The Human Division Listen-A-Long: Episode 13: Earth Below, Sky Above by John Scalzi

12 04 2013

Earth Below, Sky Above by John Scalzi (The Human Division, Episode 13)

Read by William Dufris

Audible Frontiers

Length: 2 Hrs 1 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Grade: B+

PREVIOUSLY ON THE HUMAN DIVISION:

Episode 12: The Gentle Art of Cracking Heads

The Audiobookaneers Episode 12

Welcome to the BIG TWO HOUR SEASON FINALE of The Human Division Listen-A-Long. First off, I want to thank Dave from The Audiobookaneers for being my Listen-A-Long partner. If you haven’t been checking out his thoughts, then you deserve to be sucked out into the vacuum of space without a life protecting Leotard.

I am very happy to hear that John Scalzi has signed a deal for a second season, because this truly makes this feel like a season finale, and not just the end of a book told in a serial manner. I really grew to like these characters, and knowing I should see them again next season makes this parting so much easier to take. Now, on to my thoughts on Earth Below, Sky Above.

I think that any Finale episode, whether it be the end of a TV series, or the last novel in a series, has a greater responsibility and should be evaluated not just as a standalone episode, but also in how it closed out the series. As an episode, Earth Below, Sky Above was awesome. The episode focused on the all important, what we have been building up to all season, conference on Earth position on the CDF and the "B-Teams" role in the negotiation. The first half was fun, sentimental (Harry returning to Earth for the first time) and full of humor, including a fun scene were Harry shows up some meathead soldiers who want to pick a fight with him based solely on the color of his skin (green.) The second half was full of crazy explody action in Space, and on Earth’s Space station. Scalzi knows how to write some of the most accessible, and visual action and he truly gave these scenes a big time blockbuster movie feel. It was so much fun to listen to.

As a finale, I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed. One of my biggest issues with the series as a whole is that the enemy lacked a face. Scalzi does a great job setting up this mysterious cabal that seems to be pitting Earth, the CDF, and The Conclave against each other for some secret agenda which may simply be the end of the CDF, but may not be. Yet, we never really see any actual conspirators, or if we do, they quickly killed off. I was hoping for some level of reveal, perhaps the theorized spy within CDF, or some player at some level of the conspiracy. Especially with the announcement of the second season, I thought it would be nice if our nameless cabal at least was given a name. Yet, the enemy remained conceptual. That being said, Scalzi did manage to pull a lot of threads together, pulling in bits and pieces of the entire series to bring about this stunning conclusion.

Can we all take a moment and raise our glasses to Mr. William Dufris. I really enjoyed the work he has done on this production, and in this final episode, he once again gave a seamless performance. Scalzi’s writing doesn’t always transfer perfectly to audio and Dufris does a great job minimizing any clunkiness. I loved his ability to slow down the chaos of the devastation of Space Station, allowing us to feel these small heartfelt moments with Harry, Schmidt and Coloma. I really enjoyed experiencing this serial in the audio format. Now, for the long wait to Season 2. What will become of our heroes during the hiatus?

One final note and it’s a suggestion to Mr. Scalzi. There is a series of books called The Dead Man, and while it’s not really a serial, it is episodic storytelling. For the audio version of The Dead Man series, each edition starts off with a Bad TV style theme song. So, I call on Mr. Scalzi, and Audible to create a The Human Division Theme Song to be included in the audio versions. I know Mr. Scalzi, being the literary rock star he is, probably hangs out with the likes of Bono, Axl Rose, Harry Connick Jr. and Paul McCartney, so one of these rock stars should help you put together something on your Banjo. Or, even better, have Seanan McGuire write and perform a little ditty for you. Don’t make me start one of those online petitions.

Thanks to everyone who bothered to stop by a read my thoughts on this series. Remember, I’m here all year round!





The Human Division Listen-A-Long: Episode 5: Tales From the Clarke

15 02 2013

Tales From the Clarke by John Scalzi (The Human Division, Episode 5)

Read by William Dufris

Audible Frontiers

Length: 59 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 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.

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

Episode 2: Walk The Plank
My Review
Stainless Steel Droppings
Tor.com
The Audiobookaneers

Episode 3: We Only Need the Heads
My Review
Stainless Steel Droppings
Tor.com
Audiobookaneers

Episode 4: A Voice in the Wilderness
My Review
Stainless Steel Droppings
Tor.com
The Audiobookaneers

Episode 5: Tales From the Clarke
Stainless Steel Drippings
Tor.com

Special Features:

Interview with The Human Division narrator, William Dufris.

 

In this week’s episode of The Human Division titled Tales From the Clarke, Scalzi tries to twist and turn, and pull things out of left field in this intriguing story. We are back with the crew of the diplomatic ship, The Clarke, yet, it’s a crew without a ship. So, when the CDF needs a group to deliver a ship to Earth as a sort of peace offering, Captain Colonna is tapped. Coloma assigns Harry Wilson to deal with the Earth diplomats, since he is originally an Earthling himself and Harry begins to get the feeling that something is not quite right with the mission. This is probably the first episode that I am less than enthusiastic about. OK, I enjoyed the heck out of it, and got more than a few chuckles along the way but in all honestly, the plot seemed a bit convoluted, and I am unsure how it will play into the entire series. I really enjoyed the beginning with Colonna under questioning, and the final disposition of The Clarke, but after that, things got weird.  I think, with all the other episodes, I was looking for more conspiracies within conspiracies and then when the big reveal came, I was sort of miffed with it. Not that it didn’t work, but that it wasn’t really what I was expecting and the reasoning behind it seemed very specious. In fact, there is a big part of me that still feels that something more was at play and that something more was the only thing that could justify the risk to a group that has been chosen to act as a fire team for the CDF. Also, as a baseball fan, I loved what Scalzi did here, but have trouble with the idea that a certain team could ever escape its futility. I mean, I have accepted skip drives and strange alien species, how much more can you expect out of me? All in all, I liked the episode, but I feel my overall impression of it will be affected more by future episodes than any of the previous episodes of the series.

Again, William Dufris was in the zone for this episode. I think that Dufris is becoming more and more comfortable with the underlining humor of this series, and is now managing to capture the often subtle wryness of Scalzi’s storytelling. There were certain moments in this tale that got a laugh out of me, that I don’t think would have in print. Also, with us returning back to the main story arch, I feel he’s really taken command of the characters. While this episode wasn’t full of the bells and whistles of many of the previous episodes, it was the kind of solid, character driven storytelling that the author and narrator both excel at.