The Human Division, Episode 12: The Gentle Art of Cracking Heads
by John Scalzi, read by William Dufris
Length: 38 minutes
Hello, and welcome back to another listen-a-long of John Scalzi’s The Human Division! This post is positively exploding with spoilers, so after you’ve listened, grab a margarita the size of cowboy hat and let’s drink!
It’s an even-numbered episode, and you know what that means – we’re taking a break from the B-Team. This time, our episode centers on U.S. diplomat Danielle Lowen, who is also the daughter of a politician. (You may remember her as the diplomat aboard the Clarke in the Observers that tries to drink Harry under the table – admirable effort – and made kinky Kermit the Frog flirtations. Don’t look at me like that – it was Scalzi who wrote it!)
Anyway, we kick off with Lowen laying the smack down at a Brazilian embassy to an ambassaor’s assistant. She’s trying to figure out how fellow diplomat Luiza Carvahlo became a space assassin. Unfortunately, after tearing the assistant a new one and going across the street for a coffee and phone call to let him brood, the Brazilian embassy BLOWS UP. Shadowy organization that has infiltrated the Earth, the CDF, and presumably the Conclave – Your Evil Knows No Limits!!!
Lowen is miraculously unharmed – a cup of coffee really can save your life! She starts assisting survivors with first aid, and journalists capture this, and she becomes a bit of a celebrity, which really pisses her off. Because what Lowen really wants to know is how Carvahlo became a space assassin, and who turned her into one.
Lowen gets to drinking, and as she’s deep in her margarita tub, she’s hit on by a guy named John Berger. I almost did a double-take, ’cause I thought for a second John Perry might be fraternizing with the B-cast here. But no, this guy appears to be a bit more similar to Michael Washington, who last killed the reporter he hired to run propaganda against the Conclave. As Berger gets semi-drunk with Lowen and discusses how a diplomat can become a cold-blooded killer, we begin to realize Berger is an inside man, and he’s spelling it out for Lowen how his group does it. Basically, it sounds a lot like someone who has access to BrainPal technology.
Unfortunately, after “Filling her in,” Berger bails, and is found dead not long after. Shot to the head. Very sad.
Full disclosure: I listened to this episode a week ago, and have been brooding on it since. Initially, I thought it was more or less fun, and it was – a snappy, breezy, 38 minutes with Danielle Lowen, who I liked seeing again. But it hasn’t aged well in that week, and I find myself very conflicted about this episode. I liked that we got to see Lowen again, and we got to see her attempting to solve a mystery. I hate that she didn’t get to solve the mystery, and that someone else needed to explain to her how it worked, and that that someone else found her in a bar to do it. If she had at least tracked the bastard down, that would’ve been something. But unfortunately, Lowen doesn’t get to figure it out, and becomes somewhat passive.
As far as the continuing over-arcing mystery of Who is this Evil Conspiracy?!?! goes…I don’t know. I don’t feel like we’ve really learned all that much since two months back. It’s possible Scalzi has been sprinkling subtle clues – in fact, I suspect he has, but it just doesn’t inspire the kind of excitement or curiosity in me as just about any mystery from LOST or the X-Files*.
Here is what we know about The Evil Shadowy Conspiracy: they blew up a CDF ship and attempted to blow up whoever said ship was opening negotiations with. They attacked and appropriated a wildcat colony supply ship. (They’ve done this with the Conclave as well.) They can put brains in boxes and command them to fly spaceships that will kill people. They’ve captured, tortured, and killed CDF marines. They’ve killed numerous diplomats and civilians. Oh, and they’ve created anti-Conclave Propaganda. What am I missing? Probably a lot.
I have absolutely no idea who this evil shadowy group is, and I’m not half as interested as I feel I should be. This frustrates me. I want to be more engaged.
Let’s talk about something bright – William Dufris! There were no zany alien voices for him to pull off, but he did an excellent job characterizing Danielle Lowen further. Particular the info-dump Berger plops in her drink – that narration was delivered exquisitely. (In general, I have no issues with info-dumps, so long as they’re well-delivered. And Dufris certainly assisted Scalzi on this outing.)
Overall, it wasn’t a bad way to spend 38 minutes, it was snappy, and I like Lowen, and it had an excellent title, but I am left wondering if I got the worm from the tequila bottle.
Those are my thoughts! Feel free to order up a drink and share yours.
*Yes, I realize picking those two shows is VERY problematic given how those shows ended. However, they were VERY good at making you scratch your head and wonder Where The Fuck they were going. That the writers of those shows didn’t know Where The Fuck they were going is beside the point. Scalzi (hopefully) knows who this shadowy conspiracy is, but I’ve been bored with the mystery from pretty much episode 4.