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Book Review: The Human Division

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the read-all-about-it dept.

Books 115

stoolpigeon writes "How would humanity fare in a universe filled with other sentient races and the technology for all of them to interact? If human history is any indication there would be conflict. That conflict would be between many groups that saw themselves as people and the rest as monsters. What that universe and those interactions would look like is a key theme in John Scalzi's Old Man's War series. The latest offering, The Human Division continues to dig deeply into a wide range of questions about what makes someone a person and how people treat one another at their best and worst." Keep reading for the rest of stoolpigeon's review.It's been five years since the publication of the last book in John Scalzi's Old Man's War series, Zoe's Tale. That entry saw Scalzi explore new ground with his first juvenile. The newest Old Man's War book is another first for Scalzi. The Human Division was released on the web as a serial prior to being published in a complete volume in hardback and as an e-book. This was planned from the start and made for an interesting experience as those who chose to purchase chapters as they came out worked through the book together.

I have to admit I skipped out on reading the chapters as they were released. It seemed like a fun thing to do but I wanted to see what it would all cost in the end. Scalzi repeatedly said that the fully compiled story would cost the same as buying it in parts but I wanted to see how it would play out. So I avoided on-line discussion of the chapters as they were released and when it became available about a week ago I purchased the e-book version. The price was basically the same, though buying the complete book was a couple bucks cheaper and did include some extra content. I'd already read a big part of that extra content as it had been available earlier via Tor.com.

From what I've read on Scalzi's blog, his experiment with serializing the book was a success from a business standpoint. And I got the impression that most readers enjoyed the process as they went along, though I did try to avoid most discussion as it was happening to avoid spoilers. Publishing stories in this manner has been around for a long time, but I think the results may encourage others to do the same and we may see more of this in the near future. Scalzi has already agreed to do season 2, or the next book, in the same fashion.

Reading it all at once, I could still appreciate that it was written this way. Each chapter is self contained to a large extent. There are glimpses into the lives of various characters, changes of setting, and some wonderful storytelling. It all fits together and is certainly a novel, not a collection of short stories, but much more episodic. I thought it allowed for a nice amount of flexibility in the flow of the story and I appreciated the end result even if I got it all in one package at the end.

Aside from interest in the method of delivery, I was very excited to read The Human Division for the story itself. I hadn't enjoyed Scalzi's last sci-fi outing, Redshirts and was really looking forward to his return to my favorite universe he has created. The Old Man's War series, fitting into the military sci-fi genre, has of course brought many comparisons between Scalzi and Heinlein. I imagine part of the enjoyment I get from Scalzi's books are that he does have some commonality with R.A.H. who is one of my favorite authors. But really Scalzi does have his own voice, style and message and this comes more and more to the fore as the series moves on. The Human Division has all of the excitement, action and wit that makes reading Scalzi so fun. I think his ability to put together strong dialogue is unparalleled. And it is still military sci-fi, with our main protagonist being a soldier. Yet the world is so much more complex and rich than a simple kill or be killed scenario that moves from one point of action to the next. And even what would be slow points in a book that used action to carry a lack of plot, are full of rewarding interaction. We get to know and care about characters, lose some all too quickly and feel a sense of real people engaging one another as opposed to cardboard cutouts.

I wouldn't put the Old Man's War books into the hard sci-fi category but they aren't just fantasy dropped into space either. Scalzi obviously gives some thought to settings and technology and so I find it easy to overlook some of the issues that are skipped over for the sake of story. In the end it is entertainment and interesting questions about people and society that draw me to these books, more than a desire to learn more about physics or astronomy.

I did read follow on comments after the series was complete and noticed a few people who felt that there was a cliffhanger ending. While the book does end with some larger scale issues unresolved, I think that to call it a cliffhanger is not really accurate. I found the ending to be an appropriate point of closure, to step away from the characters. As I would tell me kids if they have to pause a movie, it was a "good place to stop." If we followed everyone to the completion of all that was going on in their lives, the book would be immense. As it is, it is already a solid read. It might feel a bit abrupt to some as it does set up some questions that are left unanswered that normally would be in a more formulaic treatment, but I'm glad Scalzi left them rather than a hasty or awkward finish.

As I mentioned, there are two extra stories in the newly published compilation of all 13 chapters. They are After the Coup and Hafte Sorvalh Eats a Churro and Speaks to the Youth of Today and both can be downloaded for free at Tor.com. After the Coup actually takes place prior to the events in The Human Division and was originally made available earlier. It can be read before or after the book. Hafte Sorvalh Eats a Churro and Speaks to the Youth of Today is shorter but very sweet and let me finish the book with a smile.

I've enjoyed every entry in the OMW series and I am very pleased to see it continue strongly. While reading the previous books is not necessary to enjoying this one, I can't imagine not wanting to read the other four. If someone is unsure, feel free to start with The Human Division and if they enjoy it, jumping back and reading the others will still be very enjoyable. There will be some spoilers but I don't think they'll take much away from Scalzi's real strengths in these stories, which are much more driven by character than plot. I think Scalzi will stand as a sci-fi great for some time to come and it is a lot of fun to get to watch it happen rather than just idolizing the masters of the past.

You can purchase The Human Division from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews (sci-fi included) -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Many classes of non-human (1)

wdef (1050680) | about a year and a half ago | (#43853349)

We regularly demonize many classes of people and demote to non-human. Pedophiles. terrorists, monsters-du-jour, you name it. Before those is was gays, blacks, various ethnicities, you name it. Fashions come, fashions go.

Re:Many classes of non-human (4, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#43853511)

Pedophiles. terrorists, monsters-du-jour, you name it.

I'm surprised you decided to omit the worst group of offensive subhumans from your list: people who don't put the return type of a C function onto a separate line!

