The Human Division Serial Run Reader Thoughts and Kvetches Thread
Posted on April 9, 2013 Posted by John Scalzi 387 Comments
Now that the serial run of The Human Division has come to its end, it’s going to be helpful to us (meaning me, Tor and Audible) to hear your thoughts, comments, complaints, praise and general observations about the serial release. Any thoughts at all will be useful, whether related to story structure, the mechanics of the release, general observations about serialized fiction etc. Positive comments are appreciated but so are negative ones — though I’d personally prefer the negative ones have something useful in them for us to consider for the next time.
So: Please tell me your thoughts on the serial run of The Human Division: What you liked, what you did not, and what you think we can/should/must improve next time around.
The floor is yours.
(Note to folks: If you’ve not read The Human Division, not only is the thread here likely to contain spoilers, but you probably won’t have much useful to contribute, so, uh, maybe you should move along.)
(Also note: If you missed today’s announcement about the future of the series, you might want to read it.)
Also as a suggestion: Please keep the focus on your thoughts on the serial run, rather than debating with others about whether their thoughts on the serial run are (in)correct. Please remember that I am asking for useful criticism as well as praise, so I don’t need defending or see the need for a lot of debate in this particular thread. Also, if I have something in particular to say in response to a comment, I’ll pop into the thread and do it. Thanks —
As noted in the other HD thread:
– Not using the ‘periodical’ feature of Kindle is great, it means the novellas can be gathered together in a collection
– DRM free is awesome
– Some kind of ‘buy the season’ option would have been good, although clicking ‘Buy now’ 13 times wasn’t exactly a hardship
John, I really enjoyed the series. But I think it is half a book…or, more craftily, the setup for a new book or books featuring these characters.
I enjoyed the serialized version as it allowed me to read a chunk each week and keep up (rarely something I do these days). I hope that all the covers get offered as nice downloads (unless Tor is going to pull a “Marvel” and release 13 special editions of the book, each with a different dust jacket?)
The only episode that seemed odd was “This Must Be the Place”. That and the feeling that, as of chapter/installment 12, we were still seeing the groundwork laid, makes me thing there’s got to be more to the story coming in order to tie it all together.
I thought the serial was interesting, it was nice that I had a short story to read every week that was quick and enjoyable. Now that it is down I’ll probably combine all the files into one large ebook to reduce the need to track 13 stories.
I would have probably waited for the complete version of Tor.com hadn’t release the B Tesm as a freebie. That encouraged me to do the serial, since I got hooked.
I saw on the previous thread that the collection will include a coda. Please make that available as a seperate download for those of us who purchased the serial.
I liked the serialized format. I really enjoyed having a new episode to look forward to each week.
Liked the serial approach, thought the actual story was a bit uneven (not sure if you want comments on the story itself, or solely on the format?). My main concern is the one that has been voiced several times: I would like to end up with the single book without having to pay twice. (And yes, I do know that it is DRM-free so I can tinker with it. I prefer not to.)
I *really* hated the episodic format. The episodes were too small for continuity. Also, reading a book a few minutes at a time, every week, is so antithetical to my normal reading style that eventually, I had to give up and wait for the book. Of course, this means by annoying the hell out of me, They sold a book-and-a-half, where They might otherwise have sold only one, so I guess everyone else in the production chain is gonna call this a win. (Sigh.)
Other than that, I’m really excited for the release of the entire book, IN ONE PIECE, THE WAY IT WAS MEANT TO BE! MY LAWN: OFF!
Re: The extra story in the hardcover:
It’s probably going to remain an exclusive to the hardcover for a while but I would be surprised if it doesn’t (legally) find its way online at some point.
The extra story features a favorite character of mine and is focused on her; people who don’t read the story (or don’t read it right away) won’t be missing out on a critical/necessary story element.
Overall – I really enjoyed it. I blew through a majority of the story on audio, which was nice, as I was driving through a bunch of states.
– I hope that you guys will keep the audio episodes as is: The price was reasonable, I thought, and individually buying each section worked well, because I’d revert back to the text while I was not driving. It’s a nice, flexible model. I used iTunes, rather than Audible for the most part, but I did get ‘The B-Team’ when it was up for free.
– Some of the standalone-ish episodes, like ‘Walk the Plank’ added some extra perspective, but I don’t know that it really did anything for the rest of the story: most of the information that they talked about – Wildcat Colonies – were covered in other episodes pretty well, and they really felt like filler. I sort of wish that the space had been used for another Clarke story.
