The Human Division, Episode Two: Walk the Plank is Live!

It’s Tuesday, which means it time for another episode of The Human Division. Here are the details about “Walk the Plank”:

Wildcat colonies are illegal, unauthorized and secret—so when an injured stranger shows up at the wildcat colony New Seattle, the colony leaders are understandably suspicious of who he is and what he represents. His story of how he’s come to their colony is shocking, surprising, and might have bigger consequences than anyone could have expected.

“Walk the Plank” is one of the shortest of the episodes, but this particular episode carries a lot of freight, both in the sense of storytelling, and in the sense of being stylistically unique among the episodes. I like it a lot. Of course, I would say that. Even so.

Remember that in addition to “Walk the Plank” debuting today, there will be a discussion of the episode up over at sometime today (Update: It’s up!). There I talk a little bit about the writing and structure of this particular episode, as well as how the episodic structure of The Human Division came about. Interesting stuff.

And be sure to come around again for next week’s episode, “We Only Need the Heads.” You’ll see how then how the events of “Walk the Plank” start to resonate forward through the rest of the novel.

Walk the Plank: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|iBookstore (iTunes link)|Google Play|Kobo  (all US links)

78 Comments on “The Human Division, Episode Two: Walk the Plank is Live!”

  1. Just pre-ordered all of the episodes on Audible. Will probably get the book when it’s out.
    Loved the first episode, it was excellent. And free.

  2. And this one is good as well, so I’m a happy person.

    Sort of.

    Well, not, actually; damn you, Scalzi, I want the rest NOW!

  3. In my first groggy waking moments today I found myself exclaiming to the cat “It’s Tuesday – The new Scalzi is here! The new Scalzi is here!” I opened my Nook, and there it is! Can’t wait to be done with work so I can read it!

  4. How cool is it to wake up in the morning, look at your smartphone and discover that you have e-mail notification that ‘Walk the Plank’ has downloaded to your e-reader sometime during the night? I love living in the future!

  5. Just bought it off of Amazon! I can’t wait to read it after work.

    I hope this series turns out to be a success, and more authors adopt this model. It’s really fun to anticipate each episode.

  6. Checking in to confirm that #2 Walk the Plank is indeed missing from the iBooks store. The title did fill in during search inquiry so perhaps it’s just a glitch.

  7. Yup. Sa,e issue with iTunes/iBooks. Won’t deliver pre-order and now it’s not even showing up in the store.

  8. The google play link indeed links to the site, but there’s no button for purchasing, and when you search for the title nothing comes up at all, which is kind of weird. Moan whine complain.

  9. It’s there a way to buy just the file? Without a nook or kindle or anything else than my pc and browser?

  10. You can buy the file and download it to your PC, yes, since it does not have DRM on it. You can even do that through Amazon and B&N. Note that both of them also offer PC-based readers.

  11. Listened to the audiobook on my way to work. Wow. Still waiting for the pre-order to come down from itunes.

  12. Having the same issue with iBooks as well, which is a little odd since I was able to preorder #2 from there a few days ago. I’ll wait until tonight to see if the issue resolves itself, then grab it from somewhere else if it doesn’t. Really enjoyed “The B-Team” – always nice to re-visit the OMW universe!

  13. The review of this on Amazon is 3 stars…seemingly because of the very nature of the work. “But, it doesn’t follow the same characters!!!” “It’s not as long as the first one!!” Hmmmm, methinks they should have known these things in advance.

  14. John, I have to say that, as a title, “We Only Need the Heads” (Episode 3) is very ominous. I find myself hoping it’s a metaphor or carries some other meaning. I really don’t want anything bad to happen to any of these characters I’ve come to know and like (especially Harry Wilson).

    At the same time, this is one of the things I’ve loved about this universe so far. It has scenes of beauty and humor, yet there are moments of brutal violence and characters can be eliminated without warning.

  15. I really enjoyed The B-Team and will likely pick up Walk the Plank this week sometime.

    You may have mentioned this in the run-up to release, but if so I didn’t see it: for anyone who hasn’t already, you can get a (free!) introduction to Harry Wilson’s work with the Diplomatic Corps in John’s previous short story After the Coup, hosted by

  16. Glad I pre-ordered through Audible. Woke up, looked at my phone, hit download. I also have Amazon pushing it down to my kindle so I can read it later. Can’t wait for next week! I am already trying to connect dots between the first two Episodes.

  17. Like SpikeAdidus, I also pre-ordered through Audible, and thus far it’s been a very positive experience. Got up to go to work this morning, pressed the download button on my phone. It was there in a few seconds, and I had something to listen to on the way to work.

