The Human Division #6: The Back Channel, John Scalzi

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice.
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February 20, 2013

The Human Division #6: The Back Channel, John Scalzi

The Human Division #6: The Back Channel, John Scalzi

It’s time for this week’s episode of The Human Division! Yay!

I am really enjoying the serial format–so much so that I’m actively looking for other serials to read (and possibly review)–I’d love to get some recommendations, so if you have some, lay them on me!

So this episode is called “The Back Channel” and I am twelve. And now that that’s out of the way, what’s this one about?

Well, it becomes clear from the first page that this week we’re going to get a closer look at the Conclave and that’s a good thing, since they’ve mostly been off-page up until this point and as a major player in this story, it’s about time we get a look at things from their point of view.

We get some initial politicking and then General Gau sends his advisor, Hafter Sorvalh, to negotiate with the CDU via some seriously unofficial channels.

One thing I really like about this book is how the aliens aren’t this monolithic and unified front (unlike in Julian May’s books; she’s rigged things so they have to be unified) but that they all have their own agendas. And that they argue about what should happen and that they are, really, just people. Which I think is a really good thing in science fiction–and I think it’s really good considering what happens at the end of this episode, too.

It becomes known to the reader that the Conclave is well aware of the wildcat colonies and that they are receiving clandestine support from the CDU. And, unofficially, the Conclave would like this to stop so they don’t have to start a war because war is just not a good idea and even if the Conclave has superior numbers, they suspect that the humans would be able to get the psychological drop on them.

Rigney, the CDU’s unofficial representative, agrees that the wildcat colonies need to go. And 9 of them won’t be a problem but the tenth? Is a bunch of racists. And not just xenophobic humans, but white supremacist racists. Who have connections and money and a lot of guns.  And as I was reading the denouement, which is quite a lovely and underhanded thing, I kept returning to my favorite Vir moment from Babylon 5:

Vir Cotto is almost as awesome as Ivanova.

“I’d like to live just long enough to be there when they cut off your head and stick it on a pike as a warning to the next ten generations that some favors come with too high a price. I would look up into your lifeless eyes and wave like this. Can you and your associates arrange that for me, Mr. Morden?”

Because that’s basically what happens. And hey, couldn’t happen to a nicer group of people.

I feel like I’m back on The Human Division bus after not feeling too terribly enthusiastic about the last couple of episodes (discussions of proper spaceship maintenance and capital investment aside). I’m pretty excited to see what happens next and to see if I’m going to be able to find an appropriate Babylon 5 image every week for the rest of the book, too. Because I totally have my priorities straight.

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2 Comments

  1. Carl V.

    Nice review! I enjoyed this episode very much but it was not my favorite, I think in part because I’m not as fond of political stories but also because I thought the bigoted wildcat colony was a little too much of a stereotype. Still, it is a minor complaint to what was again another good episode. I too am really enjoying this weekly short story format and would like to find some others too.

    • Natalie

      I really liked the peek into the Conclave.

      The bigoted wildcat colony was a stereotype but, well. Stupid racists do have a habit of going off and isolating themselves from the rest of society.

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