– The Clarke stories were the best of the lot, I thought: entertaining, interesting, and I found myself wanting more of them, especially because they worked to develop the central core of characters.
As I posted in the other thread (wrongly, sorry John) I have enjoyed this format a lot. I’ve looked forward to every Tuesday. I am at exactly 50% of the episode so I will make my comment and leave so I miss a spoiler or two and then come back later.
I saw the listing for the omnibus this morning. I know that omnibus editions are inevitable, but why an omnibus edition that has material that we didn’t get during the weekly run? Do you really want to provide an incentive for waiting that much? I feel a bit slapped in the face, being a reader that pre-ordered each week. Now I have to pay another $14ish for the Kindle omnibus after paying a dollar and change every week after tax?
I enjoyed this series. As I said in the other thread there is real potential to come back to glory days of science fiction serialization. However if I you’re going to provide more material in the omnibus then I will probably just have to wait until the next run is done before I buy again. If you’re dedicated to the serial format you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing with this omnibus.
(Of course I know that not all decisions are made my authors. If Tor is responsible then this criticism is directed at them).
I wholeheartedly enjoyed the serialized version of this, being an Aussie I would get notified that it was available on a Tuesday afternoon and usually would start reading it as I cooked dinner.
From the perspective of a dedicated reader – I usually only have one book on the go, but with such wonderful bite-sized episodes, I’ve been quite able to keep my normal books on the go whilst reading these. However, there were times when I got to the end of the episode and was utterly FURIOUS that I’d have to wait another week for the next instalment.
Thanks to Amazon’s suggestions of similar works, I’ve also found a few other titles I was previously unaware of which have been purchased and downloaded in the same fashion. So big kudos for this experiment, Mr. Scalzi, you’ve not only received the payment for The Human Division, but also a few other titles on Amazon as a direct result of this experiment ;)
I liked the serialized format. It made my Tuesdays, a little boost… just that little extra waiting for me at home… outside of walking the dog in the snow.
I liked the different story styles; from the transcript, introduction of different characters from a cold open, and the time spent with the diplomat’s family was a great way to show the amount of time that is lapsing in the story. At one point, I remembered thinking “I would so watch the shit out of this show.”
1. I wish the chapters were a bit longer
2. “He/She said” was used a lot initially… or it was more noticeable in the first few chapters
3. I wish the book overall was longer
4. If the dog had died, I was going to be really pissed.
I was a huge fan of the series until today’s episode. The episode was good, but as a series ending, it was a complete failure. It didn’t answer any of the questions posed throughout the series. It was simply another episode of ‘What will the secret forces screwing with humanity (and possibly the Conclave) do next?’
I was expecting stand-alone episodes that could hold their own (which I got), but with an overarching story arc (which I did not get). I expected threads to be left dangling, and that was fine. I certainly didn’t expect human unification by the end of the series, at least not once the first few episodes established that the scale was mostly going to be close detail of a single diplomatic team.
But instead of a story arc, it’s more of a story half-an-arc. The mystery is established, the conflict builds, the stakes are raised, and then… it just stops.
It left me very disappointed. I would hope future experiments in episodic writing, whether by you or other authors, manage better.
I loved the stories, and I thought the serial was a wonderful presentation of them. I didn’t mind buying them every week because the stories were thoughtful and funny and tor puts out quality-as-hell ebooks.
But! Now I have all these little ebooks cluttering up the virtual shelf in my nook, though, and I want a magical way to combine them all in one ebook. Much as I love this serial, I don’t want 13 covers lined up there, I just want one. (Sort of like the dilemma of buying a movie in a trilogy when you damn well know there will be a nice tasty box set to buy later?)
Lets say you had an older OMW fan who was frightened by e-reader technology and also had trouble counting to 13. How would you recommend that he consume the Human Division?
I absolutely loved the serial format, and would be happy to get more books from you in this fashion. But that should come as no surprise. Having a ping in my inbox every week telling me there’s a new Scalzi waiting for me has been awesome, and I’ve really dug the structure of the narrative(s), where everything is self-contained but part of a greater whole.
The only big disappointment every week was the lack of an interior, higher-resolution image of John Harris’ cover art. While it’s really cool that Tor sprang (sprung? I dunno) for thirteen illustrations, only placing them on the ebook cover feels like a waste of beautiful artwork—I cant see it! Next time, include a higher-resolution image as part of the ebook’s front matter. Unless that’s part of a premium package, yet to come, as mentioned above. In which case: never mind, carry on.