Re:Many classes of non-human (2)

joeyadams (1724334) | about a year and a half ago | (#43853543)

Good
luck trying to find this post later.

Re:Many classes of non-human (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854535)

/sarcasm ... :-)

void
fuck_you()
{
}

I jest, I jest.

Re:Many classes of non-human (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43854693)

put the return type of a C function onto a separate line!

I do this. But I pretty much do this because Exuberant Ctags has an easier time parsing the file that way... I didn't think this was a big deal, and I didn't think failing to do this would be to join "the worst group of offensive subhumans".

I know you're mostly joking here, but what is the deal? Why do you feel so strongly about this?

Re:Many classes of non-human (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about a year and a half ago | (#43855017)

void
main(int argc, char *argv[])

happy now?

Re:Many classes of non-human (1)

RedHackTea (2779623) | about a year and a half ago | (#43855507)

This looks terrible. Why would anyone do this? I could understand for template functions and/or the throw declarations...but this? With tons of function declarations, it's just even uglier.

Re:Many classes of non-human (1)

AceJohnny (253840) | about a year and a half ago | (#43855595)

It isn't useful on such a trivial example, but add in pointers...

int * func(char* a, char* b);
vs
int *
func (char *a,
      char *b);

(or better elaborate examples I can't be assed to come up with for a /. comment) ... and the milliseconds and frustration saved in parsing function declarations starts to add up

Re:Many classes of non-human (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about a year and a half ago | (#43856123)

The jab at OP was the void part. It make baby Jesus cry.

Re:Many classes of non-human (1)

vikingpower (768921) | about a year and a half ago | (#43858427)

There are worse less-than-humans: developers who refuse to put a blank space between parentheses and the first/last word ( like in "(new Hashtable(89))" ). My holy war against them has been going on for 19 years now.

Re:Many classes of non-human (1)

Common Joe (2807741) | about a year and a half ago | (#43858703)

I noticed that politicians were omitted from both of your lists and I applaud both of you. It is a common mistake for many people to add politicians to lists such as these, but it is a proven fact that politicians were never human to begin with.

Re:Many classes of non-human (1)

Swampash (1131503) | about a year and a half ago | (#43858841)

I'm surprised you decided to omit the worst group of offensive subhumans from your list: people who don't put the something something something!

You misspelled "Glassholes".

Re:Many classes of non-human (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43853715)

You forgot two:

Democrats and Republicans.

Re:Many classes of non-human (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43853757)

Or pretty much anyone who lives far away in a different culture for that matter. The people who make all of our stuff are just cogs in a factory according to the vast majority of the affluent world.

Re:Many classes of non-human (5, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854113)

Or pretty much anyone who lives far away in a different culture for that matter.

Not really. I have traveled widely, and found that people are almost always open and friendly toward strangers. They reserve their worst hatred for their neighbors. Can you tell a Hutu from a Tutsi? Or a Pashtun from a Tajik? Or a Serb from a Croat? Yet they hate each other with murderous intensity. During WWII, even the Nazi SS often complained about the excessive brutality of their Croatian Ustase allies toward the Serb population.

Re:Many classes of non-human (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854163)

Seems to me that sentiment is pretty much only present ONLY when one of the parties goes out of its way to limit contact and the free exchange of ideas and trade.

Re:Many classes of non-human (2)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854119)

We regularly demonize many classes of people and demote to non-human. Pedophiles. terrorists, monsters-du-jour, you name it. Before those is was gays, blacks, various ethnicities, you name it. Fashions come, fashions go.

So what is your point?

Every species exhibits conflict and turmoil among its own members, whereas violence between species is almost solely one of predator/prey relationship. If you don't eat them, and they don't eat you, there is almost never interspecies conflict. The greater the physical differences, the less likely any conflict.

This puts into doubt the whole premise of the book, not to mention a large part of the SiFi genre which all seem to claim there would be immediate war and planetary conquest upon the meeting of alien species.

Most of this is utter nonsense, based on how we treat others of our own species, not how we treat other species.
I would wager any meeting between space faring species would be peaceful.

In fact any two species who can agree on two simple rules, (1) The other is not Food, (2) the other's planet is not your planet, would almost inevitably lead to peaceful co-existence and cooperation, and, most likely, a good deal of fascination with each other.
   

Re:Many classes of non-human (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43854515)

Youre trying to use rational arguments rooted in biological behavior when talking to a bunch of "arent I a deep thinker" navel gazing social science types.

Its not going to work - if the social sciences were rational, they would be physical sciences.

Re:Many classes of non-human (1)

yndrd1984 (730475) | about a year and a half ago | (#43855369)

Most of this is utter nonsense, based on how we treat others of our own species, not how we treat other species.

The endangered species list would like a word with you.

If you don't eat them, and they don't eat you, there is almost never interspecies conflict. The greater the physical differences, the less likely any conflict.

Good point, but I think technology makes so many new things exploitable that it makes those physical differences vastly less important. Rabbits aren't in competition with blackberry bushes or songbirds now, but give the rabbits the right tools and they might start clearing out the berry bushes to grow more vegetables and spraying insecticide to keep the caterpillars down, and suddenly even the robins are effectively on the losing end of a conflict.

Given that even with non-interstellar tech we use almost anything we can get our hands on for some purpose I have to assume that there's going to be something that we and any other given technological species both want. Maybe most other species will be eager for mutually-beneficial trade, but assuming that it always comes out that way seems optimistic.

Re:Many classes of non-human (1)

xevioso (598654) | about a year and a half ago | (#43855397)

This is correct. As I posted below, conflict, even among humans, is rooted almost solely over 1) Resources, 2) Religion, and 3) Unchecked Ambition.

Your post deals mostly with #1.

