The Human Division
by John Scalzi
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765333513
Date: 14 May 2013 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Return to the universe of Old Man's War. With the loss of their supply of new troopers, the Colonial Union has to change tactics. Since a war of attrition would now lead to extinction, diplomacy moves to the front line. Enter Captain Coloma and team on the Clarke. They aren't the most effective team in the Colonial Union, but they are available. Their results will lead to a whole new set of missions. Missions that nobody can expect them to complete successfully.
Ambassador Ode Abumwe is the leader of the diplomatic missions. She knows she isn't the best, but she'll do what needs to be done to get the job done. She expects others under her to do the same.
Lieutenant Harry Wilson is the Colonial Defense Force member of the diplomatic team. Although he hasn't served actively in years his penchant for direct action adds to the team. He puts his body in harm's way whenever the mission calls for it.
Hart Schmidt is the scion of a powerful Phoenix family. He is part of the diplomatic corps, but his family isn't happy with his choice. At times he seems to be more of a sidekick, but he doesn't mind.
Although not every episode focuses on the above listed characters, their actions drive the story arc. The other POVs provide the information needed to advance the plot with fill-in information from around the areas controlled by the Colonial Union.
The Human Division was originally published as a serial in the finest tradition of science fiction. There were 13 separate episodes originally published as e-stories. The dead tree edition contains two extras stories.
While not as good as Old Man's War, this collection of stories is still quite good. It isn't really a knock on the collection, as Scalzi's debut novel is hard for anyone to match even the author of the original. I did enjoy that he didn't feel the need to drop John Perry in every episode. That is a trap that can develop trying to please fans who want to see their favorite characters from the main series. One of the general weaknesses of serial stories is that they tend to become a little disjointed. Fortunately, Scalzi took the time to plan and create smoother seams. The novel reads more like a multiple point of view novel than a series of short stories.
As a part of a larger world, this is not the best entry point into the universe. I would recommend starting with Old Man's War. My recommendation notwithstanding, a new reader should be able to pick up what has come before and the basics of the Universe without too much difficulty. There is room for future stories in this Universe, and I for one would welcome them.