having been Colonials all their life. Abumwe had narrowed her eyes at him, asked him what he was implying and stalked off angrily. Wilson had turned to his friend Schmidt, who was looking on with horror, and asked what he had done wrong. Schmidt told him to access a news feed.
That was how Wilson learned that the Earth and the Colonial Union appeared to be undergoing a trial separation and were probably headed for a divorce. And learned about who was splitting them apart.
Excerpted from The Human Division by John Scalzi, Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Copyright © 2013 John Scalzi. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
John Scalzi is the author of several SF novels including the bestselling Old Man’s War sequence, comprising Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, and the New York Times-bestselling The Last Colony. He is a winner of science fiction’s John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and he won the Hugo Award for Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, a collection of essays from his popular blog Whatever. His latest novel, Fuzzy Nation, hit the New York Times bestseller list in its first week on sale. He lives in Ohio with his wife and daughter.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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If you enjoyed 'Old Man's War' at all, then this will be righ tup your alley. John Scalzi has a writing style that holds my attention and interest, as well as getting me to chuckle over his story telling. I purchase the chapters individually as they came out and was pleased to see that they are now available in a single volume. Unlike others, I did notice right away that it was all the chapters assembled into one and did not buy them a second time. In short, a fun and light read.
I was afraid this would be just another hackneyed space opera. It's not! Humorous twists and entertaining characters makes The Human Division a page turner as much for how the highly diverse characters get into predicaments as how they get out of them. Originally published as a serial, the episodes are beautifully blended into the full book.
I enjoyed this return to the "Old Man War" universe! Scalzi continues the story of the Colonial Union and Earth with a story where shadowy forces are working toward the downfall of humanity. Lots of action, humor, and sarcastic dialog! I purchased it as a serial (individual chapters) and enjoyed it immensely.
A great read. Extremely well written, engaging, funny, yet gritty. I, too, mistakenly purchased after having read each of the individual chapters.
This book is a compilation of short stories that are loosely tied together. However, don't think that you are reading a full and complete novel. By the end of the book a decent amount of things have happened, but nothing has been resolved. I was just happy to get another glimpse of this universe. I also always liked Harry as a character and he is prominently featured. I also grew fond of some of the other characters that were introduced. If you are a fan of the Old Man's War universe you should read it.
Really enjoyed this book. Good classic style sci-fi.
A science fiction story that is what a space opera should've. Lots of action, engaging characters and humor.
The fifth book in the Old Man’s War series, “The Human Division” continues the story of the CDF and this time focuses in on their dealings and diplomacy with earth and other races. It’s an interesting premise that really adds to the story, but because of that it lacks some of the action and smart retorts that made the other books so engaging (especially when not featuring Harry, Hart at al). Overall the book was good, but not at good (or as much fun) as the first three, but it does advanced the story a great deal and leaves a very large runway at the end for the next in the series of books so you know the battle may be done but the war is far from over.
Fun book. Back to the Old Man's War universe, but with some great new characters. Scalzi has some good Laumer's Reteif like moments.
Everything I expected and more! I first discovered Old Man's War when I worked at a bookstore. One of my coworkers said she wanted me to buy a book and read it. She said she had recommended this book to many people and then told me that she would make me the same offer. Buy this book and read it, if you don't love it, I will buy it from you. She asked do you know how many copies of this book I own........one, then she handed me a copy of Old Man's War and walked away. I will be forever grateful to her, thank you!
I can't wait for the next book in this series. It leaves you wanting more.
I found The Human Division to be both thought provoking and extremely entertaining. The connected short story format was somewhat cliffhanger-ish but did not take away from the story. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I hope the next one comes out soon.
Great short stories
Another amazing adventure!