If we run up against a species that believes we need to be converted to their religious beliefs, then we might have a problem, but I don't think that will happen.

The real problem in your argument is what about #3: Unchecked Ambition. That is to say, what if we run up against a galactic version of Hitler or Alexander the great? Someone or something that wants to subjugate us merely because it can? Because it is the alpha male of it's race and believes, irrationally, that it has a right to dominate the galaxy?

You don't much hear of speculative fiction folks discussing this simple and all-too-real possibility.

Interference Competition (1)

Guppy (12314) | about a year and a half ago | (#43856171)

Every species exhibits conflict and turmoil among its own members, whereas violence between species is almost solely one of predator/prey relationship. If you don't eat them, and they don't eat you, there is almost never interspecies conflict. The greater the physical differences, the less likely any conflict.

Actually, this is not true. Two relatively well-matched species of predators may ignore each other, as there is substantial risk of injury to both parties. Two grossly mis-matched species may also ignore each other, if there is little overlap in ecological niche.

However, there is an intermediate zone of size difference in which one species of predator is clearly stronger, yet there is still some overlap in prey consumed by both species. In such cases, the stronger predator will often harass and kill the weaker species. What distinguishes this type of predator-predator interference competition from predator-prey relationship, is that the stronger predator will kill the weaker one even when not hungry, or without feeding on the carcass afterwards.

Re:Many classes of non-human (1)

MichaelPenne (605299) | about a year and a half ago | (#43856307)

Lots of Scalzi's aliens eat humans. Some find us delicious.

Most of the 'sensible' interplanetary war stories start with cheap, easy FTL and fewish habitable planets. In which case conflict is likely for species that can use the same planets. Of course its a HUGE leap to cheap easy FTL.

One I remember that didn't have cheap/easy FTL had a species flee their dying home planet on a slower than light colony ship, and end up here. They wanted to come down and party with us, and we didn't want them to.

Politics, religion, evolution, ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about a year and a half ago | (#43857797)

Every species exhibits conflict and turmoil among its own members, whereas violence between species is almost solely one of predator/prey relationship. If you don't eat them, and they don't eat you, there is almost never interspecies conflict. The greater the physical differences, the less likely any conflict.

This puts into doubt the whole premise of the book ...

You are assuming the behavior of intelligent technological species would mirror that of less developed species. When you add the potential of politics and religion to the former you get some powerful new variables.

Scalzi's books do indeed address these. One species in particular seems to be entirely motivated by religion in its extremely aggressive warlike behavior. IIRC another attacks humans merely to cement a relationship with a 3rd party, human would otherwise have been of little interest to them.

Another assumption that you are making is that species interaction within an ecosystem would mirror interaction between species from different ecosystems. Within an ecosystem species may have been subject to evolutionary pressures that fostered non-competing specialization (one eats grass, the other leaves ?), symbiotic relationships, etc. Species evolved in different ecosystems, two planets being a quite extreme example of such, would not have experienced such pressures and may be in conflict for the same resource.

In Scalzi's universe the species that are in conflict are largely in conflict much like various human "tribes". They are fighting over scarce resources. The premise is that what these species consider habitable planets largely overlaps and that such planets are exceptionally rare. IIRC there is a rare species that occupies an ecological niche (aquatic) that doesn't really compete with most other species (terrestrial), and therefore "shares" some planets where politics and religion do not prohibit such sharing.

Re:Many classes of non-human (1)

ultranova (717540) | about a year and a half ago | (#43858591)

Every species exhibits conflict and turmoil among its own members, whereas violence between species is almost solely one of predator/prey relationship. If you don't eat them, and they don't eat you, there is almost never interspecies conflict. The greater the physical differences, the less likely any conflict.

Yes. Now ask yourself why. And the answer, of course, is obvious: members of the same species compete on resources (mates, food, nests), and differences between species make them less likely to compete for the same resources.

But it's different for technological civilizations. No matter their form, they'll want energy and matter to build tehnological items. We are going to either merge or compete.

In fact any two species who can agree on two simple rules, (1) The other is not Food, (2) the other's planet is not your planet,

It's the second point that's a potential problem. Planets are a source of raw materials, and that makes them valuable.

would almost inevitably lead to peaceful co-existence and cooperation, and, most likely, a good deal of fascination with each other.

That's one way of describing the material that will inevitably flood the Internet, I guess.

Re:Many classes of non-human (3, Insightful)

swb (14022) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854413)

I'm pretty sure that people who demonized gays, blacks, Jews, etc also demonized pedophiles and people who fit the functional definition of terrorist ("kills innocent civilians to pursue political agenda") in whatever time period they lived in.

The implication of your post indicates that as we progress we will advance our thinking such that we no longer demonize grown men who cornhole little boys or people that blow up things in public in order to scare people.

I'm fairly certain that this is not an advancement of humanity but instead a sure sign of its decline.

Re:Many classes of non-human (1)

yndrd1984 (730475) | about a year and a half ago | (#43855031)

The implication of your post indicates that as we progress we will advance our thinking such that we no longer demonize grown men who cornhole little boys or people that blow up things in public in order to scare people. I'm fairly certain that this is not an advancement of humanity but instead a sure sign of its decline.

Right. Because there's no way that either of those things could ever be treated as mental illnesses that need to be treated rather than evils that need to be punished.

Re:Many classes of non-human (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43856849)

Was going to say exactly this. And also, the "I'm fairly certain that this is not an advancement of humanity but instead a sure sign of its decline." line would have been used by people in the past (and possibly present) in regards to tolerence of gays, blacks, jews, etc.

Re:Many classes of non-human (1)

Jake Dodgie (53046) | about a year and a half ago | (#43857583)

I don't have a problem with them being treated as mental illness, but then I think the cure for such illnesses should be high speed injection of lead to the head, it also comes with the added bonus of no relapse by the subject.

