Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen ! Bonsoir Mesdammes et Messieurs ! Welcome back on board I. S. S. Rover. It’s 13 °C, clouds gathering, and a slight eastern breeze. But that shouldn’t worry you, as we have refueled, replenished our stores and are ready to depart for planet Earth. We will be leaving Colonial Union space in matter of minutes, so I have to return to my duties, but will return to you right away after we made the jump to the Sol system. Captain of I.S.S. Rover over and out for now.
So here we are, this is the fourth consecutive week that I’m spending with John Scalzi’s novel: The Human Division. And before I dive in to the details of episode four let me share a short insight what you are in for here. Last year John Scalzi’s The Human Division was published as a kind of a serialized novel, totaling thirteen chapters that were released in a weekly fashion from 15th january to 9th april. And I am trying to recreate this experience by reading the book in the same tempo: one chapter a week. I am curious how this works out, how does the story and the reading experience evolve, as in case of earlier Scalzi novels I couldn’t stop reading, I finished the books almost in one sitting, running from cover to cover in less then twenty-four hours. If you haven’t read the previous posts yet, you can find the links to them at the bottom of this post.
Fourth episode: A voice in the wilderness. If I hadn’t read the chapter, I would be a bit confused about the cover that was devised for this chapter. Two chairs, one of them occupied by a man, a camera, and a background showing a planet out in the space and an object resembling a spaceship or the Moon, I’m not sure at this moment. It could be a conference room aboard another spaceship, or just a random TV studio set up for a talk show. I would prefer the former, but actually it’s going to be the later. This ain’t gonna be my favourite cover of the series, but it does depict accurately enough what we are in for. And one more thing: the colour scheme has changed, the background is violet instead of blue. Does this mean that a new phase, a new arc has begun ? Return next week, and I might be able to answer that question. Aaaaand cut ! Insert the description blurb and continue rolling:
Albert Birnbaum was once one of the biggest political talk show hosts around, but these days he’s watching his career enter a death spiral. A stranger offers a solution to his woes, promising to put him back on top. It’s everything Birnbaum wants, but is there a catch? And does Birnbaum actually care if there is?
At first this chapter seems to be a filler, which is disappointing as I know the boundaries of the whole book, and we are largely at one third of it. And also, having two fillers out of four chapters seems to be a waste at this point. But my worries did disappear swiftly. It is for the first time that we get to see what’s happening on Earth, what are the reactions to John Perry’s announcement made at the end of The Last Colony. This might evolve into an interesting secondary story line, or will maybe intertwine with the primary one ? Well that is a question to be answered in the future.
The main actor of this episode is Albert Birnbaum, a radio host of a politically themed show. His carrier is in decline and a mystery person appears offering him help. This offer might save Birnbaum’s carrier, but seemingly his benefactor doesn’t gain anything. Seemingly. Birnbaum gets over this fact really quick and does his bidding: he needs to talk about a certain topic. The topic being that the relations with the CU ( Colonial Union ) were not bad, but in fact beneficial to the Earth. And this is a starting point of a broader debate of the same topic, though some people have some other agenda in their mind, and for that reason Birnbaum has to die- becoming a martyr of a cause he didn’t choose, but getting his share of fame and influence even though he wont benefit from it. A new page is turned in the history of Earth.
For me as a veteran reader of fiction is interesting to see how Scalzi is steadily dropping hints in between lines. This makes the read of the novel not only a thrilling joyride, but at this pace also an interesting puzzle game, where the reader tries to put together the pieces, or maybe rather figure out what piece is coming next and where it will fit, kinda like in Tetris.
There is one common trait in all four chapters I read till now, and it does seem to became the defining trend of this novel, and that is: the appearance of a secretive group, or organisation. This organisation does aim to disrupt the CU’s efforts in gaining new allies, and this group does have the means to perform actions that need the cooperation of many different people and organizations, and yet manages to stay out of sight. And of the two questions: “Why ?” and “Who are they ?” – the later seems a bit more substantial, because the later was already partly answered. Conspiracy theory aficionados do have at least five or six theories at hand: The Illuminati, the Free masons, Majestic 12, The Bilderberg Group etc. But to actually think of these classics among the conspiracy theories is brought forth not earlier than now, during the fourth chapter. And this makes me a little sad, as I was expecting something more creative from Mr. Scalzi. But I will reserve my doubts for the time, maybe this is just a red herring after all.
And as for the reading experience. It is maintaining a steady pace. I wavered for a moment last week, as there was such a major cliffhanger at the end of the episode, that in case of previous Scalzi novels drove me to read them quite expeditiously. But as a I recognised the mechanism I strengthened my resolve to keep to the original plan, and waited till this weekend to continue with the reading, and it did pay off. So, sorry John, you failed to trick me into rush-reading once again ! But also: congratulations, you are doing a good job for me wanting to return to the book every week !
And that’s it. Be sure to return to the ship soon. We will depart for jump point as soon as we finish replenishing our provisions. We do want to get back to CU space as soon as possible, and it takes roughly one week to reach a jump point. And we wont be waiting for noone. Captain of I.S.S. Rover over and out !