Today was the release of The Human Division Episode #10 – This Must Be the Place by John Scazli. This episode has left me with some very mixed thoughts; none of which I’d consider bad. However, they aren’t the super-excited reactions to previous episodes.
For those of you unfamiliar with John Scalzi’s latest novel, published by Tor, The Human Division is being released as 13 episodes. The hardcover version, which will include all 13 episodes, will be published on May 14, 2013. It is the latest book in Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series.
The official synopsis for Episode #10 – This Must Be the Place reads:
Colonial Union diplomat Hart Schmidt is back home for Harvest Day celebrations—to a family whose members wonder whether its youngest son isn’t wasting his life clinging to the lowest rung of the CU’s diplomatic ladder. When his father, a legendarily powerful politician, presents him with a compelling offer, Schmidt has to take stock of his life and career.
Like with every episode release day, Scalzi has some words to say about Episode #10 – This Must Be the Place on his blog. If you haven’t read them, I suggest you do so now, before you read the rest of this review.
Last night, while I was reading Episode #10 – This Must Be the Place, I had the following reoccurring thoughts:
What does this episode have to do with the overall story? While I’m enjoying learning more about Hart Schmidt, I fail to see how this is advancing the plot. With only three episodes remaining, I worry whether or not my concern about this episode will be resolved. Will this be the first time Scalzi’s writing lets me down as a reader?
Also, because of the events in Episode #9 – The Observers, I am extremely suspicious of the offer made by Schmidt’s father. Does Schmidt’s father have a major role to play in these problems between Earth and the Colonial Union? Is that why he made the offer? Hell, maybe the whole entire Schmidt family has a hand in this conflict. Did Scalzi intentionally place this episode here so that I will question Schmidt’s father’s intentions, and the character of the family as a whole?
I don’t care that this is the first episode without some type of crisis. Not everything has to be about tension as the result of CRASH BANG BOOM MURDER INTRIGUE EXPLOSION. The type of inter-personal tension within this episode is good enough for me, even if it is the same sort of tension all families face, to some degree.
I don’t care that this episode isn’t all that science-fiction-y.
I like Schmidt. But my issue is — and this is completely a personal preference thing — I don’t really care too much about characters on a personal level. Mostly, this has to do with how I’m built as a person. It takes me years to become attached to people, whether in real life or in a story. Now, when it comes to characters in a story, I do have an exception. If the person’s history has a direct impact on the plot — either because it helps to inform the reader as to why a specific crucial decision was made; or because, say, someone in the character’s personal life does end up being a key player in the story’s major conflict and they need some sort of introduction — then, yes, I want to know about it.
So, while on one hand I have concerns about this episode and whether or not it is truly important — keep in mind these thoughts were formed prior to reading Scalzi’s post on this episode — on the other hand, I trust Scalzi as a writer.
When I was reading Fuzzy Nation, I had an issue with Scalzi drawing my attention to a stereo system. Later, that issue was resolved. When I was reading Episode #1 – The B-Team, I had an issue that involved Boyle’s Law. Scazli told me that my issues would be resolved. Indeed, in Episode #5 – Tales from the Clarke, they were. Scazli’s writing has yet to let me down as a reader. But, there is a first time for everything. With only three episodes remaining, I am concerned that this may be the first time.
All this being said, the more I pondered this episode, I came to the realization that had this episode been Episode #8 — which would have worked for prior events mentioned in Episode #10 – This Must Be the Place — I wouldn’t have had any initial worries about whether or not this episode has any real implications on the overall plot. In the past, any issues I may have had were introduced early enough in the story where I was able to mostly let them go because Scalzi had plenty of time to have these things make sense. Even though my current issue would have been introduced much later than previous examples, five episodes is more than enough time to weave it all together.
Also, had this episode come earlier, I wouldn’t be looking at Schmidt’s family with such suspicion. But, again, maybe that is intentional. Scalzi is an intelligent writer, who probably had good reasons for placing this episode where it is. Scalzi has yet to let me down. I need to trust in this and stop over-analyzing.
Despite all my questions, I did enjoy this episode, even if character histories are of no importance to me — above exceptions noted. I really wanted to continue reading so that all of my doubts would gain closure, regardless if I would later become disappointed or pleased with the results.
Today, Scalzi’s post has reassured me that, yes, it does play an important role in events to come. This is good. He could have easily gone a different route with this. Scalzi could have inserted these events as sort of flashbacks when the information became relevant. I would have hated that. I much rather enjoy having many thoughts and questions about something, than have to endure a flashback scene.
Having thoughts and questions means that Scalzi is engaging me as a reader. He is making me think. It means that I am fully invested in this story. Maybe I’m over-thinking, but I greatly enjoy when things cause me to think.
If you have a brain that works similar to mine, you may want to wait until the remaining three episodes are available before reading Episode #10 – This Must Be the Place. If you decide not to wait, be prepared to have thoughts, none of which will take away from the base enjoyment of this episode. If you don’t care about anything I’ve mentioned, you are golden.
Hart Schmidt has played a non-insignificant role since the beginning of The Human Division. The bottom line is that I did enjoy seeing a chapter completely dedicated to him.
I am extremely curious to see how Episode #10 – This Must Be the Place fits into the bigger puzzle.
You can read my review of Episode #1 – The B-Team here, my review of Episode #2 – Walk the Plank here, my review of Episode #3 – We Only Need the Heads here, my review of Episode #4 – A Voice in the Wilderness here, my review of Episode #5 – Tales from the Clarke here, my review of Episode #6 – The Back Channel here, my review of Episode #7 – The Dog King here, my review of Episode #8 – The Sound of Rebellion here, and my review of Episode #9 – The Observers here.
A copy of this book was provided for the purposes of this review.