The Human Division Listen-A-Long: Episode 7: The Dog King by John Scalzi

1 03 2013

The Dog King by John Scalzi (The Human Division, Episode 7)

Read by William Dufris

Audible Frontiers

Length: 58 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
My Review
Stainless Steel Droppings
Tor.com
The Audiobookaneers

Episode 6: The Back Channel
Stainless Steel Droppings
Tor.com
The Audiobookaneers
My Review

Episode 7: The Dog King
Stainless Steel Droppings
Tor.com

Special Features:

Interview with The Human Division narrator, William Dufris.

It’s Week 7 of The Human Division Listen-A-Long, and of course, John Scalzi, the master of writing stuff, knows his business. Mr. Scalzi understands how to keep his readers happy, and proves it by following these basic author type rules.

  • If you feel your readers are starting to drift off, add a dog.
  • If you feel your tale needs more emotional impact, put said dog in jeopardy.
  • Always merge unlikely earth species together to make awesome aliens, for example Tick Bears. See also Squid Giraffes, Goat Eagles, Gorrilaroos, and The Platypus.

In The Dog King, Lt. Harry Wilson is assigned the task of watching over an Ambassadors dog while she’s mediating an important and tricky treaty on a planet involved in a bloody civil war. While performing his duties, his charge, a Lhasa Apso names Tuffy makes a discovery that puts both the mediation and Tuffy’s life in jeopardy.  While The Dog King seemingly adds little to the underlining mystery of The Human Division and the Old Man’s War universe, it’s a great example of why this serial storytelling works. The Dog King seems like a part of a book that would end up on the editing floor, to be released later as a short story. Yet, the serial nature of the Human Division allows us to experience this little gem, while wondering if maybe this story will actually be important in the final disposition of the tale. The great thing about The Dog King was that most of the twists and turns of the story were predictable, and totally telegraphed, and yet I loved them all the same. Sure, I’m a sucker for a good dog story, but while I think they can be seen as cheap attempts to play on out love of man’s best friend, they also give us bits of insight into the characters. While Harry Wilson could seem a bit callous towards Tuffy, you could also see that in fact he’s just an old softy as he goes out of his way to save the little pooch. Of course, it’s because it served the greater good and not because he LUVS THE PUPPY… WHO’S A GOOD BOY… TUFFY… TUFFY IS A GOOD DOG YES HE IS.

One of the things I notice, as an audiobook listener, is that Scalzi often uses rapid fire dialogue from multiple characters as a way to create tension in a scene. I also noticed, particularly in Redshirts, that this requires a bunch of dialogue tags to help keep things coherent in print, but somewhat painful in audio. This episode had some of these moments, but I was impressed with William Dufris, because he managed to soften the impact of them. Also, my favorite non-dog character of this episode was the Groundkeeper Alien, who had some of the best moments of the entire serial, and they were delivered perfectly by William Dufris, inciting more than one laugh out of me. I really enjoyed The Dog King, and if you didn’t, well, then you probably have no soul or are a cat person, which probably amounts to the same thing.

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The Human Division Listen-A-Long: Episode 6: The Back Channel by John Scalzi

22 02 2013

The Back Channel by John Scalzi (The Human Division, Episode 6)

Read by William Dufris

Audible Frontiers

Length: 47 Mins

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
My Review
Stainless Steel Droppings
Tor.com
The Audiobookaneers

Episode 6: The Back Channel
Stainless Steel Droppings
Tor.com

Special Features:

Interview with The Human Division narrator, William Dufris.

First off, I must get something off my chest. I like and respect John Scalzi as a writer, and find him relatively enjoyable in his social media outlets. That being said, I often decry when an author uses his art as a poorly disguised platform of propaganda for a specific world view. For far too long Scalzi has been spouting his pro-Churro propaganda, and now it his bled into his writing. For Shame, Mr. Scalzi…. now go spend that Churro money on some dignity. Now, that the unpleasantness is over, for this week’s The Human Division we get Aliens and the Conclave. I for one cheered at this. One of the things that really pulled into the Old Man’s War series, as well as some of his other novels, like Agent to the Stars, was Scalzi’s depictions of alien cultures. So, I was excited about a tale from the perspective of The Conclave. In The Back Channel, the leader of The Conclave is attempting to ebb the tide of anti-Human sentiment. When he discovers the existence of a Colonial Defense presence on unauthorized human Wildcat colonies, he sends his agent Hafte Sorvalh to establish a contact with the CDF, to try to prevent the break out of war. I really enjoyed this episode, but mostly because it fit nicely into my bread basket. I always enjoy the backroom dealings and subtle manipulations of political subplots, and felt The Back Channel was cleverly done. It also gave us a nice moment where some not so nice people were given their comeuppance, and that’s always nice. I was slightly disappointed in the lack of detail in some of the alien species, but being that this really wasn’t the point of the episode I can hardly complain. There was just the right amount of humorous touches within the tale to keep me feeling good. My major concern with the tale is it seems to wrap up some subplots within the story a bit too cleanly, and I worry that it removes some level of tensions without adding anything in its place. Of course, being this is a serial novel, that’s always what next week is for. Overall, I think if you are a reader who enjoys political maneuverings in your scifi, you will enjoy this episode, and for everyone else, it’s a nice but forgettable side trip in a rich tale.

