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Book Review: The Human Division 115

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
stoolpigeon writes "How would humanity fare in a universe filled with other sentient races and the technology for all of them to interact? If human history is any indication there would be conflict. That conflict would be between many groups that saw themselves as people and the rest as monsters. What that universe and those interactions would look like is a key theme in John Scalzi's Old Man's War series. The latest offering, The Human Division continues to dig deeply into a wide range of questions about what makes someone a person and how people treat one another at their best and worst." Keep reading for the rest of stoolpigeon's review.
The Human Division
author John Scalzi
pages 432
publisher Tor Books
rating 9/10
reviewer stoolpigeon
ISBN 978-0765333513
summary Following the events of The Last Colony, John Scalzi tells the story of the fight to maintain the unity of the human race
It's been five years since the publication of the last book in John Scalzi's Old Man's War series, Zoe's Tale. That entry saw Scalzi explore new ground with his first juvenile. The newest Old Man's War book is another first for Scalzi. The Human Division was released on the web as a serial prior to being published in a complete volume in hardback and as an e-book. This was planned from the start and made for an interesting experience as those who chose to purchase chapters as they came out worked through the book together.

I have to admit I skipped out on reading the chapters as they were released. It seemed like a fun thing to do but I wanted to see what it would all cost in the end. Scalzi repeatedly said that the fully compiled story would cost the same as buying it in parts but I wanted to see how it would play out. So I avoided on-line discussion of the chapters as they were released and when it became available about a week ago I purchased the e-book version. The price was basically the same, though buying the complete book was a couple bucks cheaper and did include some extra content. I'd already read a big part of that extra content as it had been available earlier via Tor.com.

From what I've read on Scalzi's blog, his experiment with serializing the book was a success from a business standpoint. And I got the impression that most readers enjoyed the process as they went along, though I did try to avoid most discussion as it was happening to avoid spoilers. Publishing stories in this manner has been around for a long time, but I think the results may encourage others to do the same and we may see more of this in the near future. Scalzi has already agreed to do season 2, or the next book, in the same fashion.

Reading it all at once, I could still appreciate that it was written this way. Each chapter is self contained to a large extent. There are glimpses into the lives of various characters, changes of setting, and some wonderful storytelling. It all fits together and is certainly a novel, not a collection of short stories, but much more episodic. I thought it allowed for a nice amount of flexibility in the flow of the story and I appreciated the end result even if I got it all in one package at the end.

Aside from interest in the method of delivery, I was very excited to read The Human Division for the story itself. I hadn't enjoyed Scalzi's last sci-fi outing, Redshirts and was really looking forward to his return to my favorite universe he has created. The Old Man's War series, fitting into the military sci-fi genre, has of course brought many comparisons between Scalzi and Heinlein. I imagine part of the enjoyment I get from Scalzi's books are that he does have some commonality with R.A.H. who is one of my favorite authors. But really Scalzi does have his own voice, style and message and this comes more and more to the fore as the series moves on. The Human Division has all of the excitement, action and wit that makes reading Scalzi so fun. I think his ability to put together strong dialogue is unparalleled. And it is still military sci-fi, with our main protagonist being a soldier. Yet the world is so much more complex and rich than a simple kill or be killed scenario that moves from one point of action to the next. And even what would be slow points in a book that used action to carry a lack of plot, are full of rewarding interaction. We get to know and care about characters, lose some all too quickly and feel a sense of real people engaging one another as opposed to cardboard cutouts.

I wouldn't put the Old Man's War books into the hard sci-fi category but they aren't just fantasy dropped into space either. Scalzi obviously gives some thought to settings and technology and so I find it easy to overlook some of the issues that are skipped over for the sake of story. In the end it is entertainment and interesting questions about people and society that draw me to these books, more than a desire to learn more about physics or astronomy.

