The Human Division Listen-A-Long: Episode 2: Walk the Plank by John Scalzi

25 01 2013

The Human Division Episode 2: Walk the Plank by John Scalzi

Read by William Dufris

Audible Frontiers

Length: 39 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Grade: B+

As part of The Human Division Listen-A-Long, hosted by The Audiobookaneers, I will be posting my thought on each episode on the Firday 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.

Episode 1: The B-Team
My Review
The Audiobookaneers
Stainless Steel Droppings
Tor.com

Episode 2: Walk the Plank
Stainless Steel Droppings
Tor.com

Walk the Plank is told as a recording of an interview of an injured member of a Trading ship after it’s boarded by an unnamed enemy (Space Pirates!) and escaped to the planet surface of a Wildcat Colony. It’s a quick tale, coming in a sparse 39 minuets, and its style leaves little room for developing of characters, or any in depth world building. Yet, Scalzi does manage to do a good job in the time he has to show the tenuous nature of an unsanctioned Colony while creating distinct personalities for his characters. So many novels involving Colonization gloss over the numerous incompatibility issues that Humanity will have to deal with when attempting to settle new worlds, and how one little snafu could doom the entire project. Yet, Scalzi doesn’t take the easy road, creating a world full of hostile fauna and flora, and where one missed shipment could be the difference between success and failure. Set within the Universe Scalzi has created the idea of colonization is even more daunting due to the political instability the Colonial Defense Forces and the hostility of alien cultures. I think it was an interesting and risky move for Scalzi to make this the second episode in the series. If this was a typical novel and the readers moved right on to the next chapter, Walk the Plank serves as good background. Yet, in the episodic style of this story, having the second episode be a complete departure from the first can be a bit disconcerting. On its own, it’s a great story, and I am fascinated with how this will play into the whole of the tale, yet it felt like watching the second episode of a TV show, and none of the characters from the pilot are in it and the setting is totally changed.

I thought this story was well handled by William Dufris. This style doesn’t always play out well in audio. With the constant use of dialogue tags, like in a screenplay, it’s hard to capture the natural rhythms of the writing. Dufris handles this well, and while it felt clunky at times, it wasn’t too distracting to the overall story. Dufris talent for voices helps this along, allowing the listener to blot out the dialogue tags relying more on the narrator to delineate the characters. One thing that excites me about this project is the ability for Scalzi to blend different types of storytelling into the overall narrative and with a talented narrator like Dufris who can capture the cadence of well told story and create solid characters, it should pay off in audio as well as print.

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8 responses

25 01 2013
montsamu

Thanks Bob!

25 01 2013
Carl V. Anderson

The whole time I was reading this one I was thinking that it would be excellent to listen to in a full cast audio version. I think the interplay of the conversation would work so much more effectively that way. As it was it wasn’t hard to picture in my head while reading but I think an audio version would have made some of the parts of the story that were just there to keep the reader grounded in the hospital setting would have felt more natural than they did reading them on the printed page.

I think a B is a fair grade for the story. I think I’ll like this one more if (when) Scalzi starts pulling these elements further into other tales.

I too like that Scalzi’s worlds are not always easy to colonize. This one, in its brief description, had a Deathworld feel to it.

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