The Human Division #7: The Dog King, John Scalzi

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice.

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February 27, 2013

The Human Division #7: The Dog King, John Scalzi

The Human Division #7: The Dog King, John Scalzi

Back to the A plot for this this week’s episode of The Human Division, “The Dog King”.

Except it doesn’t really feel like much of an A plot story. The set up is fairly simple: Harry Wilson gets sent on yet another diplomatic mission, this time for a spot of dogsitting while the ambassador tries to negotiate a peaceful end to a multi-century long civil war.

While Harry’s watching the dog there are, of course, complications. This time in the form of a giant carnivorous plant and an underground cave system–which, of course, holds the clue to what happened to the Icheloe’s missing king.

There are some new bits of information but not a whole lot and I honestly am having a hard time seeing how this fits in with the rest of the story so far. It doesn’t really seem to fit–unless the Icheloe have a larger role to come, of course. Which they might. I guess we’ll see.

This was pretty entertaining and I think that if I weren’t expecting to see more explicit movement in the main plot that I’d be really happy with it–so part of my dissatisfaction is definitely with me and not with the text (wow, it’s really freeing to be able to say that). The story is definitely well-written and enjoyable on its own, it just doesn’t seem to be lifting its weight in the overall story arc unless there’s something really subtle going on that I’m missing.

Things I liked about the story: the giant carnivorous plants, the gardener and his completely inappropriate curiosity–it was very Gregor Vorbarra-ish in its “let’s see what happens”-ness, and Tuffy the dog. I liked the not fully explored caverns under the planet and I liked the way they played a critical role in the plot. I liked the way Wilson and company try so very hard not to offend their hosts.

So to sum up: amusing short story, unsure how this fits into the bigger picture. And at the halfway point, I would have expected to see something more substantive here.

I’m definitely going to have to re-read the whole novel after all the parts have been published.

Lennier has a hard head, just like Harry Wilson

Lennier has a hard head.
Just like Harry Wilson.

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  1. Carl V.

    I said some similar things in my review after reading it. Had it just been a random OMW short story that Scalzi cranked out I think I would have been more opened to it and been able to just go with it. As the mid point of the book I found it jarring in its silliness, in large part because it is the A storyline. It sounds like, according to Scalzi’s post, that things will get heavy next week and I’m looking forward to that. I reserved complete judgment on this one until the story is over but taken as it is now it has been my least favorite of the episodes.

  2. Paul

    Here’s how I think the story fits into the larger arc as a whole.

    [Spoilers for “The Dog King” and “A Voice in the Wilderness” ahead]

    In “The Dog King,” there’s a throwaway line about how the Conclave won’t allow any planet to join if they don’t have a unified planetary government. At the end of “A Voice in the Wilderness,” one of the last things the assassin says to Birnbaum is that he’s part of a secret cabal to bring about a one-world government.
    We know from “The Back Channel” that General Gau would not be averse to the Earth joining the Conclave. Now with “The Dog King,” the reader knows that the big obstacle to Earth joining the Conclave is its lack of a unified planetary government. In other words, “The Dog King” sets up “A Voice in the Wilderness” in the context of the larger story arc, plus (to me) setting it up for a later payoff down the road.

    Plus Harry’s line about the ending of “Old Yeller” is one of the best in the story.


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