Monday, February 25, 2013

Scalzi, The Human Division Eps 5-7

Hello! This is my first entry since switching from the once-a-week to once-every-three-weeks format, so bear with me. In case you are just getting on board, here are my reviews for Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3 and Episode 4. To summarize, "book good/interludes kind of annoying" for a cumulate score of 7.5/10. So how are the next three?

The Meats and the Maths

Episode 5Tales from the Clarke

Remember Captain Coloma from way back in Episode 1? That would be the gruff-but-caring Captain who's all righteous but really cares most about her crew. If you recognize that characterization, then it's because you read it in my review of Leviathan Wakes, and recall the phrase as criticism of that book's reliance of stock characters. Only, Captain Coloma isn't a stock character. Or maybe she sort of is, but it doesn't really matter because she's interesting! That's right--a female authority figure who is actually interesting! The fact that this excites me shows how low the bar is set for gender relations in science fiction and fantasy, but credit Scalzi with taking the obvious stock character, making her a woman and then making that an asset. Basically any scene with Coloma is gold, and here we get a whole chapter--a whole chapter whose plot is convoluted and full of irritating America-in-space-isms, but which is rendered compelling by the fact that it's about Coloma. Fingers crossed that we get at least one more chapter from her perspective.

[INPUT 8/10 (+1 for Coloma; -1 for baseball...really?) OUTPUT 8/10]

Episode 6: The Back Channel

At this point I'm giving up on the whole "this is like a serialized TV show" idea, because it's just not. Why? Because in six episodes to date, three are interludes that don't feature any of the central characters. And that does create problems for The Human Division specifically as a serialized novel (there is, after all, a very good reason why TV shows don't really do this). But unlike the frustrating interlude we get in Episode 4, this one is a total blast to read. It's definitely the funniest entry so far, and introduces a great character in Hafte Sorvalh--advisor to Conclave leader General Gau and lover of churros. You can really feel Scalzi hitting his stride at this point.

[INPUT 8/10 (+1 for Sorvalh and the churros; +1 for space neo-nazi douchebags being just as fun to shit on as regular neo-nazi douchebags; -1 for it's another interlude) OUTPUT 9/10]

Episode 7: The Dog King

Now this one's just silly. And centers on a little dog wearing a crown. I won't say anymore, because then I might spoil the episode for you, and that wouldn't be any fun, would it. Suffice to say, Wilson, Schmidt and the rest get into a mess, hijinks ensue, diplomatic relations are threatened and a wacky solution emerges that just might solve everyone's problems in one fell swoop. Does that sound like your kind of thing? Sometimes it is my kind of thing, like when I'm sleep deprived and watching The Big Bang Theory because it's easy and kind of funny and I know exactly what to expect. Or Psych because it's silly and full of references to things no one remembers unless their approximately my age, like Terence Trent D'arby. But I ask more from books than television, and prefer Scalzi's writing when the humor isn't quite so upfront and center. So yeah, this one is funny, but kind of unsatisfying as well.

[INPUT 6/10 (+1 for yes, it is genuinely funny; -1 for but I was expecting a bit more than just wacky comedy) OUTPUT 6/10]

Cumulative Score - Episodes 1-7: 7.57