Book Review: The Human Divison by Scalzi (4 stars)

The Human Division by John Scalzi

4 out of 5 stars

Read Episodically January through April, 2013

Scalzi sucked me into a serialized novel last autumn with After the Coup, a short story set in his Old Man’s War universe.  He cooked up a scheme with his publisher, Tor, to not only return to that universe, but serve up the new book like you would a television season, with weekly episodes airing after midnight (in the States) on Tuesdays.  Since science fiction television in this country is all but non-existent, I took the bate – hook, line and sinker – and started reading the serialized Human Division in early January, ending with the final episode, released today.  Tor hosted a read-along at their web site, but I didn’t participate.  Not because I didn’t want to, but I just couldn’t carve out the time from an already hectic real-world schedule.

When I began this journey, I wasn’t sure if I would like waiting a week between chapters of a novel, especially if a particular chapter proved exceptionally riveting or left me hanging, just like television series tend to do (an overused trope if ever one existed).  I needn’t have worried.  Just as I used to look forward to new episodes of Stargate or Star Trek, I went to bed Monday nights knowing I would wake up to a fresh shiny new Human Division segment.  A handful of times, I even woke up after midnight and found myself reading the latest episode in the middle of the night (when I should have been sleeping … unforgiving 5:00 a.m. alarm clock).

Of the thirteen episodes, I only gave two of them less than four stars – the second episode (Walk the Plank) and the tenth one (This Must Be the Place).  Only one of the episodes got five stars from me – A Problem of Proportion.  The final double episode – Earth Below, Sky Above – would have gotten five stars, had it not been for the ending (or lack of one).  Even this morning’s announcement by the author stating the Human Division had been ‘renewed’ for a second season couldn’t assuage my angst.  I just wanted to raise an eyebrow in my best Spock impersonation and say ‘Really?’ (no, not ‘Fascinating’ … just ‘Really?!?!’).

All kidding aside, I did enjoy reading a serialized novel (in ebook format) during the first quarter of 2013.  By the time the second season rolls around, I’ll have gotten over my angst and dive right in to the next Human Division.

Book Review: Hyperion by Simmons (3 Stars)

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

3 out of 5 stars

Read in December 2008

I’m disappointed. Just when I was getting pieces of the puzzle and a few of the questions answered, the story ends. Abruptly. Thank goodness I didn’t read this when it was first published or I would probably also be angry.

This is a re-imagining or a re-working of the literary frame tale, similar to Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales but as science fiction space opera.

Seven pilgrims en route to Hyperion to petition the Shrike, also known as the Lord of Pain and the Avatar of Final Atonement. Each pilgrim tells their tale to the other pilgrims in the hope that they collectively will discover why they were chosen for the final pilgrimage. Each of the tales reveals each pilgrim’s connections to Hyperion and insights into the Shrike and the Time Tombs. And between the tales, we eek out what’s really going on in the love triangle gone nearly to the brink of interstellar war between the Hegemony (static humanity), the Ousters (evolved humanity) and the TechnoCore (AIs).

Along the way, one of the pilgrims is either murdered or fakes his death to disappear. There is some concern that their party is no longer a prime number, a requirement for the Shrike Pilgrimage. After the last tale is told, the pilgrims decide to proceed to the Time Tombs at dawn. And there the novel ends.

I didn’t connect with any of the characters. And I’m left with more questions than answers. I’m not sure I feel compelled to seek the answers. Perhaps time will tell.