I did read follow on comments after the series was complete and noticed a few people who felt that there was a cliffhanger ending. While the book does end with some larger scale issues unresolved, I think that to call it a cliffhanger is not really accurate. I found the ending to be an appropriate point of closure, to step away from the characters. As I would tell me kids if they have to pause a movie, it was a "good place to stop." If we followed everyone to the completion of all that was going on in their lives, the book would be immense. As it is, it is already a solid read. It might feel a bit abrupt to some as it does set up some questions that are left unanswered that normally would be in a more formulaic treatment, but I'm glad Scalzi left them rather than a hasty or awkward finish.

As I mentioned, there are two extra stories in the newly published compilation of all 13 chapters. They are After the Coup and Hafte Sorvalh Eats a Churro and Speaks to the Youth of Today and both can be downloaded for free at Tor.com. After the Coup actually takes place prior to the events in The Human Division and was originally made available earlier. It can be read before or after the book. Hafte Sorvalh Eats a Churro and Speaks to the Youth of Today is shorter but very sweet and let me finish the book with a smile.

I've enjoyed every entry in the OMW series and I am very pleased to see it continue strongly. While reading the previous books is not necessary to enjoying this one, I can't imagine not wanting to read the other four. If someone is unsure, feel free to start with The Human Division and if they enjoy it, jumping back and reading the others will still be very enjoyable. There will be some spoilers but I don't think they'll take much away from Scalzi's real strengths in these stories, which are much more driven by character than plot. I think Scalzi will stand as a sci-fi great for some time to come and it is a lot of fun to get to watch it happen rather than just idolizing the masters of the past.

You can purchase The Human Division from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews (sci-fi included) -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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Book Review: The Human Division

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  • We regularly demonize many classes of people and demote to non-human. Pedophiles. terrorists, monsters-du-jour, you name it. Before those is was gays, blacks, various ethnicities, you name it. Fashions come, fashions go.

    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @03:37PM (#43853511)

      Pedophiles. terrorists, monsters-du-jour, you name it.

      I'm surprised you decided to omit the worst group of offensive subhumans from your list: people who don't put the return type of a C function onto a separate line!

      • Good
        luck trying to find this post later.
      • /sarcasm ... :-)

        void
        fuck_you()
        {
        }

        I jest, I jest.

      • void
        main(int argc, char *argv[])

        happy now?
        • This looks terrible. Why would anyone do this? I could understand for template functions and/or the throw declarations...but this? With tons of function declarations, it's just even uglier.
          • by AceJohnny (253840)

            It isn't useful on such a trivial example, but add in pointers...

            int * func(char* a, char* b);
            vs
            int *
            func (char *a,
                  char *b);

            (or better elaborate examples I can't be assed to come up with for a /. comment) ... and the milliseconds and frustration saved in parsing function declarations starts to add up

          • The jab at OP was the void part. It make baby Jesus cry.
      • There are worse less-than-humans: developers who refuse to put a blank space between parentheses and the first/last word ( like in "(new Hashtable(89))" ). My holy war against them has been going on for 19 years now.
      • I noticed that politicians were omitted from both of your lists and I applaud both of you. It is a common mistake for many people to add politicians to lists such as these, but it is a proven fact that politicians were never human to begin with.
      • by Swampash (1131503)

        I'm surprised you decided to omit the worst group of offensive subhumans from your list: people who don't put the something something something!

        You misspelled "Glassholes".

      • people who don't put the return type of a C function onto a separate line!

        You mean like Kernighan and Ritchie do it, you blaspheme?

    • by icebike (68054)

      We regularly demonize many classes of people and demote to non-human. Pedophiles. terrorists, monsters-du-jour, you name it. Before those is was gays, blacks, various ethnicities, you name it. Fashions come, fashions go.

      So what is your point?

      Every species exhibits conflict and turmoil among its own members, whereas violence between species is almost solely one of predator/prey relationship. If you don't eat them, and they don't eat you, there is almost never interspecies conflict. The greater the physical differences, the less likely any conflict.

      This puts into doubt the whole premise of the book, not to mention a large part of the SiFi genre which all seem to claim there would be immediate war and planetary conquest upo

      • by yndrd1984 (730475)

        Most of this is utter nonsense, based on how we treat others of our own species, not how we treat other species.