Re:Many classes of non-human (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43858247)

Are you saying being black or jewish is a mental disease that can be treated?

And with what, pray tell - shock therapy?

Re:Many classes of non-human (2)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854495)

We regularly demonize many classes of people and demote to non-human. Pedophiles. terrorists, monsters-du-jour, you name it. Before those is was gays, blacks, various ethnicities, you name it. Fashions come, fashions go.

Those two sets are distinct - the first group are people who have actively done something to harm others. The second set are simply groups of people that other groups of people dislike - nothing more than tribalism.

I'll be the first to say that the labels of pedophile and terrorist are way too broadly applied but misuse of labels is generally just a form of tribalism while correct use of labels is simply descriptive.

Re:Many classes of non-human (3, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854679)

Extremely insightful.

The fact is, there will be a time when new monsters will arise while other will be given special care and pitied as formerly discriminated groups currently are.

But I think by examining what people would do in a multi-life-form environment will show quite clearly why all of this "diversity" push is actually quite counter-productive. To put things in a "fair and equal" context, such integration invariably requires that everyone give up something of themselves in order to promote a kind of integration which literally removes individuality. And you can demonstrate this in just about any direction you like. One hot topic these days is integration of muslim people with non-muslim people. What does each side have to give up? A lot! What does each side have to tolerate? A lot! And what happens when friction occurs? A lot of terrible things.

Even now, the integration of black people into white society or white people into black society has not progressed as far as people would like to see. I think an important key here is to respect each others need to be different and to be who they want to be. And especially where those differences clash to the point where life and limb are at risk, we need to be mindful of the how and why of it. But more than that, we have to understand certain things about "equal but different." I think we all understand which side has more or less of what. And the "cost" of getting access to more of whatever is wanted may be to give up a part of your identity to participate. For example: A "long haired hippy" will not easily integrate into high society and big business. He would have to give up his long-haired hippy ways (or at least hide them) in order to gain access into this other world of expecations and acceptabilities. We all pretty much accept this. But when it comes to ethnicity, we just don't seem willing to accept it.

By examining this in the context of "earthlings vs extra-terrestrials" I think some things will become more evident about our own troubles here on earth. While we can all pretty much breathe the same air, even this can be an area of contention among different groups of humans. ("OMG! Did you smell that guy?! What has he been EATING?!")

I hope, at some point, we all begin to arrive at the conclusion that we won't all be able to get along all the time and that complete integration is not merely impossible, but attempts to do so are outright dangerous. I hate to put it like this, but if we were to try to integrate with a rattle-snake, the best answer is NOT to and to respect that this creature needs to be avoided and given his own space. It should never be a question of who would win in a fight -- both sides are lethal to one another. Best to just avoid it.

Back in the day when the question of integration was about different kinds of white people, it worked itself out pretty well...eventually... It was not easy. It was painful and often deadly. But the end result and best answer WAS, in fact, to give up a lot of our individual identities and cultures as a cost of admission into the melting pot. But we shouldn't FORCE IT. Let those who want to join us in the melting pot understand that the cost of admission is to give up much of themselves. The melting pot should not change as much as the new entries should and that's the way it has always worked.

So in the "Black entering white society" issue, I seriously love and admire black people who have chosen to get educated and kick ass in the world of work and business. The same is true of other groups which present that challenge. But forcing such issues is demonstrably bad.

nah (1)

zlives (2009072) | about a year and a half ago | (#43853375)

"You can purchase The Human Division from amazon.com." get a free torrent and see if you get deamonized...

I give it 0/10 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43853403)

Not Packt? Not interested.

Don't flatter yourself (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year and a half ago | (#43853527)

Any race with the kind of technology to cross the incredibly vast distances of interstellar space wouldn't have any reason to give a rat's ass about our dumb puny asses. And if there was a conflict, it would be over pretty damned fast.

Re:Don't flatter yourself (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43853581)

Those vast distances are probably the only reason we haven't been wiped out. Humans are very annoying.

Re:Don't flatter yourself (1)

sinij (911942) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854007)

>>> the only reason we haven't been wiped out.

  Yet.
 
  I can only imagine that proper response for blasting all these early 60s sitcoms into universe would be accelerating a very big rock our way. The more annoyed they get, the more energy they put into accelerating the rock.

Re:Don't flatter yourself (1)

dan828 (753380) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854213)

...and just imagine the response when the current wave of reality TV hits them. The Kardashians alone would warrant extermination.

Re:Don't flatter yourself (1)

vikingpower (768921) | about a year and a half ago | (#43858485)

Ach mein Gott, where are the mod points when you need them ?

Re:Don't flatter yourself (1)

erroneus (253617) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854691)

I will flatter myself. There is, apparently, something quite interesting about our asses which drive them to travel great distances in order to probe them.

Re:Don't flatter yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43853941)

And vice-versa. If we ever get "over there", it would be the same thing in reverse.

The chance of something like a Klingon/Romulan/Human balance of power due to roughly equivalent technology is pretty much zero - even if you limit it to two races.

Re:Don't flatter yourself (1)

sinij (911942) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854069)

The chance of technological balance increases if you consider that technology advances might hit hard diminishing returns for various reasons. One example would be from Star Trek - if you can use replicators to instantly manufacture anything and holodeck to believably simulate any experience... then why would you fly to other stars (or continue innovating)?! I personally would spend all my time in the holodeck, and reality can go **** itself.

Re:Don't flatter yourself (1)

lennier (44736) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854857)

if you can use replicators to instantly manufacture anything and holodeck to believably simulate any experience... then why would you fly to other stars (or continue innovating)?! I personally would spend all my time in the holodeck, and reality can go **** itself.