When I read the synopsis, I was like OMG SCALZI"S GONNA MAKE DUFRIS TALK ALL CRAZY ALIEN!!! What I didn’t expect was a nice exotic feel, with a soft, sardonic humor in his characterization of Hafte Sorvahl. Dufris adds a textured richness to this episode that was nice. I especially enjoyed the light hearted tone Dufris used when Sorvahl were dealing with the racist wildcatters. It was the perfect delivery, full of humor and just the right counterbalance to the obnoxious scumbags she was dealing with. I think this is one of those episodes that may actually come off better in audio then in print, so to all you enjoyers of the Print Scalzi, +1 to us Audiobook Scalzis.





Narrative Overtones: My Interview with William Dufris

15 02 2013

Today, as a special treat to all of you The Human Division fans, as well as audiobooks in general, veteran actor, voice over artist, and narrator William Dufris, voice of John Scalzi’s The Human Division and over 300 other audiobooks answers a few of my questions. Dufris voice has been heard in movies and TV Series, as well as cartoons like Bob the Builder. William also produces full cast audio movies with his company The AudioComic Company. I am very excited to have him stop by my little corner of the internet today.

Bob: First, off William. I want to thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. I’ve been an avid audiobook listener for nearly 8 years and have probably listened to over 1,000 audiobooks and, for me at least, you are one of the iconic voices of the medium, and one I can trust to tell me a good story. So, let’s start out with an easy question, how did you get started in the industry?

William:Thanks, Bob!

Actually, my start in the world audio work was based on constant rejection. I relocated to London with my future 1st wife in the late 80’s, and immediately began seeking acting work. However, to my dismay, I discovered the old adage, “It’s not what you know, but rather who you know” that will get you work rang quite true there. Producers would hire English actors with passable American accents, with whom they’d worked before, rather than an untried and untested nobody like me.

However, I persevered, and put together a clown show, through which I acquired my Equity card, followed by my first agent, who sent me to a BBC Radio Play audition… which I got. There, I met a number of fellow North American actors, who were all extremely generous in pointing me to potential voice work opportunities. Thus, I stared doing cartoon/film dubbing, language tapes, more BBC plays and audiobooks.

Bob: You seem to narrate within every genre, from memoirs to fantasy, taking on authors as diverse as Mark Twain, Mark Halperin, Richard K. Morgan and Dashiell Hammett. Do you have a favorite genre, or style of book to read?

William: Fortunately, I’ve always been an avid reader (under the covers with a flashlight, as a kid – always carrying TWO paperbacks, as an adult, just in case the first was finished before I returned home), and so I can’t confess to an all-time favorite genre. As long as there’s a good story, I can be easily hooked.

My absolute favorite narrations were: Mark Twain’s HUCKLEBERRY FINN, Dashiell Hammett’s THE MALTESE FALCON and Michael Rubens’ THE SHERIFF OF YRNAMEER.

Bob: My very first experience with one of your narrations was with John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, now years later you have returned to that universe with The Human Division serial. What was you initial reaction when Audible approached you with the concept of a serial audiobook?

William: I was thrilled. He’s a wonderfully talented writer, who weaves plot and character in a delightfully convoluted fashion. He’s not a waster, either. He’ll drop a casual reference to something seemingly mundane, or other, and will return to it in such a clever way later on (nope… no examples. Ya just gotta discover it for yourself!). As a narrator, he really keeps you on your toes.

Bob: Was the recording experience handled any differently for this project? Was there any specific challenges with this project due to its serialized nature that you haven’t experienced when recording a more traditional audiobook?

William: Basically, I received most of the files in one go, but was instructed to upload each chapter separately, and within an established schedule. The only trick is to maintain a flow, as other work demands attention in between these uploads. Fortunately, the chapters themselves, although linked, are nearly complete stories in and of themselves.

Bob: How do you typically prepare when recording an audiobook? Do you have a specific method for deciding on particular character voices, or is it more of an organic process?

William: Definitely organic. As an actor, I sorta ‘see’ the characters in a ‘filmic’ way. As I prep material, prior to recording, I ‘hear’ each character as I read along. Yup, Bill Dufris hears voices in his head!

