The B-Team (The Human Division, Episode 1) by John Scalzi
Read by William Dufris
Length: 2 Hrs 20 Min
Genre: Science Fiction
Quick Thoughts: The B-Team starts The Human Division with a splash, creating instantly likeable characters set in a complex world with a seemingly endless potential for good stories. Even if you’re not a huge science fiction fan, The Human Division may be an event you don’t want to miss.
It seems now that every time John Scalzi’s releases a new project onto the world, it has the feel of an Event. Now, with the Human Division, this Event label may be more than justified. When John Scalzi announced his new project, a novel released episodically, with a new entry coming every week for 13 weeks, I was quite excited. First off, this book would take place within the world of Scalzi’s military science fiction series, Old Man’s War. I love that series. In fact, Old Man’s War was one of the first science fiction series that I listened to from start to finish entirely in audio. Yet, I was mostly excited about the episodic format. I am one of those strange people that actually prefer television over movies. I enjoy having a story told out over a series of self contained episodes. I think this format actually, well done well, allows for more complete character development, and building of a mythology. I also think it’s riskier. A self contained 2 hour story should be tight, but when you need to fill up hours of content, keep an overall theme, yet tell many smaller stories, sometimes you get The Wire, and other times you get the final season of Lost. So, I am quite interested to see how this will play out, and I for one, will be downloading each episode every week as soon as it comes out.
In The B-Team, the first episode of The Human Division, a top secret Diplomatic Mission goes horribly wrong, when a CDF Diplomatic Cruiser is attacked and destroyed. With the mission of vital import, a second group of Diplomats are sent to handle the situation. This group, made up of low level diplomats and bottom tier fixers must attempt to salvage the mission while discovering exactly what happened to the first group. In many ways, The B-Team serves as the pilot of the series, where the characters are introduced and their specific skills are shown to the reader, while the underlying mythology of the series is also set in motion. I often find that pilot episodes do more of a disserves to the overall product, full of info dumps, manufactured attempts to make you instantly bond with the characters and heavy handed world building, all while not offering much of a coherent story. Yet, Scalzi manages to accomplish all the key ingredients of a good pilot while also telling a heck of a good story. I was sucked into the story from almost the very beginning. Scalzi uses the mystery of what exactly happened to the missing ship very effectively, allowing the characters and their relationship to develop naturally. It was great to have Harry Wilson, a character from the original series, taking a leading role in The B-Team. Harry is one of those characters that readers can instantly connect with. He has a lot of the iconic Scifi hero about him, witty and sarcastic, and while often underestimated, is competent and an excellent problem solver. Harry isn’t flashy, just a strong, even handed hero. Scalzi fills out the cast with a lot of excellent new characters, including the brash captain of the diplomatic ship, and an ambitious underutilized Diplomatic lead. The B-Team starts The Human Division with a splash, creating instantly likeable characters set in a complex world with a seemingly endless potential for good stories. Even if you’re not a huge science fiction fan, The Human Division may be an event you don’t want to miss.
William Dufris returns to Scalzi’s Old Man War universe with a strong performance. I always loved Dufris reading of Old Man’s War. He was able to take these characters, and meld the youthful vigor of their bodies, with the seasoned thought process of their actual years. Dufris does a wonderful job with The B-Team. He has a great grasp on the characters, and Scalzi’s more contemplative and cerebral action style plays out well with Dufris strong sense of pacing. I will be quite interested in others reactions to his voicing of the alien species that our heroes come into contact with. It actually made me laugh a bit. It was over the top and a bit kitschy. I really liked it, but I think a few more restrained and serious scifi fans may frown at it, while shaking their heads in nerdy disgust. I really look forward to the rest of this series, all of which will be available for a pretty reasonable price for Audible members.