And that's how the Borg got started. It's cheaper and more fun to jack your eyepiece directly into the holodeck than mess around with costumes and emitters.

Re:Don't flatter yourself (1)

alen (225700) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854127)

you would have to keep the tech secret and that's hard to do
the limiting factor for the US lead in military tech is our ability to produce it and other nations' lack of that ability. financial and industrial

Re:Don't flatter yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43854029)

Yeah, but sweet, sweet human asses is what they're after

Re:Don't flatter yourself (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854177)

Any race with the kind of technology to cross the incredibly vast distances of interstellar space wouldn't have any reason to give a rat's ass about our dumb puny asses. And if there was a conflict, it would be over pretty damned fast.

Exactly true. And with a vast choice of planets to choose to live on, why would they pick one so over run with contentious inhabitants. Nobody chooses to pitch their tent in an ant hive.

Re:Don't flatter yourself (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43854499)

In Old man's war, it was because Terran type planets are rare, and terraforming is bogglingly expensive. Why make a better world when you can take a better world? Also, most wars tend to be turkey shoots, as in that series, humans are actually the roaving warrior species, with eventually every other social species banding together to contain Homo Sapiens. Humans have a few friends, and do have some diplomatic ties, but for the most part, we are total jerks when it comes to colonization.

Humans have come so close to wiping themselves out and fighting amongst ourselves that we took to interstellar war almost too easily.

Re:Don't flatter yourself (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854557)

But you are still in the book and the GP was criticizing the whole concept of the book.

You can't analyse a fairytale from within.

Re:Don't flatter yourself (1)

fermion (181285) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854467)

Look at the colonization of the Americans. Peaceful explorers, just looking for a new spice route, found land. But it had people on it. So those people were purposefully and accidentally killed.

It is likely that if explorers found earth, and took time to land on it, they would be like the europeans landed on the American Natives. It is not so much that such alliens would purposely kill everyone, but disease and our own stubbornness would over time mean the end of humans. Yes, we might infect the alliens but presuamble they would have more advanced medical equipment and smaller population to protect.

Two movies come to mind (2)

tedgyz (515156) | about a year and a half ago | (#43853565)

Without RTFA, the synopsis leads me to suggest two great movies that cover this topic:

District 9 [imdb.com]
Bladerunner [imdb.com]

What defines a human and what defines a sentient being?

Sometimes I wonder what my freaking dog is thinking. She seems a little too smart when she knows the exact moment to bolt into the neighbor's yard.

Re:Two movies come to mind (1)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about a year and a half ago | (#43853633)

Don't forget about everyone's favorite Android [wikipedia.org] and everyone's favorite medical hologram [wikipedia.org]

Re:Two movies come to mind (3, Funny)

Sperbels (1008585) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854511)

Your links to Kryten and Rimmer are pointed to the wrong places.

Re:Two movies come to mind (1)

SteveFoerster (136027) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854683)

+1, Disagree but Clever

Re:Two movies come to mind (1)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about a year and a half ago | (#43859303)

I see what you did there

Re:Two movies come to mind (1)

yourexhalekiss (833943) | about a year and a half ago | (#43853667)

I've seen both of those movies, and I just finished The Human Division just yesterday. The movies are great, and the book is good, but the book itself and TFA aren't related to the movies really at all. They could be, but Scalzi chooses to treat the CDF warriors as modified humans, rather than a different species entirely.

1st book was stellar (1)

hguorbray (967940) | about a year and a half ago | (#43853659)

excuse the pun -very much in the vein of some of the Golden Age writers like early Heinlein

have to catch up with the series now.

-I'm just sayin'

Re:1st book was stellar (1)

zlives (2009072) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854311)

very starship trooper like (the book not the movie)

Re:1st book was stellar (1)

hguorbray (967940) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854703)

I actually avoided the Starship Troopers movies until I read on imdb that they were ruthless satires of a fascist society peopled by idiots.

So even though they are certainly not in the spirit of the book I actually enjoyed the 1st one immensely, although based on the ratings they appear to tail off pretty quickly in the subsequent ones.

-I'm jsut sayin'

Re:1st book was stellar (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | about a year and a half ago | (#43855791)

I enjoyed the entire series, but I also couldn't help but noticing that the 'old man' part was dropped even before the recruits got to basic. That plot point could have been left entirely out, and the entire last 3/4ths of the book would have required zero re-writing.

Its the mind not the body ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about a year and a half ago | (#43857889)

I enjoyed the entire series, but I also couldn't help but noticing that the 'old man' part was dropped even before the recruits got to basic. That plot point could have been left entirely out, and the entire last 3/4ths of the book would have required zero re-writing.

The soldiers still have minds with 75 years of experience and knowledge. It definitely made them look at things differently than teenage soldiers. IIRC this more mature perspective repeatedly pops up. Especially when comparing regular troops to special forces troops.

Re:Its the mind not the body ... (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | about a year and a half ago | (#43859185)

I never saw that. I saw the CDF SF troops portrayed as children, sure, but other than occasional references to previous careers, the old troops weren't portrayed as having bountiful wisdom or experience. Quite the opposite, in fact. Take, for example, the CDF rook who was a senator in real life, who hadn't learned shit.

how to filter out from amazon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43853687)

I've found it incredibly frustrating to search for new books on amazon, since all the chapters of this thing clutter all my searches. I am searching less and buying less. If amazon had a filter that let me exclude Scalzi in his entirety from all searches - do they ???? - I'd use it in an instant even though I've purchased *all* previous books from him, and enjoyed them. I guess I'm more annoyed at Amazon than him - Amazon should provide better filter options - but bottom line I wish this series/business model never existed and if I were offered the choice between things as they are and never hearing about anything from Scalzi again (an author I like) I'd jump at the latter. I would PAY, nontrivially, for the latter.