        The endangered species list would like a word with you.

        If you don't eat them, and they don't eat you, there is almost never interspecies conflict. The greater the physical differences, the less likely any conflict.

        Good point, but I think technology makes so many new things exploitable that it makes those physical differences vastly less important. Rabbits aren't in competition with blackberry

      • by xevioso (598654)

        This is correct. As I posted below, conflict, even among humans, is rooted almost solely over 1) Resources, 2) Religion, and 3) Unchecked Ambition.

        Your post deals mostly with #1.

        If we run up against a species that believes we need to be converted to their religious beliefs, then we might have a problem, but I don't think that will happen.

        The real problem in your argument is what about #3: Unchecked Ambition. That is to say, what if we run up against a galactic version of Hitler or Alexander the great? Som

      • Every species exhibits conflict and turmoil among its own members, whereas violence between species is almost solely one of predator/prey relationship. If you don't eat them, and they don't eat you, there is almost never interspecies conflict. The greater the physical differences, the less likely any conflict.

        Actually, this is not true. Two relatively well-matched species of predators may ignore each other, as there is substantial risk of injury to both parties. Two grossly mis-matched species may also ignore each other, if there is little overlap in ecological niche.

        However, there is an intermediate zone of size difference in which one species of predator is clearly stronger, yet there is still some overlap in prey consumed by both species. In such cases, the stronger predator will often harass and kill the

      • Lots of Scalzi's aliens eat humans. Some find us delicious.

        Most of the 'sensible' interplanetary war stories start with cheap, easy FTL and fewish habitable planets. In which case conflict is likely for species that can use the same planets. Of course its a HUGE leap to cheap easy FTL.

        One I remember that didn't have cheap/easy FTL had a species flee their dying home planet on a slower than light colony ship, and end up here. They wanted to come down and party with us, and we didn't want them to.

      • Every species exhibits conflict and turmoil among its own members, whereas violence between species is almost solely one of predator/prey relationship. If you don't eat them, and they don't eat you, there is almost never interspecies conflict. The greater the physical differences, the less likely any conflict.

        This puts into doubt the whole premise of the book ...

        You are assuming the behavior of intelligent technological species would mirror that of less developed species. When you add the potential of politics and religion to the former you get some powerful new variables.

        Scalzi's books do indeed address these. One species in particular seems to be entirely motivated by religion in its extremely aggressive warlike behavior. IIRC another attacks humans merely to cement a relationship with a 3rd party, human would otherwise have been of little interest to them.

      • by ultranova (717540)

        Every species exhibits conflict and turmoil among its own members, whereas violence between species is almost solely one of predator/prey relationship. If you don't eat them, and they don't eat you, there is almost never interspecies conflict. The greater the physical differences, the less likely any conflict.

        Yes. Now ask yourself why. And the answer, of course, is obvious: members of the same species compete on resources (mates, food, nests), and differences between species make them less likely to compet

    • by swb (14022) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @05:01PM (#43854413)

      I'm pretty sure that people who demonized gays, blacks, Jews, etc also demonized pedophiles and people who fit the functional definition of terrorist ("kills innocent civilians to pursue political agenda") in whatever time period they lived in.

      The implication of your post indicates that as we progress we will advance our thinking such that we no longer demonize grown men who cornhole little boys or people that blow up things in public in order to scare people.

      I'm fairly certain that this is not an advancement of humanity but instead a sure sign of its decline.

      • by yndrd1984 (730475)

        The implication of your post indicates that as we progress we will advance our thinking such that we no longer demonize grown men who cornhole little boys or people that blow up things in public in order to scare people. I'm fairly certain that this is not an advancement of humanity but instead a sure sign of its decline.

        Right. Because there's no way that either of those things could ever be treated as mental illnesses that need to be treated rather than evils that need to be punished.

        • I don't have a problem with them being treated as mental illness, but then I think the cure for such illnesses should be high speed injection of lead to the head, it also comes with the added bonus of no relapse by the subject.

