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.





The Human Division Listen-A-Long: Episode 4: A Voice in the Wilderness by John Scalzi

8 02 2013

A Voice in the Wilderness by John Scalzi (The Human Division, Episode 4)

Read by William Dufris

Audible Frontiers

Length: 49 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
Stainless Steel Droppings
Tor.com

Once the fourth most popular Radio talk show host in America, Al Birnbaum has seen a significant decline in his ratings. Fearing for his job, and lavish lifestyle, Al is approached by a shady figure offering him the chance to regain his fortune, if he will only shape the narrative in the service of his clients. Now, Al has become the champion of The Colonial Defense Force on Earth, but at what cost? With the fourth episode of The Human Division, we break away again from the main arch of the story, and get our first real good look at Earth. I like that Scalzi’s future Earth is a recognizable one. The tech isn’t drastically futuristic, and the social and political extrapolations are logical offshoots of our current society. Setting up his earth in this way allowed him to not worry too much about the world building and get right to the gist of the story. I’m very interested in what the reactions to this story will be. Personally, I really liked it. It’s not anything groundbreaking, and is a side trip in the story, and not necessarily a needed one. Yet, what it does is add depth to the overall tale, showing that the underlining conspiracy is complex, but well planned, and that it’s impact will affect all aspects of Scalzi’s universe. Birnbaum isn’t a likable character, but he is a relatable one, and while he’s being manipulated by forces well beyond him, it’s something he knows going in and accepts it. I liked the whole feel of the story, and felt Scalzi packed a lot into a lean 49 minutes. I doubt it will be my favorite episode of the series, but it’s one with a purpose that is well served.

You would think that a Episode about a radio talk show host would be a real moment for William Dufris to shine, yet, this episode wasn’t much of a challenge for the veteran narrator. I think that Dufris excels in the untraditional story, whether it be a weird alien culture, or unique story structure. This story was pretty straight forward, and the actual "on air" time to Birnbaum was minimal. The highlight of the episode was Birnbaum’s interaction with a conspiracy laden listener, who is run over by the bombastic Radio Talk Show host with an agenda. It was the purest moment of levity in the episode, and a lot of fun to listen to. So, I for one hope that next week’s episode, Tales From the Clarke, has some strange Cactus Aliens, or is told in Iambic Pentameter or something like that to allow Dufris to show us his chops as a narrator,





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.