Re:how to filter out from amazon (1)

David_Hart (1184661) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854081)

I've found it incredibly frustrating to search for new books on amazon, since all the chapters of this thing clutter all my searches. I am searching less and buying less. If amazon had a filter that let me exclude Scalzi in his entirety from all searches - do they ????

Yeppers, they do... As an FYI, most internet search routines use the minus sign to indicate that you want to exclude the word that comes after it.

For example, if you want to find SciFi Books that match the keyword "human", you would go to the Science Fiction book section on Amazon and type in "human". If you don't want a particular author/series (i.e. Scalzi) you would type in "human -Scalzi".

Re:how to filter out from amazon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43854765)

(not GP AC)

I find it more annoying in the recommendations, which for me are now littered with this thing. It actually sounds interesting from the review, I had mentally dumped it into the "star wars/star trek" bin of pulp fiction produced by the pound, no idea it was a serial thing. Maybe amazon needs a "series" grouping like netflix does for TV shows?

Re:how to filter out from amazon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43856507)

(I'm the OP at the top of this particular thread...) Yes, sorry, I meant recommendations, not searches, which _were_ the main source of my new fiction
purchases. I really want to say "never recommend" Scalzi any more. I guess I'd as mucwant "never recommend self published" which
is also a source of pollution, but this one man (whose other works I like!) in this one series has caused substantially more pollution in my Amazon recommendations
than all the 0.99$ self published crap out here.

Blog it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43853701)

Really is this what Slashdot comes down to? Posting a review?

It reads exactly like an amateur blog review would, so Id say it belongs there since it is essentially just a mish mash of ideas and opinions already expressed on amazons reviews, only the ones on amazon are better and don't sound like someone droning on and on without a real individual thought expressed or non regurgitated opinion.

Re:Blog it. (1)

foniksonik (573572) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854033)

Reviews are not a good place to discuss the merits or faults of a topic. A book? Maybe. Though I've never seen a review turn into a discussion.

Re:Blog it. (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854039)

I do post them to my book review blog too- geekbook.org [geekbook.org] . Feel free to hop over and experience more disappointment with my sub par writing skills. Though I have to admit I prefer this kind of complaint to the usual slashvertisement drivel.

I did write it without reading any other reviews of the book - so while you may find the quality lacking, it is individual and non regurgitated in its entirety.

Re:Blog it. (1)

Sardaukar86 (850333) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854755)

I'm not understanding the AC's problem. I didn't come here expecting a professional review. What I got was a very well-written piece that worked to incite my interest in an author I'd not heard of. Further, being free of spoilers, I found I finished reading without the 'meh,' feeling that results from watching Hollywood-style movie advertisements.

I'd be very happy to write this well. Sorry to blow sunshine up your arse, just telling it how I see it.

Re:Blog it. (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about a year and a half ago | (#43857711)

Thanks. I appreciate it.

If you enjoy reading and want to take a stab at it yourself, it's a lot of fun. And while I bought this book - if you are willing to write reviews a lot of publishers are happy to send you books for free. Something I learned when I commented on a book review here at Slashdot a few years back.

I guess lots of people want the free books but they have a harder time finding folks who will follow through on the review part.

Re:Blog it. (1)

Sardaukar86 (850333) | about a year and a half ago | (#43857757)

if you are willing to write reviews a lot of publishers are happy to send you books for free. Something I learned when I commented on a book review here at Slashdot a few years back

Interesting and good to know, thank you.

conflict arises over competition for resources (2)

alen (225700) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854025)

logically there should only be conflict between races if their populations are so large as to cause competition for resources. if you look at our solar system, there should be more than enough resources for at least triple our population.

same happened in human history. the crusades took place during a global warming cycle when the european population boomed. the mongols attacked when the climate began to cool and they needed grazing for their horses. the european wars took place in a cool climate when glaciers occupied a lot of farm land and sucked water out of the atmosphere that could have been used to water crops

Re:conflict arises over competition for resources (1)

Kwyj1b0 (2757125) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854273)

I wonder. Conflicts arise for ideological reasons as well. Not that I disagree with your viewpoint in general - the more technologically advanced you get, the less you care about ideological debates. However, if an advanced species landed on earth peacefully, I'd still expect nutjobs to try and blow them up because they are "heretics who challenge my simplified view of $deity" . Not that it would matter to someone capable of crossing interstellar distances, but they'd either (a) swat us aside like an irritating insect, or (b) Leave us to ourselves, but quarantine us to one planet.

Even with sufficient resources, we believe that the universe has finite "accessible" resources - there might be a heat death. So if you think long term, extracting energy now is a waste. We burn resources like crazy. They help society to grow. However, another advanced rate might look at our processes and decide that we are wasting "their" resources in such an inefficient matter that we need to be stopped. Stephen baxter and Arthur Clarke explore this in their "Time Odyssey" series.

Re:conflict arises over competition for resources (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43859065)

I wonder. Conflicts arise for ideological reasons as well. Not that I disagree with your viewpoint in general - the more technologically advanced you get, the less you care about ideological debates.

Ideologies arise to offer great groups of humans solutions to their concrete existential problems, usually suffering or life being cut short. Usually, they shift the target from immediate causes onto "others".

Even with sufficient resources, we believe that the universe has finite "accessible" resources - there might be a heat death. So if you think long term, extracting energy now is a waste. We burn resources like crazy. They help society to grow. However, another advanced rate might look at our processes and decide that we are wasting "their" resources in such an inefficient matter that we need to be stopped. Stephen baxter and Arthur Clarke explore this in their "Time Odyssey" series.