          • by yndrd1984 (730475)

            I don't have a problem with them being treated as mental illness, but then I think the cure for such illnesses should be high speed injection of lead to the head

            Oddly enough that was pushed as a 'cure' for blacks and Jews as well. Violence seems to be some people's Final Solution to everything.

            I just don't understand how someone can have that much blind hatred - at least without being a victim or fighting against similar urges themselves.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              I'm not Jake Dodgie, so I cannot speak for him, but applying the death penalty need not be done out of blind hatred. One might dispassionately apply it as an absolute means of eliminating the threat represented by particularly dangerous individuals.

              Personally, I cannot support applying the death penalty to pedophiles. However, we shouldn't assume that someone who does must necessarily be advocating it out of hate. Lots of people truly do hate pedophiles, and Dodgie worded his post in a way that is easily

              • by yndrd1984 (730475)

                Lots of people truly do hate pedophiles, and Dodgie worded his post in a way that is easily interpreted as hateful, but it could just as well have been colorful phrasing.

                It could be, it could also be sarcasm or trolling, but I just addressed the most straightforward interpretation. If he wants to, he can clarify.

                Acting on being a Jew (attending Synagogue, observing Chanukah, and so on) harms nobody else...

                Are you sure about that? "Acting on being a Jew" (for many) implies support for Israeli policies th

      • by sjames (1099)

        In the case of terrorist, who gets that lebel is a very fluid thing. Some would give the U.S. that label for the way we've been blowing up things in the middle east. We give it to Bin laden and his gang. Had Washington lost, he would be recorded as a terrorist.

        Of late, 'sex offender' ghas also been a fairly slippery term, covering everything from unrepentant rapists to people who get drunk and opee on a dumpster at 3AM.

    • We regularly demonize many classes of people and demote to non-human. Pedophiles. terrorists, monsters-du-jour, you name it. Before those is was gays, blacks, various ethnicities, you name it. Fashions come, fashions go.

      Those two sets are distinct - the first group are people who have actively done something to harm others. The second set are simply groups of people that other groups of people dislike - nothing more than tribalism.

      I'll be the first to say that the labels of pedophile and terrorist are way too broadly applied but misuse of labels is generally just a form of tribalism while correct use of labels is simply descriptive.

    • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @05:39PM (#43854679) Homepage

      Extremely insightful.

      The fact is, there will be a time when new monsters will arise while other will be given special care and pitied as formerly discriminated groups currently are.

      But I think by examining what people would do in a multi-life-form environment will show quite clearly why all of this "diversity" push is actually quite counter-productive. To put things in a "fair and equal" context, such integration invariably requires that everyone give up something of themselves in order to promote a kind of integration which literally removes individuality. And you can demonstrate this in just about any direction you like. One hot topic these days is integration of muslim people with non-muslim people. What does each side have to give up? A lot! What does each side have to tolerate? A lot! And what happens when friction occurs? A lot of terrible things.

      Even now, the integration of black people into white society or white people into black society has not progressed as far as people would like to see. I think an important key here is to respect each others need to be different and to be who they want to be. And especially where those differences clash to the point where life and limb are at risk, we need to be mindful of the how and why of it. But more than that, we have to understand certain things about "equal but different." I think we all understand which side has more or less of what. And the "cost" of getting access to more of whatever is wanted may be to give up a part of your identity to participate. For example: A "long haired hippy" will not easily integrate into high society and big business. He would have to give up his long-haired hippy ways (or at least hide them) in order to gain access into this other world of expecations and acceptabilities. We all pretty much accept this. But when it comes to ethnicity, we just don't seem willing to accept it.

      By examining this in the context of "earthlings vs extra-terrestrials" I think some things will become more evident about our own troubles here on earth. While we can all pretty much breathe the same air, even this can be an area of contention among different groups of humans. ("OMG! Did you smell that guy?! What has he been EATING?!")

