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 3: We Only Need The Heads by John Scalzi

1 02 2013

The Human Division Episode 3: We Only Need The Heads by John Scalzi

Read by William Dufris

Audible Frontiers

Length: 1 Hr 6 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Grade: A-

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
Stainless Steel Droppings
Tor.com

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.