  18. It was on my Kindle app this morning, and I read it while my wife was getting ready to go to work. Quick read. Very interesting and a bit disturbing. I’m certain that was the intent. I’m now hooked.

  19. I am sure this is answered somewhere else but are these episodes all a part of a story arc and dependent upon each other (like chapters in a novel) or are they sort of standalone?

  20. I listened to Walk the Plank on the way into work today; short but sweet. I am looking forward to seeing how this ties into the larger story (if at all).
    And I’m also grumbling about the iBook hiccup; I could buy it from B&N or Kobo but I saved an iTunes gift card that I got for Christmas specifically for this. :)

  21. iTunes just released “Walk the Plank” (finally!!!!).
    I know what I’m reading at lunch….

  22. I just had my pre-order bounce. And my re-order. Seems my bank thinks anything priced under a dollar is fraud, and nothing I say will convince them that this is antiquated–they can’t reset it.
    Anyone know of a good bank in Delaware?

  23. I’m loving the serial nature of this one. Kinda like getting a web comic update after a long hiatus, but better because the pleasure lasts longer.

    What’s interesting now is that I’ve been going through some of my favorite books to see how they would have survived as a serialization. World War Z would have worked well, I think some older William Gibson would as well.

    How has the serial release changed the way you tell the story? Was it always going to be interlinked but independent stories? Would you do a novel this way?

  24. Blaise, come to think of it, George RR Martin would make a killing serializing what’s left (two more books) of his Game of Thrones theme. Especially as each chapter focuses on only one of many characters.

  25. Google Play version doesn’t seem to be DRM-free, even though notices are plastered everywhere that the book is being provided DRM-free at the request of the author. There’s a link to download as epub but it comes as an ACSM file. So, if having the offline file easily and without a fuss is important to you, do NOT buy from Google Play. I won’t be making that mistake again.

  26. I’m in Canada but I use the USA Amazon store for Kindle. My Amazon account shows that I bought and paid for episode #2 (I pre-ordered it) but it has not appeared in my Kindle App (IOS) and the Amazon web page lists it as “not currently available” with no price. I had no trouble with episode #1.

  27. Erik

    When I bought episode 2 from Amazon UK it didn’t go to my iPad, so I just hit the link again a few times until it worked. Is it possible to hit the entry in your account and see what happens?

    As you will have deduced I belong to the ‘kick it a few times’ school of problem solving…

  28. I’m not sure if the B-Team was extremely long and Walk the Plank was unusually short, but for the audio version Walk the Plank was 28% the length of B-Team and for the same price. Somehow I feel a bit short changed.

    Otherwise, I’m really enjoying the story.

  29. Totally enjoying the serial format! Can’t wait for next Tuesday as I’ve preordered from Amazon and it will just magically appear on my phone! Thanks!

  30. Very good episode. I enjoyed the change up in style as well. Looking forward to next week.

  31. A request for help! I am trying to buy “Walk the Plank,” making it my first ever ebook purchase. I would like to buy (from somewhere, anywhere) an epub-type file that I can read through whatever I choose (such as Aldiko on my Android phone), back up on my computer, print it out, etc. I have learned never to buy books from Google Play. Can anyone recommend a place that will just sell me the story? Thank you in advance.

  32. As a minor note John, your sidebar claims that the current episode title is ‘The B-Team’ while having the correct description and image for ‘Walk the Plank’.

  33. Sarah ….
    The Sony store has it – and their readers use epub format.
    I bought it from Amazon and converted it to epub using Calibre. For the first time, I got a messed up format though it’s still readable.

  34. Loved it , short as it was. .99 each. Getting the feeling the whole book has a set price? Don’t mind me.

  35. John, I hope that as we readers progress though the story together, you’ll blog about the meta-ness of essentially standing over our collective shoulders as we read “The Human Division.” I’m sure it somewhat mirrors the experience of working in SGU because of the nature of getting feedback on an episodic product. It just seems even more intimate as a book, probably because rather than a production, this is all Scalzi. I’m curious about how the experience stacks up for you as a writer.

    Enjoying the stuff so far. Also indoctrinating my librarian wife through “Hate Mail.” We’re becoming a Scalzi colony of our own.

  36. Why is the writing style of Walk the Plank in the format of a movie script while the B – team was that of a traditional story?
    Is there some greater reason?

  37. Understand if you don’t do it, but I like Scott Garner’s idea about blogging about the reactions you have to our reactions (even if it’s after the whole work is complete). I think it’d be fascinating to hear your thoughts. Kinda unique in the book area….