      I hope, at some point, we all begin to arrive at the conclusion that we won't all be able to get along all the time and that complete integration is not merely impossible, but attempts to do so are outright dangerous. I hate to put it like this, but if we were to try to integrate with a rattle-snake, the best answer is NOT to and to respect that this creature needs to be avoided and given his own space. It should never be a question of who would win in a fight -- both sides are lethal to one another. Best to just avoid it.

      Back in the day when the question of integration was about different kinds of white people, it worked itself out pretty well...eventually... It was not easy. It was painful and often deadly. But the end result and best answer WAS, in fact, to give up a lot of our individual identities and cultures as a cost of admission into the melting pot. But we shouldn't FORCE IT. Let those who want to join us in the melting pot understand that the cost of admission is to give up much of themselves. The melting pot should not change as much as the new entries should and that's the way it has always worked.

      So in the "Black entering white society" issue, I seriously love and admire black people who have chosen to get educated and kick ass in the world of work and business. The same is true of other groups which present that challenge. But forcing such issues is demonstrably bad.

  • by zlives (2009072)

    "You can purchase The Human Division from amazon.com." get a free torrent and see if you get deamonized...

  • Any race with the kind of technology to cross the incredibly vast distances of interstellar space wouldn't have any reason to give a rat's ass about our dumb puny asses. And if there was a conflict, it would be over pretty damned fast.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Those vast distances are probably the only reason we haven't been wiped out. Humans are very annoying.

      • by sinij (911942)

        >>> the only reason we haven't been wiped out.

          Yet.
         
          I can only imagine that proper response for blasting all these early 60s sitcoms into universe would be accelerating a very big rock our way. The more annoyed they get, the more energy they put into accelerating the rock.

        • by dan828 (753380)
          ...and just imagine the response when the current wave of reality TV hits them. The Kardashians alone would warrant extermination.
      • by erroneus (253617)

        I will flatter myself. There is, apparently, something quite interesting about our asses which drive them to travel great distances in order to probe them.

    • by icebike (68054)

      Any race with the kind of technology to cross the incredibly vast distances of interstellar space wouldn't have any reason to give a rat's ass about our dumb puny asses. And if there was a conflict, it would be over pretty damned fast.

      Exactly true. And with a vast choice of planets to choose to live on, why would they pick one so over run with contentious inhabitants. Nobody chooses to pitch their tent in an ant hive.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        In Old man's war, it was because Terran type planets are rare, and terraforming is bogglingly expensive. Why make a better world when you can take a better world? Also, most wars tend to be turkey shoots, as in that series, humans are actually the roaving warrior species, with eventually every other social species banding together to contain Homo Sapiens. Humans have a few friends, and do have some diplomatic ties, but for the most part, we are total jerks when it comes to colonization.

        Humans have come s

        • by icebike (68054)

          But you are still in the book and the GP was criticizing the whole concept of the book.

          You can't analyse a fairytale from within.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Nobody chooses to pitch their tent in an ant hive.

        Or on a bee hill.

    • by fermion (181285)
      Look at the colonization of the Americans. Peaceful explorers, just looking for a new spice route, found land. But it had people on it. So those people were purposefully and accidentally killed.

      It is likely that if explorers found earth, and took time to land on it, they would be like the europeans landed on the American Natives. It is not so much that such alliens would purposely kill everyone, but disease and our own stubbornness would over time mean the end of humans. Yes, we might infect the alli

      • by TWiTfan (2887093)

        Except the difference in technology between us an a race capable of traveling faster than light would be less analogous to 17th century Europeans encountering Indians and more like modern humans encountering a nest of mice.

  • by tedgyz (515156) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @03:44PM (#43853565) Homepage

    Without RTFA, the synopsis leads me to suggest two great movies that cover this topic:

    District 9 [imdb.com]
    Bladerunner [imdb.com]

    What defines a human and what defines a sentient being?

    Sometimes I wonder what my freaking dog is thinking. She seems a little too smart when she knows the exact moment to bolt into the neighbor's yard.

  • excuse the pun -very much in the vein of some of the Golden Age writers like early Heinlein

    have to catch up with the series now.

