Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Earth Below, Sky Above (The Human Division #13), by John Scalzi (author), William Dufris (narrator)

Audible Frontiers, April 2013

It's the last episode of The Human Division, and I have mixed feelings about it.

Back channel efforts, trade contacts, and plain diplomatic persistence have finally produced a major diplomatic conference on the Colonial Union-owned Earth Station, with some real hope of at least improving relations. The CU intends to surprise the Earth diplomats and put them off balance by offering to sell Earth Station to Earth governments, and lease back the facilities it needs. What the CU wants, of course, is the ability to recruit soldiers as it previously did, and also to accept colonists, although at a much slower pace than in past decades.

Sixteen ships dropping into Earth orbit and opening fire on Earth Station and the Clarke is not part of the CU's plans.

Ambassador Ode Abumwe and Lt. Harry Smith both have their special assignments, and Harry's will take him--very briefly--where he never expected to go again: the surface of Earth. Unfortunately, he's going to get there by making a space drop with a US military officer. Danielle Lowen is part of the US delegation, and the officer is her cousin.

And when the unknown ships show up, no one is safe.

I enjoyed the story, another good entry in this collection of related stories. Scalzi continues to have really good characterization, plotting, and an appropriately light touch with some challenging elements. But I'm also disappointed, although for reasons that may not be valid or reasonable.

I had the impression that The Human Division was intended to come together into a coherent and complete novel. It doesn't, really. There is an over-arching story arc that does connect all the stories, and it moves the story of the Old Man's War universe forward in some important ways. But it remains a collection of linked short stories. Maybe that's what was intended all along.

In the end: Recommended, definitely. But read these stories in order, and following the overall story arc, but with the understanding that they remain separate stories, and the final resolution to the overall story arc is not found within this collection. For that, we'll have to wait.