The Human Division – 3/5 Stars
A thirteen episode book told in separate chapters, published separately, and for me, purchased separately in audio installments. I bought them all at once, so I don’t know what, if any, kind of serializing this made out. The book takes place concurrent with the world of Old Man’s War, which is a kind of Starship Troopers riff where citizens who hit a certain age can opt to join up for military service (at 75) and receives a new body, new training, and fight in a galactic war, and if they survive (and they mostly don’t) can retire with the new won youth. In this collection, we find a ragtag group of lifers who unwittingly or accidentally survive a harrowing mission (and outlive their betters) and are turned into a “fire team” who are expendable and with low expectations to attempt high risk/high reward missions where failure is expected, so there’s nothing to lose. It’s pretty good. The structure is really episodic, so each chapter, while it takes place after the previous chapter, plays out in a kind of bottle. And there’s a wide diversity in the types of stories here. So in a way, this is like a Star Trek show taking place in this other universe. It’s been about 10 years since I’ve read any of the Old Man’s War books, so I don’t recall their tone at all, but this one is mostly comic, but with an edge of sarcasm and seriousness, and therefore not like the worst Scalzi humor that pops up in a lot of his books.It’s pretty well balanced.
This is a novella narrated by Zachary Quinto and I think could make a solid film. Our narrator is a dispatcher, whose job is to kill people before they die. Something has happened in the world in which when someone is killed by another person (murder or what have you) instead of dying, you have a 99.9% of waking up, at home, in whatever state you were in a handful of hours before you died. This has created the cottage industry to save lives, by taking them. We begin with our narrator watching a surgery, awaiting a moment to step in and dispatch the patient if it’s clear they won’t survive or would survive in an “unliveable” state. What we also quickly find out is that there’s a robust black market for dispatching services (which is not a special skill or anything, but like an executioner, it takes a certain psyche or experience to know you will do it when needed). The black market includes testing experimental cancer treatment, human dog fights, reversing catastrophic injuries on movie sets gone wrong, and even, in one moment, instantaneous travel home. The novella’s story is a noirish mystery story while we watch our narrator look for a missing dispatcher, who it seems has failed in back to back dispatches for a millionaire.
This is an odds and ends collection of short short pieces. It’s okay, but there’s not one real story so much as played out conceits and gimmicks.
The President’s Brain is Missing
Written in 2011, so it’s better and less gimmicky than I thought it would be going in.