Human Division #3: We Only Need the Heads, John Scalzi

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice.
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January 30, 2013

Human Division #3: We Only Need the Heads, John Scalzi

Human Division #3: We Only Need the Heads, John Scalzi

“We Only Need the Heads”, the third installment in John Scalzi’s The Human Division serial novel came out yesterday. This one is pretty short, too–not as short as “Walk the Plank”, but I was definitely able to finish it while waiting for my work computer to boot up and in the last 10 minutes of my work day (when I really didn’t want to start anything new).

As with last week’s post, here there be spoilers.

This episode builds upon the previous two and brings the two plots a bit closer together–we have basically two interconnected plots here, one the negotiations with the Bula being headed up by Ambassador Abumwe and the other a secret rescue of a wildcat colony with Harry Wilson aboard the CDF ship. Both these names should be familiar from the first installment.

Naturally, nothing is quite what it seems–the wildcat colony is the one we met last week except this time no one’s alive. They’ve all been eaten. Oops.

Except, well, things don’t quite add up. In addition to pieces being missing from the corpses, the communications center and all the computers within it have been destroyed–and then Wilson sees a data chip inside a corpse’s stomach.

Wilson has that corpse and another brought up to his ship and has their brains scanned–what he finds is that the colony may not have been so wildcat after all and that there are things going on way above Wilson’s pay grade.  He sends this information back to Schmidt, who is on Abumwe’s team and the CDF gives her the scoop on what’s going on–and then is forced to lie to the Bula at the end of their negotiations which leads to…an unanticipated and kind of gross result (I’m just glad Gwyneth Paltrow isn’t in this book).

This episode is just as entertaining as the first two and raises the stakes by bringing in an alien race with a claim on the planet where New Seattle was.  I really enjoyed the way Scalzi carries the appendix imagery throughout the piece. I also enjoyed Private Albert Jefferson quite a bit and hope he survives. Poor noob soldier.

The complications added on are interesting and well, make this a more complex work with more things for the reader to juggle in their head as they read. We have lots of different factions now, each with their own agendas–and there’s smartypants Harry Wilson right in the middle of things. Who knows what his agenda is–if he has one beyond not getting his ass shot off.

While this episode does, more or less stand alone, it makes a lot more sense when taken in context of the overall story and I expect that will be more and more true as the story progresses.  I thought I was really looking forward to this week’s installment–I am looking forward even more to next week’s! I’m almost to a point where I want to start speculating about what’s going to happen, but I feel like I need a little bit more data for that. Maybe after next week (is anyone running a weekly speculation thread that I can crash?),

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2 Comments

  1. Carl V.

    I’m not sure anyone is doing a weekly speculation blog but you could probably easily do so on the Tor dot com weekly discussion posts.

    I loved this episode. I was on the edge of my seat. You could see the end scene coming and yet it did not stop it from being intense. In fact I think it was very purposeful that the reader knew what was going to happen before the Ambassador did and that just heightened the intensity. Very much looking forward to next week’s episode and wonder if we are going to get teased away again from the Harry Wilson storyline to another one before we return in a future episode.

    • Natalie

      Yeah, the minute they couldn’t find the head that went with the body, I knew that it was going to end up in a box–but the mystery was how it was going to play out in the negotiations. And we have at least three factions now, which should provide the opportunity for lots of intrigue and complexity.

      I am hoping for a bit more character development on the Harry Wilson front. What differentiates him from all the other smart-ass Scalzi protagonists?

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