If end is imminent and there is zero hope of salvation later on, then there is not much point in prolonging the agony, better throw a big flashy farewell party! Normally, even in desperate situation you'd never know what might happen next. However, none flees a heat death!

Re:conflict arises over competition for resources (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854643)

if you look at our solar system, there should be more than enough resources for at least triple our population.

I can accept "at least". But only triple?! Our solar system should provide sufficient resources for at least 1000x our current population.

Or were you restricting us to living on planets?

Re:conflict arises over competition for resources (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854963)

" the crusades took place during a global warming cycle"
sigh, that is wrong on many levels.

Re:conflict arises over competition for resources (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43858443)

logically there should only be conflict between races if their populations are so large as to cause competition for resources. if you look at our solar system, there should be more than enough resources for at least triple our population.

So, logically, there should be no conflict right now?

Pretty good book, but serial form has issues (2)

stevel (64802) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854205)

I read this when it was released in serial form on Kindle. As noted, it's a collection of largely self-contained stories that form a greater story arc, which is not my definition of a serial. I too was not taken with Redshirts and I liked The Human Condition a bit better - some of the episodes are almost throwaways and don't really contribute to the narrative.

I was a bit disappointed that the ending didn't really resolve what I saw as major plot elements and, while it wasn't a cliffhanger the way Connie Willis' Blackout was, it left me dissatisfied. But overall I think it was worth reading and will probably read whatever comes next.

Re:Pretty good book, but serial form has issues (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854269)

I felt like some of the side stuff - or whatever you would call it- didn't necessarily move the plot forward but did really give the characters a lot more depth - so that when things happened later I cared a lot more.

Redshirts didn't work for me because I just don't like that kind of story. I didn't like it when Heinlein did it. I didn't like it when King did it. And I love those guys work, just not that sort of thing. Which I don't want to describe and ruin it for anyone who hasn't read the book.

I still think it was very well written, just not for me.

Re:Pretty good book, but serial form has issues (1)

stevel (64802) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854405)

Yes, the side stories definitely add depth - I agree with you there. As for Redshirts, I would have been happier if he had stopped before the three codas. I had not read Old Man's War or, I think, much else of Scalzi's.

Does the "novel" form of the book just concatenate all of the serial chapters, or is the "re-establishment" text reminding readers of what happened before removed or thinned out?

And yes, I see I mistyped the name of the book in my initial comment.

Re:Pretty good book, but serial form has issues (2)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854481)

I think it is just the chapters hooked together - though I can't say that for sure as I never read them separately.

Yeah - I wasn't big on the codas either.

The Old Man's War books are all good. Android's Dream is pretty much awesome and might be my favorite of his. Agent to the Stars is pretty good too. I didn't totally buy the end but I really enjoyed the ride. I think you can read that for free. At least you could before when I read it. Yeah - here it is - Agent to the Stars [scalzi.com] .

I think he has an immense amount of talent and I'm glad he's writing in my favorite genre.

Re:Pretty good book, but serial form has issues (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year and a half ago | (#43857493)

I read the first chapter, and liked it enough so that I might want to read the entire book. But I bought it on Google Play, and at 99 cents per chapter, that's $13 for 400 pages and change; $11.04 at Amazon for Kindle (or Kindle desktop reader). Seems to me that's a bit high (given my estimate of word-count) for a novella.

like the Forever War? (1)

CosaNostra Pizza Inc (1299163) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854279)

I heard that Old Man's War was very similar to The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman. Any thoughts on this? I've read the later and thoroughly enjoyed it. Old Man's War is on my to-read list.

Re:like the Forever War? (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854379)

If you want to put Old Man's War and The Forever War on opposite ends of an ideological spectrum I'd say that Old Man's war is somewhere between the two - and at various points in the books, depending on your biases you may see it leaning towards one or the other.

I'd say the series as a whole probably is more in line with The Forever War from a philosophical view point and closer in writing style to Starship Troopers. Though as I say, Scalzi really has his own style. But the comparisons between Scalzi and Heinlein come up a lot and I can see it to some extent.

I think Scalzi is a better writer than Heinlein in some regards. He doesn't beat you over the head with his view points as much. He writes better humor I think and has that same pragmatic approach but without so much ideological fervor. I think. This all can get so subjective. I think some of these same strengths give him an edge over Haldeman. I don't think Scalzi feels as preachy.

I liked Forever War but I thought Armor by John Steakley was better military sci-fi with an anti-war message.

Re:like the Forever War? (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854407)

Sorry - Starship Troopers and Forever War on the opposite ends. I don't know how many times I looked at that and missed it. It is late here though so I'll use that as my excuse. Going to bed soon.

Re:like the Forever War? (1)

dargaud (518470) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854475)

I heard that Old Man's War was very similar to The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman. Any thoughts on this? I've read the later and thoroughly enjoyed it. Old Man's War is on my to-read list.

There are a few parallels but the books and their ideas are very different. A common point is the alienation of the fighters in respect to the rest of the populace. In TFW, the 'original humans' are the soldiers who travel between the stars for a few years while the rest of the world changes a lot due to relativistic time dilatation. In OMW it's due to artificial bodies and a weird selection process (hence the title). Both are very good, and the comic book version of TFW is also excellent.

WTF Amazon ?!? (1)

dargaud (518470) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854409)

Why is the kindle version more expensive than the frigging hardcover ?!? 17.56$ vs 16.71. I was all ready to purchase it because I really enjoyed the rest of the series, but I don't like getting screwed, so it's a NO.

Re:WTF Amazon ?!? (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854433)

For me the hardcover is $16.71 and the Kindle version is $11.04 - which I think is what I paid. So I would double check that. It wouldn't make sense for it to be more than $13 as there are 13 episodes available at .99 each. They are all drm free so I would think it would be trivial to buy them separately and combine them.

