The Human Division Episode 3: We Only Need The Heads by John Scalzi
Read by William Dufris
Length: 1 Hr 6 Min
Genre: Science Fiction
As part of The Human Division Listen-A-Long, hosted by The Audiobookaneers, I will be posting my thought on each episode on the Friday after release. If you are involved in the Listen-A-Long, or Read-A-Long, or just posting your thoughts each week, feel free to leave a link to your post in the comments and I will add it to my weekly roundup of post.
In the latest episode of The Human Division, We Only Need the Heads, the unbeknownst-to-them Diplomatic Fire team is sent to take over a delicate Negotiation with an alien race after the original Diplomat had an emergency appendectomy. Meanwhile Harry has been dispatched to oversee a sensitive issue on a Wildcat colony that may have a direct impact on the negotiations. We Only Need the Heads gets us back into the swing of things as we see the how the Colonial Defense Force’s tendency to play fast and loose with the rules can have devastating consequences. It’s a great episode, more so for some key moments, than the overall narrative. The plot is strong, and I think Scalzi was smart to show a diplomatic and military situation that falls apart, instead of just having his team constantly save the day. One of the highlights for me in this tale was a conversation Harry Wilson with a newly rejuvenated soldier from Earth. It was a clever way to give new readers backstory on The Old Man’s War universe without relying on distracting exposition. I also find myself starting to really like Ambassador Abumwe. I originally thought early on that her role may have been the sort of Bureaucratic nemesis to Harry Wilson, but I’m beginning to see her more as a cunning sort of anti-partner to him. She may distrust and often butt heads with our hero, but is just as relentless in achieving their goals. I think Abumwe has an even more interesting role, because as an Ambassador she serves as the voice of the CDF, and I think this episode will only add to her distrust of the way things are going and I’m interested in seeing how this will play out throughout the series. We Only Need the Heads serves well as the next chapter in this tale, fitting well into the narrative and creating some more complications for our odd ball team. As a standalone, it works as well, especially in its portrayal of how diplomacy can go wrong, if the Diplomats are cut off from the information they need.
One of the tough things for me in writing these weekly reviews of the series is finding new and clever ways of saying the William Dufris is doing a good job narrating these tales. We Only Need the Heads doesn’t offer as many challenges for the narrator as the first two episodes did, but that’s OK, because Dufris has no problem keeping things interesting. He does get to voice a new alien species, the Bula, and he gives them a mesmerizingly soft, almost Asian feel that fit the species well. One thing that I am going to follow is how the reactions vary between those following the serial in audio versus print. William Dufris is excellent at creating diverse voices for non-human species. If you ever listen to Taylor Anderson’s Destroyermen series, you can hear him not only create voices for the different species, but tailor them for individuals characters within the species. I have a feeling this will serve The Human Division well, and may give certain episodes a bit of a boost in the audio versions.