The Human Division - John Scalzi 4.5 stars. Back when I first started getting into reading more sci-fi, John Scalzi's Old Man's War series was a great starting point. The books had just the right mix of space travel, aliens and futuristic technology, but were still light enough not to intimidate a relative newcomer to the genre. Now they still rank among some of my favorite books of all time.

So when I found out about Scalzi's new serialized novel based on the Old Man's War universe, I became all excited and got set to pick up the new episodes every week from January to April 2013. Unfortunately, I discovered that I am very impatient when it comes to having to wait to find out what happens next, and I'm as bad with books as I am with TV shows when it comes to keeping up with weekly installments. For the latter, I'd much rather buy the complete DVD/Blu-ray box set with all the extras at the end of the season and do a marathon all at once, so I essentially decided to do the literary equivalent with The Human Division.

It will help to have read the previous books in the series, especially The Last Colony, since what happens in The Human Division is the direct result of the drastic events that occur the end of that novel. As such, this review may contain minor spoilers for the books that came before.

For a couple hundred years, the Colonial Union has happily taken advantage of Earth, keeping the planet's population in the dark while farming it aggressively for colonists and soldiers in the name of human expansion across a hostile universe. Last we saw, John Perry has basically blown the cover off that whole operation. Thanks to him, the people of Earth now know the truth.

Angry and betrayed, Earth considers an invitation from a political alliance made up of 400 alien races -- also known as the Conclave, bitter rivals of the Colonial Union. The CU, currently aware of their precarious position, begins to play things more carefully, making every possible effort in politics and diplomacy. An unknown entity, however, may be sabotaging all their efforts.

Being a serialized novel, this was a great mix of thirteen narratives which all come together to tell an overarching story. Some served to push the plot forward while focusing on the main characters, while others acted more as filler but were still invaluable in providing the necessary background information required to follow the story. Like any anthology-type book, there were some episodes I liked more than others, but on the whole they were all very entertaining and enjoyable.

Some highlights for me include Episode 1: The B-Team, the story which serves as an introduction to our main characters, Ambassador Abumwe, Captain Coloma, Hart Schmidt, and Harry Wilson. Wilson, of course, I was glad to see because he's someone we first met in Old Man's War, one of John Perry's friends in the group they'd dubbed the "Old Farts", so it was nice to be able to catch up with him. This story was also one hell of a start.

Also Episode 2: Walk the Plank, which a one-off short told in transcript form and was a punch in the gut. This just goes to show while John Scalzi's a funny guy and a delight to read, his stuff's not all fun and games; he's also very capable of writing poignant scenes that can fill you with dread. Walk The Plank also reaffirmed my decision to read this novel only after it was complete, as it was a drastic shift from the first episode and I would have been left very confused that week.

Then there were the episodes like #7, The Dog King which were lighter, more humorous and closer to what I expect when I think of Scalzi's works. There were also pleasant surprises like Episode 10: This Must be the Place which I found heartwarming and quite meaningful. And of course, the final episode Earth Below, Sky Above which was all action all craziness, and had me on the edge of my seat. John Scalzi gets to flex all his writing talents with this diverse collection of stories.

Basically, if you've followed the Old Man's War series up to this point, you really can't afford to miss this. It continues the story, but the serialization format also made this an incredible experience. Admittedly, I had initial doubts about it, fearing that the novel being presented as individual episodes would make it feel too disjointed, but that was not the case at all. In fact, I actually really liked it. Either I'm just not as bad as I thought at handling serial novels, or John Scalzi is simply really good at pulling this off. It's probably both.

Like I said, you can get the full-length novel now which includes all the episodes as well as a couple extras, and personally, I so much prefer reading it this way. It appears Scalzi's been signed on for a second season too, so I'm ecstatic that the adventures in the universe of Old Man's War will continue.

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