The Human Division, Episode 7: The Dog King
by John Scalzi, read by William DufrisLength: 58 minutes
Hello, and welcome back to another listen-a-long for the Human Division! Every week we look back at the serialized novel by John Scalzi, recap and discuss. Before we dive in, I will say this – if you’ve been wondering whether or not The Human Division is something you should give a shot or not, I think this episode is the one I’d suggest listening to. Hard to beat for under a buck.
Spoilers sprout like weeds around here, though – so if you don’t want to be caught unawares before you listen, stay back! Otherwise, let’s dig in to this week’s episode!
This week’s mission: Lt. Harry Wilson is given an assignment to dog sit an ambassador’s pet while said ambassador completes an urgent diplomatic mission for the CDF and, supposedly humanity, on an alien world. The problems start when Harry’s on poop patrol and the dog gets swallowed by a plant. The dog’s still alive and happy in the digestive tracts of the flower bed, so Harry goes in after it, which is all kinds of ridiculous fun. Unfortunately, while he’s down there rescuing Tuffy the dog, Harry discovers that the former king (whose disappearance set the planet off into a nasty civil war) was also swallowed by the plants, and his body is being used as fertilizer. This is only part of the issue. The other problem is that the crown of the king – which is coded to only attach itself to a living being with the right DNA – has now fastened itself to Tuffy, who apparently got a little peckish while waiting to be digested. The only way the crown can be removed is if the individual wearing it dies.
If that’s all sounding gruesomely Games of Throne-ish to you, have no fear. This is Scalzi, and the whole thing is a blast. Harry gives the dog a SmartBlood transfusion from his own veins, so that it can flatline long enough for the crown to detach, then come back. Which he does, pissing all over the ambassador with delight after being resurrected.
This was a patently ridiculous episode and I loved every second of it!
In fact, this episode is exactly the kind of thing I expected the Human Division to be made up with when it was originally announced. It was fun SF, often pretty funny (particularly the interactions between Harry and Hart), bizarre alien worlds, and a contained adventure for Harry and the B-Team. Harry does come off as a little bit of a dick sometimes, particularly the “play dead” comment right before he kills Tuffy, but it all ends up being utilized for humor, so in the end, I’m not really bothered by it.
I wouldn’t say this is my favorite of the episodes – those are still “We Only Need the Heads” and “A Voice in the Wilderness,” but I think this is maybe the ideal story for people who aren’t sure whether or not they want to invest in this series/serial.
Regarding the overall arc of the season, there’s not much that’s happening here that I feel certain will effect it, except that the CDF is continuing to try and build it’s own Concalve (good luck on that score, dudes). Maybe that will come into play later? But otherwise, it was very much self-contained, and I was completely fine with that.
So all in all, I had a lot of fun listening to this episode. What’d you folks think?
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