    -I'm just sayin'
    • by zlives (2009072)

      very starship trooper like (the book not the movie)

      • by hguorbray (967940)
        I actually avoided the Starship Troopers movies until I read on imdb that they were ruthless satires of a fascist society peopled by idiots.

        So even though they are certainly not in the spirit of the book I actually enjoyed the 1st one immensely, although based on the ratings they appear to tail off pretty quickly in the subsequent ones.

        -I'm jsut sayin'
        • by zlives (2009072)

          i agree the first one was not to bad on its own but really shouldn't even have been called SST

          • by hguorbray (967940)
            agreed -all you do is piss off the people who are loyal to the book (although in relation to the movie going public that is a pretty small group)

            -I'm just sayin'
    • I enjoyed the entire series, but I also couldn't help but noticing that the 'old man' part was dropped even before the recruits got to basic. That plot point could have been left entirely out, and the entire last 3/4ths of the book would have required zero re-writing.
      • I enjoyed the entire series, but I also couldn't help but noticing that the 'old man' part was dropped even before the recruits got to basic. That plot point could have been left entirely out, and the entire last 3/4ths of the book would have required zero re-writing.

        The soldiers still have minds with 75 years of experience and knowledge. It definitely made them look at things differently than teenage soldiers. IIRC this more mature perspective repeatedly pops up. Especially when comparing regular troops to special forces troops.

        • I never saw that. I saw the CDF SF troops portrayed as children, sure, but other than occasional references to previous careers, the old troops weren't portrayed as having bountiful wisdom or experience. Quite the opposite, in fact. Take, for example, the CDF rook who was a senator in real life, who hadn't learned shit.
          • by perpenso (1613749)

            I never saw that. I saw the CDF SF troops portrayed as children, sure, but other than occasional references to previous careers, the old troops weren't portrayed as having bountiful wisdom or experience. Quite the opposite, in fact. Take, for example, the CDF rook who was a senator in real life, who hadn't learned shit.

            Their experience was not of value with respect to combat tactics and military strategy, that was made very clear early on. However their past lifetime of experience helped them retain their humanity and mentally cope with the horrible stresses that they were under, it contributed to morale, and thereby contributed to combat effectiveness. There will subtle discussions of such things in the book.

  • by alen (225700) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @04:24PM (#43854025)

    logically there should only be conflict between races if their populations are so large as to cause competition for resources. if you look at our solar system, there should be more than enough resources for at least triple our population.

    same happened in human history. the crusades took place during a global warming cycle when the european population boomed. the mongols attacked when the climate began to cool and they needed grazing for their horses. the european wars took place in a cool climate when glaciers occupied a lot of farm land and sucked water out of the atmosphere that could have been used to water crops

    • by Kwyj1b0 (2757125)

      I wonder. Conflicts arise for ideological reasons as well. Not that I disagree with your viewpoint in general - the more technologically advanced you get, the less you care about ideological debates. However, if an advanced species landed on earth peacefully, I'd still expect nutjobs to try and blow them up because they are "heretics who challenge my simplified view of $deity" . Not that it would matter to someone capable of crossing interstellar distances, but they'd either (a) swat us aside like an irrita

    • if you look at our solar system, there should be more than enough resources for at least triple our population.

      I can accept "at least". But only triple?! Our solar system should provide sufficient resources for at least 1000x our current population.

      Or were you restricting us to living on planets?

    • by geekoid (135745)

      " the crusades took place during a global warming cycle"
      sigh, that is wrong on many levels.

  • by stevel (64802) * on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @04:40PM (#43854205) Homepage

    I read this when it was released in serial form on Kindle. As noted, it's a collection of largely self-contained stories that form a greater story arc, which is not my definition of a serial. I too was not taken with Redshirts and I liked The Human Condition a bit better - some of the episodes are almost throwaways and don't really contribute to the narrative.

    I was a bit disappointed that the ending didn't really resolve what I saw as major plot elements and, while it wasn't a cliffhanger the way Connie Willis' Blackout was, it left me dissatisfied. But overall I think it was worth reading and will probably read whatever comes next.