  38. I quite enjoyed The B-Team. So much so that I pre-oredered all the reaming episodes. I love this serial format. I hope other authors will give this a try.

  39. “Walking the Plank” is short, sharp, almost brutal. I’m curious who becomes the most important character as the series continues… I’m not saying any more, in case I let a spoiler slip.

    Suffice to say, …. NOPE .. no spoiler :)

  40. @cecilia: The style choice is discussed in the Tor article that John links to.

    @sarah: Another option is Kobo, which lets you download a plain DRM-free epub file (they also have a decent app for android, as well as a browser-based reader, if you want to skip the extra step).

  41. cecilia: a recording device is also mentioned early on, so I figure it’s intended to be read like a transcript.

    Mapleson: John mentioned that “The B-Team” was about twice as long as most of the other installments, so it’s not that you’re being shortchanged by later episodes, it’s that you got a bonus in the first one. :)

  42. Like Erik above, I’m up in Canada but use the amazon US website for my book-buying. Yesterday, Walk the Plank kindle format was listed as unavailable for purchase, and today it’s just plain not coming up when I do a search for “john scalzi human division” even though every other episode does. The only listing for Walk the Plank is the audible audio format. Using the direct link at the bottom of the post, I do get to the listing page but with an “unavailable” block still.

  43. “Walking the Plank” is short, sharp, almost brutal.
    Agreed. That story is going to stick with me for a while.

  44. @ Geoff K

    After reading “Walk the Plank” last night…it could go either way. Suffice to say, I can’t wait to find out what it all means. John has said that “the events of “Walk the Plank” start to resonate forward through the rest of the novel”; I can’t wait to see how it’s going to play out.

  45. Time needed to read “The B-Team”: just long enough to totally distract me from scary thoughts while in the surgery waiting room while my wife underwent a procedure (which went fine and textbook, but it’s surgery and Things Can Happen).

    Time needed to read “Walk the Plank”: a nice way to spend one’s lunch hour.

    Honestly, I’m really kind of digging the serial format, here. Color me surprised.

  46. @ Anne: Thank you! I went to the Sony store and now “Walk the Plank” is sitting happily on my phone.

  47. Quite short… I guess I finished it in under 20 minutes. I didn’t know to expect that, and I was honestly disappointed. I suppose that’s an overall positive, because I want more of the story, but… man, it was really short.

    I am enjoying the serialized format so far… Reminds me of waiting for each piece of The Green Mile to be released, and that is a good thing.

  48. While I enjoy serialized fiction, this episode was a disappointment. Not because of content but the lack of it. I enjoyed the B Team, I was comfortable with the length of it. Walk the Plank though was a disappointment. I know it’s .99 cents, but I expect more content for that.

    It makes me gun shy to buy the rest of the story in episodic format, now I’m wondering if I should just wait for the book so i don’t feel cheated.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like your writing John, but if you sat down to watch your favorite TV 1 hour show and it turned out to be 5 mins in length, i think you would be disappointed as well. More so if you bought in on itunes for a dollar.

  49. Did some research on Amazon, and it looks like the rest of the series will be just as short. The B-Team is an anomaly at 93 pages, the rest of them are about 1/3rd of that in length.
    Canceling my pre-orders, I’ll wait for the full novel, as I will just be disappointed each week.

  50. Jeff Fuller:

    I’ve been very clear that the average length of the episodes is 10k, with a range between 6k and 22k. I was also very clear that the first episode was double length (from the average). Don’t know how much clearer I could have made it.

  51. Canceling my pre-orders, I’ll wait for the full novel, as I will just be disappointed each week

    Wait, so each individual one at 1/15th the price will disappoint you but all them squished together at the higher price will not? I’m not really seeing the logic.

  52. Also loving the serial format. Just finished Zoe’s Tale so it looks like I get to stay in this universe even longer. This episode sent me to dark places though, thinking on the horror of hurtling downward in a futuristic Auschwistic cattle car. But I sometimes like dark places….

  53. @Scalzi regarding clarity of length:

    I only infrequently drop by here and read nothing about the series except what’s included in the kindle editions. I saw it offered by Amazon while shopping for something else, said “Oooh, what’s this? Serialized Scalzi, cool. I liked some of his work, I like serialized novels, I really liked the OMW universe… what the hey, I’ll give it a whirl.”

    What I’m getting at is that your expectation setting failed in my case, because I don’t generally read what you (or any author, generally) have to say about your work until I’m done reading it. My expectations were set by Episode 1. I sort of figured that the other parts would be shorter, but Ep. 2 was ~much~ shorter. So much so that I thought there was something wrong with the download at first!

