John Scalzi has again managed to write another fast-paced, high action, mostly scientifically sound — more on that in a moment — humour packed, piece of science-fiction with the release of his latest work The Human Division Episode 1 – The B-Team.
Published by Tor Books, The Human Division is Scalzi’s latest addition in his Old Man’s War series. There are a number of things that make Scalzi’s latest offering rather unique.
The first of these is the format. Starting today, every Tuesday until April 13, 2013, a new episode will be published in eFormat for $0.99 USD/CAD. The hardcover version, which will include all 13 episodes, will be published on May 14, 2013. Basically, The Human Division‘s first release is like a short-run television season/series, but in print form.
The second thing that makes The Human Division unique: You need to know absolutely nothing about the previous four books in this series. I’m not sure I can stress this point enough.
I’ve read a good number of series where you can jump in at any point and you’ll be okay. However, what I have become accustomed to is that the author will find a way to recap what has happened in previous books. Sometimes, the way the old information is worked into later books is made from the stuff of torture. Other times, this is done rather seamlessly with the information only being introduced when it serves a specific need. The Human Division has none of that. No flashbacks. No recapping. No, “Last time on Star Trek.” Scalzi has said that reading the previous books will certainly help, but is not necessary. But, as someone who hasn’t read them — I have been planning to for a very long time — I can reassure you that it is completely unnecessary. If I didn’t know that this was part of a series, I would have had no idea.
When I read a Scalzi book, I expect the action to start in very short order. This is the sort of thing I need in a book. If a book fails to grab my attention within the first 20 pages, more times than not, I put the book down, never again to pick it up. Ten pages, folks. By the time you finish reading the first ten pages, you will be blown away by the most action-packed, high adrenaline opening I’ve read in quite some time, if ever.
The action doesn’t end there. The rest of B-Team is jammed pack with action, intrigue, hold-your-breath-suspense as someone attempts something rather insane, sarcastic humour, the beginning of social commentary I expect in science-fiction, and the same, “Let’s get right to it, folks,” type of writing you’d expect from Scalzi.
I have only two nitpicks in this first, and longest, episode of The Human Division.
The first is during one of the hold-your-breath-suspense part. Because of the pedantic brain that I have, I was pulled out of the story for one brief moment when Scalzi used “sucked out,” instead of “blown out,” in reference to being blown out into the vacuum of space.
The other bit of science that caused me to pause, even if briefly, had to do with the violation of Boyle’s Law. There is another point in the suspenseful action where I think one of the characters holds his breath before being exposed to the vacuum of space. The reason why I say I think is because it isn’t exactly clear to me if he empties his lungs as he should, or if he actually tries to hold his breath, which, in reality, could cause his lungs to rupture. To get me passed this little bit, I had to tell myself that because he is genetically engineered, perhaps Boyle’s Law doesn’t have the same effect on him, or that he has more time to hold his breath before his lungs will threaten to rupture. Or maybe his special unitard somehow protects him from the effects of Boyle’s Law. For me, it isn’t ever exactly clear.
These are completely nitpicky points. The rest of the book is very solid. Scalzi starts things off by talking about physics in relation to warp drive. But if your brain, from time to time, happens to be a dick like mine, don’t let these two things pull you out of the story. Because outside of these two things, there is no need to suspend your disbelief — something with which I have a ridiculously difficult time.
Once you’ve read The Human Division Episode 1 – The B-Team you will be frothing at the mouth, waiting for more from this high energy, sarcastically funny, well-written, and intriguing continuation of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series.
A copy of this book was provided for the purposes of this review.