    • I felt like some of the side stuff - or whatever you would call it- didn't necessarily move the plot forward but did really give the characters a lot more depth - so that when things happened later I cared a lot more.

      Redshirts didn't work for me because I just don't like that kind of story. I didn't like it when Heinlein did it. I didn't like it when King did it. And I love those guys work, just not that sort of thing. Which I don't want to describe and ruin it for anyone who hasn't read the book.

      I still th

      • by stevel (64802) *

        Yes, the side stories definitely add depth - I agree with you there. As for Redshirts, I would have been happier if he had stopped before the three codas. I had not read Old Man's War or, I think, much else of Scalzi's.

        Does the "novel" form of the book just concatenate all of the serial chapters, or is the "re-establishment" text reminding readers of what happened before removed or thinned out?

        And yes, I see I mistyped the name of the book in my initial comment.

        • I think it is just the chapters hooked together - though I can't say that for sure as I never read them separately.

          Yeah - I wasn't big on the codas either.

          The Old Man's War books are all good. Android's Dream is pretty much awesome and might be my favorite of his. Agent to the Stars is pretty good too. I didn't totally buy the end but I really enjoyed the ride. I think you can read that for free. At least you could before when I read it. Yeah - here it is - Agent to the Stars [scalzi.com].

          I think he has an immense amoun

    • by kermidge (2221646)

      I read the first chapter, and liked it enough so that I might want to read the entire book. But I bought it on Google Play, and at 99 cents per chapter, that's $13 for 400 pages and change; $11.04 at Amazon for Kindle (or Kindle desktop reader). Seems to me that's a bit high (given my estimate of word-count) for a novella.

  • I heard that Old Man's War was very similar to The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman. Any thoughts on this? I've read the later and thoroughly enjoyed it. Old Man's War is on my to-read list.
    • If you want to put Old Man's War and The Forever War on opposite ends of an ideological spectrum I'd say that Old Man's war is somewhere between the two - and at various points in the books, depending on your biases you may see it leaning towards one or the other.

      I'd say the series as a whole probably is more in line with The Forever War from a philosophical view point and closer in writing style to Starship Troopers. Though as I say, Scalzi really has his own style. But the comparisons between Scalzi and

      • Sorry - Starship Troopers and Forever War on the opposite ends. I don't know how many times I looked at that and missed it. It is late here though so I'll use that as my excuse. Going to bed soon.

    • by dargaud (518470)

      I heard that Old Man's War was very similar to The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman. Any thoughts on this? I've read the later and thoroughly enjoyed it. Old Man's War is on my to-read list.

      There are a few parallels but the books and their ideas are very different. A common point is the alienation of the fighters in respect to the rest of the populace. In TFW, the 'original humans' are the soldiers who travel between the stars for a few years while the rest of the world changes a lot due to relativistic time dilatation. In OMW it's due to artificial bodies and a weird selection process (hence the title). Both are very good, and the comic book version of TFW is also excellent.

  • Why is the kindle version more expensive than the frigging hardcover ?!? 17.56$ vs 16.71. I was all ready to purchase it because I really enjoyed the rest of the series, but I don't like getting screwed, so it's a NO.
    • For me the hardcover is $16.71 and the Kindle version is $11.04 - which I think is what I paid. So I would double check that. It wouldn't make sense for it to be more than $13 as there are 13 episodes available at .99 each. They are all drm free so I would think it would be trivial to buy them separately and combine them.

      • by dargaud (518470)
        Those fucks and their micro-marketing tools ('price it according to what people can bear' indeed)... Even if I log out I see the kindle version at 16.71$. Individual stories are 1.02$. If I log in from a computer in the US, it's 11.04$. Like the electrons are more costly here.
        • yeah - I pretty much always go to Amazon through a vpn. So that explains it. Stupid.

          When a lot of Penguins are all together in one place does it stink? I would think it does but I've never had a chance to find out.

          • by dargaud (518470)

            When a lot of Penguins are all together in one place does it stink? I would think it does but I've never had a chance to find out.