Bob: One of the reasons I enjoy your work in particular in Speculative Fiction, is you seem to put a lot of thought not just into the voices of non-human species, but in individual characters within the species. One of my favorite audiobook series you work on is Taylor Anderson’s Destroyermen series, which host a ton of characters, including humans, the lizard like Grik, and our favorite cat monkeys (or us it monkey cats) the Lemurians. When you are in the recording studio, how do you keep all these characters straight?

William: I love Taylor’s DESTROYERMEN series. What a world he’s created! Anyway, for the most part all the characters are now pretty much in my head. However, when I began prepping the first of the series, I notated each character on a sheet, along with any description provided by the author. From that, I decided on each particular voice. Most of the choices for the humans, though, comes from ‘attitude’, as opposed to a ‘sound’, as opposed to the obvious choices made for Grik and Lemurians.

Bob: What would you say is the strangest creature or character you had to voice?

William: Sheesh, there have been so many aliens, monsters, animals and weird humans passing through my mouth, I couldn’t really say. One of my more enjoyable ones was a character named Elvis – a blue, flatulent penguin (Uuuuuuurrrrrrrppppp… “Better out than in!”), created for a cartoon series entitled ROCKY & THE DODOS.

Bob: I recently discovered that you recorded a version of one of my all time favorite novels, Replay by Ken Grimwood and this is just one of over 300 audiobooks you have recorded in your career. Looking back over your extensive catalogue is there one novel or series that stands out as special to you? Is there an author or book that you wish you had the chance to record?

William: Well, I’ve already mentioned a few earlier on. As for authors, I would love to narrate Ray Bradbury. His work captivated me as a kid, and still wields a hold over me. I’d also love to do Thomas Tryon’s HARVEST HOME, a creepy tale set in my native New England, produced as a clunky TV movie w/Bette Davis back in the 70s. Annnnnnnndddd THE PRINCESS BRIDE, which has only been recorded as an abridgement by Carl Reiner.
Sooooooooo…

Bob: Not only do you narrate books, but you also produce audiobooks for you company The AudioComics Company.  I’ll be honest, I have always been a little skeptical of the Full Cast Audio Drama, yet, recently I realized that many of the reasons I have avoided them are the same reasons I scold others for dismissing audiobooks. So, I’m going to give you a chance to sell me on Audio Comics, as well as tell me a bit about what goes in to producing them.

William: Audio Movies are my passion. These are audio theatre pieces that are recorded with a full complement of actors, and underscored with music and sfx. Essentially, they’re akin to listening to a movie with your eyes closed, and with your imaginations (or “mind’s eye”) more fully engaged.
A number of my earlier productions , HORRORSCOPES, are adaptations of classic and contemporary horror/sci-fi pieces. Our company, AudioComics (<www.audiocomicscompany.com> plenty of samples), has been producing adaptations of new and popular graphic novel titles, such as TITANIUM RAIN, HONEY WEST, STARSTRUCK and THE BATSONS. We have a number of other titles slated for the next few years, including BAD PLANET, created by actor/writer Tom Jane (HUNG / THE PUNISHER).

C’mon now, head on over to the site and give the samples a listen!!! You know you wanna.

Bob: You have now narrated audiobooks from some of my favorite authors including John Scalzi, Jonathon Maberry, William Landay, and Taylor Anderson. I know some of these authors like Maberry and Scalzi are big supporters of audiobooks, but I also find many authors take a very hands off approach to the audio versions of their novels. Do you enjoy working with an author when producing an audiobook and interacting with them about characters and pronunciations? Are there any authors who you have become fans of through working on their audiobooks?

William: I’ve actually contacted a number of authors, whose titles demanded answers about character(s), and all were very generous and helpful. They all seemed quite excited about their work being produced for audio, although it was usually me that had to stem my giddiness at chatting with a real live writer-type fella!


As for being a fan… the DESTROYERMEN series is one I’d hate to see close to a finish.

Bob”: The Human Division seems to be introducing a new audience to audio. Do you think that this project will open the door to more experimentation with new ways of delivering audio?

William: Good ol’ Audible are always looking for ways to grab new listeners. I’m sure they’ll come up with more!

Bob: Finally, are there any new projects that you are working on that you are particularly excited about?

William: Just the aforementioned audio movies we’ve got scheduled for the not-so-distant future. Keep your ears open!

Check out Williams titles on Audible.com, including the latest The Human Division episode. Visits William Dufris Website, Mind’s Eye Productions.





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.





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.





Audiobook Review: The B-Team: The Human Division, Episode 1 by John Scalzi

17 01 2013

The B-Team (The Human Division, Episode 1) by John Scalzi

Read by William Dufris

Audible Frontiers

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.

Grade: A-

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.