Re:WTF Amazon ?!? (1)

dargaud (518470) | about a year and a half ago | (#43858009)

Those fucks and their micro-marketing tools ('price it according to what people can bear' indeed)... Even if I log out I see the kindle version at 16.71$. Individual stories are 1.02$. If I log in from a computer in the US, it's 11.04$. Like the electrons are more costly here.

Re:WTF Amazon ?!? (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | about a year and a half ago | (#43859155)

yeah - I pretty much always go to Amazon through a vpn. So that explains it. Stupid.

When a lot of Penguins are all together in one place does it stink? I would think it does but I've never had a chance to find out.

Re:WTF Amazon ?!? (1)

dargaud (518470) | about a year and a half ago | (#43859743)

When a lot of Penguins are all together in one place does it stink? I would think it does but I've never had a chance to find out.

Yes it does. A lot. A mix of industrial chicken coop and rotten fish. Fortunately it's often windy in those places.

Just as a reminder (3, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#43854907)

The have been different human civilization meeting and not fighting. Many of them.
Trade routes wouldn't have happen if people couldn't meet in peace.

We are aware of aboriginal people in the Amazon and we haven't gone in to wipe them out.

The premise is based on an incorrect look at human history.

Re:Just as a reminder (1)

amanaplanacanalpanam (685672) | about a year and a half ago | (#43857043)

The premise is based on an incorrect look at human history.

Some [wikipedia.org] people [wikipedia.org] might [wikipedia.org] beg [wikipedia.org] to [wikipedia.org] differ [wikipedia.org] .

Maybe not incorrect, so much as incomplete.

Re:Just as a reminder (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about a year and a half ago | (#43858069)

The have been different human civilization meeting and not fighting. Many of them. Trade routes wouldn't have happen if people couldn't meet in peace.

Trade routes existed, in part, to fund one group's subjugation of other local groups. A distant group was not a threat, nor a "resource" that could be efficiently controlled and exploited, but it could be a trading partner.

We are aware of aboriginal people in the Amazon and we haven't gone in to wipe them out.

I think the aboriginal people in the Amazon would disagree. Historically many have been killed and/or forcibly assimilated into the "invading" culture. To this day miners, loggers and ranchers are encroaching on their remaining lands.

The premise is based on an incorrect look at human history.

Sadly, no.

Here ya go (1)

xevioso (598654) | about a year and a half ago | (#43855325)

Most of the conflicts throughout history can be boiled down to fights over:
1) Religion
2) Resources
3) Unchecked Ambition

My suspicion is that by the time we meet others in space, 1 and 2 will not be relevant.

If, on the other hand, we run into a galactic version of Alexander the Great, we could have some trouble.

Re:Here ya go (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | about a year and a half ago | (#43855759)

Lest we forget, Giordano Bruno [wikipedia.org] was executed by the Catholic Church for daring to postulate that there might be life out in the universe.

I'd not be surprised at all if the discovery of alien life sparked a crusade/jihad/whatever or two.

Re:Here ya go (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about a year and a half ago | (#43858135)

Lest we forget, Giordano Bruno [wikipedia.org] was executed by the Catholic Church for daring to postulate that there might be life out in the universe.

If you read your citation you will see that this is not the case. Bruno held a bunch of ideas that were in tact quite heretical, life elsewhere in the universe is a minor point in comparison. Its misleading to offer the later as the sole reason for his brutal execution.

Re:Here ya go (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | about a year and a half ago | (#43859173)

Sole reason? No. Important reason? Yes. And it's not like he was an isolated case; Copernicus and Gallileo come rather forcefully to mind.

Is it too late to . . . ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43855573)

welcome our new identical-to-us racist, egotistical, greedy, homophobic, alien bastard overlords?

Scenarios (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about a year and a half ago | (#43856131)

Given that humans appear to have an innate need to kill as much other life as possible, I think there are only five outcomes.

1. Humans come into contact with less advanced beings.

We will find a reason to destroy them. Maybe it will be something silly, but the pathological hatred of anyone who "Isn't like us", will ensure that we will find a reason to destroy their civilization

2. Humans come into contact with more advanced beings, at a superior level to us, but without the killer instinct we have.

We will find ourselves in a real quandary. We might actually change a bit, because these beings could destroy us easily if we provoke them enough.

3. Humans come into contact with more advanced beings, at a superior level to us, but with similar instincts.

That would probably be curtains for the human race, unless the superior race develops a taste for Soylent Green

4. Humans come into contact with a race of fairly evenly matched beings, with out our agressive tendencies.

Yeah, see scenario 1

5. Humans come into equally matched beings, with our aggressive instincts.

This will, in humanity's view, be the ideal situation. The beings difference will provide an almost instant need for warfare, they would likely be an even battle, ensureing everlasting warfare, and the resulting PROFIT!

Bullshit. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year and a half ago | (#43856133)

Hypothetical BS. All of it. We have folks falling in love with dolls, and having sex with robots, going to concerts to hear programs sing. There are troves of Xenomorph Pornography. That's right, the ailens from aliens... having sex with humans. From Eldritch Horrors to Toaster Ovens, We'll "love" anything! Even Farm Animals!

Yeah, it's not a species wide thing, but tell you what: You go to Japan and pass a law saying no more Vocalids. Just see how fast you get lynched. Go to the comic-cons in the USA and speak out about anthropomorphic porn. We're more accepting now than ever before. Just like in the past there will always be whites at the "I have a Dream" rally, or Men in the Women's Rights movement: Humans will be in the Robotic Freedom Rallies, or Humans for Alien Love gatherings. Just like in the past, there will be friction to folks who are "different". This will pass as the rational make the extreme less so.

Anyone citing history here, needs to look at the relevant part when extrapolating into the future: The Present.

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