Sunday, January 20, 2013

Review: The B-Team (Human Division #1) by John Scalzi

The B-Team (The Human Division, #1)The B-Team by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Audible posted a free download of the first part of John Scalzi's serial novel, The Human Division, for anyone who likes their Facebook page. I'm sure the idea was to get people hooked on the story so they'd buy each of the installments as they come out, once a week.

It worked.

At least, for me, it did. Part one, The B-Team, introduces a science fiction world with the technology to halt aging, implant computers in people's minds, jump through space, and survive a trip through the void with only a flexible suit and an oxygen supply. I haven't read Old Man's War, but I understand this is that same world. The introduction in this installment is enough to bring me up to speed.

In this installment, a diplomatic ship considered to be low-tier is sent to handle an emergency situation. Another ship, sent to negotiate a treaty with a race that's been reluctant to speak to humans before, was blown up, and they're sent in last-minute to not only handle negotiations, but figure out what happened to the other ship. The installment is probably best summed up by a character who notes that Harry Wilson, the character through whom most of the action is filtered, keeps things interesting. When Harry wonders if that's a compliment, his friend points out where "interesting" got them.

The installment is a self-contained short story all on its own, while also building toward more action and hinting at a much bigger conflict. It had interesting, diverse characters, and a nice balance of action and setup. The world-building was interesting, but not overwhelming. I didn't feel lost, nor did I feel inundated with science fiction jargon or infodumps.

I listened to the audio edition, narrated by William Dufris. I was paying a lot more attention to the action and characters than the person reading, so he must've been doing an effective job. There were a couple of points where I noted characters sounded rather similar, and I hoped they didn't have any upcoming scenes together, or I wouldn't be able to tell who was speaking.

I'll definitely be picking up the next installment.

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