            Yes it does. A lot. A mix of industrial chicken coop and rotten fish. Fortunately it's often windy in those places.

  • Just as a reminder (Score:4, Interesting)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @06:11PM (#43854907) Homepage Journal

    The have been different human civilization meeting and not fighting. Many of them.
    Trade routes wouldn't have happen if people couldn't meet in peace.

    We are aware of aboriginal people in the Amazon and we haven't gone in to wipe them out.

    The premise is based on an incorrect look at human history.

    • The premise is based on an incorrect look at human history.

      Some [wikipedia.org] people [wikipedia.org] might [wikipedia.org] beg [wikipedia.org] to [wikipedia.org] differ [wikipedia.org].

      Maybe not incorrect, so much as incomplete.

    • by perpenso (1613749)

      The have been different human civilization meeting and not fighting. Many of them. Trade routes wouldn't have happen if people couldn't meet in peace.

      Trade routes existed, in part, to fund one group's subjugation of other local groups. A distant group was not a threat, nor a "resource" that could be efficiently controlled and exploited, but it could be a trading partner.

      We are aware of aboriginal people in the Amazon and we haven't gone in to wipe them out.

      I think the aboriginal people in the Amazon would disagree. Historically many have been killed and/or forcibly assimilated into the "invading" culture. To this day miners, loggers and ranchers are encroaching on their remaining lands.

      The premise is based on an incorrect look at human history.

      Sadly, no.

  • Most of the conflicts throughout history can be boiled down to fights over:
    1) Religion
    2) Resources
    3) Unchecked Ambition

    My suspicion is that by the time we meet others in space, 1 and 2 will not be relevant.

    If, on the other hand, we run into a galactic version of Alexander the Great, we could have some trouble.

    • Lest we forget, Giordano Bruno [wikipedia.org] was executed by the Catholic Church for daring to postulate that there might be life out in the universe.

      I'd not be surprised at all if the discovery of alien life sparked a crusade/jihad/whatever or two.

      • by perpenso (1613749)

        Lest we forget, Giordano Bruno [wikipedia.org] was executed by the Catholic Church for daring to postulate that there might be life out in the universe.

        If you read your citation you will see that this is not the case. Bruno held a bunch of ideas that were in tact quite heretical, life elsewhere in the universe is a minor point in comparison. Its misleading to offer the later as the sole reason for his brutal execution.

        • Sole reason? No. Important reason? Yes. And it's not like he was an isolated case; Copernicus and Gallileo come rather forcefully to mind.
          • by perpenso (1613749)

            Sole reason? No. Important reason? Yes. And it's not like he was an isolated case; Copernicus and Gallileo come rather forcefully to mind.

            And my point is reinforced. Galileo got in trouble more for his mockery of the pope than the heliocentric model itself. Without Galileo's mockery and Bruno's actual heresies, they may have received nothing more than Copernicus himself. What did Copernicus face? Mild controversy and "scholarly" philosophical arguments "debunking" the heliocentric model.

  • Given that humans appear to have an innate need to kill as much other life as possible, I think there are only five outcomes.

    1. Humans come into contact with less advanced beings.

    We will find a reason to destroy them. Maybe it will be something silly, but the pathological hatred of anyone who "Isn't like us", will ensure that we will find a reason to destroy their civilization

    2. Humans come into contact with more advanced beings, at a superior level to us, but without the killer instinct we have.

    W

  • Hypothetical BS. All of it. We have folks falling in love with dolls, and having sex with robots, going to concerts to hear programs sing. There are troves of Xenomorph Pornography. That's right, the ailens from aliens... having sex with humans. From Eldritch Horrors to Toaster Ovens, We'll "love" anything! Even Farm Animals!

    Yeah, it's not a species wide thing, but tell you what: You go to Japan and pass a law saying no more Vocalids. Just see how fast you get lynched. Go to the comic-cons in th

  • I like them.

When in doubt, mumble; when in trouble, delegate; when in charge, ponder. -- James H. Boren

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