    I’m not really sure what else you could have done either… perhaps not made Ep. 2 end up the shortest of them all, while also coming on the heels of the longest installment. And I know that the plural of anecdote is not data. And I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far, intending to continue buying the episodes as they’re released. Now that my expectations are differently calibrated, I don’t expect the surprise to happen again….

    … but I was surprised, and it’s worth at least calling a bit of attention to that, if only because there are probably plenty of other people who bought based on the author’s name and the amazon ad. Those people likely also weren’t exposed to your efforts at clarifying episode length or setting expectations. At least some of them must have felt the same way as me on finishing #2 – a mix of “wow, that was good!” and “wow, that was… really short.”

  54. Tony Dye:

    When you read a paper book do you expect each chapter to be exactly the same length?

  55. As Tony Said, I read an article someplace talking about a serialized novel by John. About the only quote I read from you is that this would be like a TV show with an episode a week. I went to Amazon and confirmed the first Ep was coming just a few weeks away. So I pre-ordered it. Just because I am a fan does not mean I search out every word you write. I had no idea they would be this short. And if you read the amazon reviews ALOT of people also did not know and were annoyed.

    What this means is that it is that while the story is probably great(what I have read so far is good), the execution of the serial is poor. I’ve read a number of serialized novels, and they generally do not just publish a a single chapter a week. You get a fairly consistent volume of work in each episode. The smart thing to do is not tell me how wrong I am for not doing a deep investigation, but next time measuring your content better.

  56. Jeff:

    I’m not aware of telling you that you were wrong; buy the book serialized, or buy it at one time, or don’t buy it at all. It’s of course up to you. I was merely noting I messaged as much as I could that the individual episodes would vary in length so that it wouldn’t be a surprise. And of course feel free to complain about it the varying lengths. I am keeping track of the criticisms (and compliments) so if/when there’s a sequel we can fine tune.

  57. Does anyone know why all episodes except #2 are available on Amazon? #2 isn’t showing up on a search; I finally found a direct link for the listing, but it shows as unavailable.

  58. For what it’s worth, has every episode listed at 368 pages which seems to be causing some fair bit of confusion (as noted by the poor reviews of Walk the Plank). Might be worth getting this updated to reflect the actual length of each episode or at least the average length where the content hasn’t been written (or remove the length altogether for later books in the series). I already pinged a note to advice them they should address it, but figured that it may fall onto deaf ears. :)

    I want to see where the series goes, so I’ve got the whole series pre-ordered and will evaluate things as I go along. Just like I would with any series of creative content. I considering like blocking a season on Tivo, I cancel later if I get bored and if I don’t then I’ve got the surprise of the latest episode right when it releases!

  59. My only issue at this point is that I’m caught up and it’s not Tuesday yet. Impatience – 1, Me – 0.

    Read OMW when it was a freebie download from Tor. Figured this might be just as much fun, so ordered/pre-ordered the lot. Having a blast.

    So, here’s the thing. In the world of software developers, grown-ups don’t measure productivity by the number of lines of code churned out. They look at other things, like whether it met expectations, or is sufficiently solid, or actually ships in a timeframe that doesn’t make their customers hate them.

    The whole episode length thing is, to me, a non-starter. In my head, the imaginary model of John Scalzi I have has constructed with some care the exposition of the whole story arc he’s telling, and so I base whether it’s worth the price of admission on whether I thought it was a quality experience. The day that turns into a word count metric is the day I change my name to Dickens and shit adjectives for cash.

  60. Purchased Pts 1 and 2 this weekend and read both and enjoyed same. I think the complaining over the the length of Pt 2 (which I understood the aforementioned caveats perfectly well) is much ado about nothing.

    To me it is like waiting every week for the next episode of “Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe” (NO, not the original theatre versions, but weekly episodes run on a local UHF station when I was growing up); some installments have a little more “meat” than others, but I still look forward to the next one.

  61. Hi, although I am sure this discussion is rendered somewhat moot by how successful this series is I have to agree with several people who posted here. I appreciate that an author has to get paid but 99 cents for 32 pages is disingenuous when the B-Team was 3 times that length.

    Now, I am sure that some people are happy with serialization. I was not. Worse, I was irritated enough remove Mr Scalzi from my reading list, leave a negative (if ironically brief) Amazon review and look up the author’s web-site to express my disappointment. I will certainly not recommend any further novels to anyone else. Considering I purchased and recommended OMW series to 4 or 5 people, I hope the potential income loss (when repeated several 100 time) is enough to help you reconsider value provided to your customers.

  62. PS – I am not against all serialization. I thought the Villain Inc. serialization by Marion Harmon is an excellent example of serialization done right.