Mostly, thanks for giving this experiment a shot, John. It seems to have come out really well for all involved.
Did you see today’s announcement?
The hardcover is being released May 14.
I also enjoyed the episodic format. So much so that I woke up an hour early this morning to download and read the final chapter before heading off to work.
Would be nice to have the serial released on something made out of trees so that us none e-book readers can play along. Been hard avoiding all spoilers and mentions as I wait for the dead tree version.
What?! People who buy the hardcover get a bonus episode? People who bought (in my case, pre-ordered) all 13 episodes don’t get it?
That’s unfair. You pitched this as a grand experiment, and it was one that your fans, and fans of ebooks generally, wanted to see succeed. To find out that the extra story goes to people who buy it the old fashioned way feels like a slap in the face.
I just finished the last episode. Overall, I enjoyed it – I liked the serial format, and looked forward to spending Tuesday lunchtimes reading the latest episode.
The only issue I have is that by about episode 10 it was obvious that it wasn’t going to wrap up properly. It was like when you’re watching a TV show and you think “hang on, it’s already 9:50, no way can they solve all the plot threads before the end of the show”, and then suddenly “to be continued” pops up on screen because it’s a two-parter.
I enjoyed all the digressions into side-stories, but of course that left you with far less space to deal with the main plot. So, to summarize: enjoyed the story, liked the format, you’ve left us hanging mid-story.
Being an avid fan of your work and especially the Old Man’s War universe it was a trivial decision to immediately buy all chapters. Thereafter Tuesdays really turned into Scalzi-Tuesdays. And this was not just for me but also for a friend of mine who also immediately bought all volumes of the series.
I’ve never had so long reading a book of yours ;-)
Mind you, I was through each chapter in easily less than an hour. But the wait for the following Tuesday…
Right after finishing each chapter I was longing to start reading the next.
But since I was reading another book (several actually, though not at the same time) in parallel to keep me busy I tended to kind of forget about it.
Then, come the next Tuesday, I found a “Your Amazon Order…” mail in my inbox which elicited a series of reactions starting with “what the heck did I order now?…” ending in “oh right! Another chapter of THD!”
For me it’s been a bit like waking up to remember it’s your birthday and there’s a present waiting downstairs :-)
I have to say releasing the book in bite-sized portions was a quite positive experience on my part.
However I’m not sure how well this will work out of more and more books are released that way at the same time. I could imagine that it might lessen the grade of immersion possible with each story if you keep switching back and forth between multiple universes.
All that being said I greatly enjoyed returning to the Old Man’s War universe over the last weeks and am a bit sad to have the story arc come to an end already. But it’s always like that with a good book.
Keep up the awesome work!
The stories were delightful, but they were just a tiny bit too short. I need reading material that takes me 25 minutes to read while I’m on the elliptical at the gym, and I plowed through these in just 18 minutes.
WRITE TO MY TASTES LEST I FATTEN!!
> Positive comments are appreciated but so are negative ones
Well, the non-US availability still leaves a lot to be desired. But well, both you and Tor are aware of it and bitching about it some more won’t make anybody care any more, will it? Looking forward to the eventual single-volume, hopefully reasonably available release (fingers crossed).
I enjoyed the serial format; it gave me something to look forward to every week. I think you did an excellent job of keeping each episode mostly standalone while tying things together into a larger story.
I found placing the preorders annoying. It would have been nice if there were a way to order all 13 episodes in one click instead of having to go to 13 different pages.
I am extremely offended that the omnibus will contain material that wasn’t in the serial version. This, to me, seems like a grab for money from the people who have been reading the episodes all along. I’d be willing to pay an extra $0.99 for the extra material (as an episode 14, of sorts). But, I’m not going to pay $12.99 just to get a coda. Based on this, I do not ever plan to buy serial episodes of yours again; I’ll just wait for the omnibus to get all the material.
Worldhasteeth, Jamie C:
Scroll up in the thread and you’ll see my comment re: the extra story.
I’m a huge John Scalzi fan, but I found this series very frustrating. It was irritating for me, as a fast reader, to wait a whole week to download something I could read while standing in my kitchen waiting for the pasta to boil. And part of each new installment seemed to be devoted to reminding us what happened in the LAST installments, which felt like a waste of time. The writing’s good, but the plot wasn’t satisfying, and the installment releases made that worse. Mr. Scalzi, if you release the next series in installments, how about fewer, bigger installments rather than 13 short ones?
Now let me say that as a Foreign Service Officer serving overseas with the U.S. Department of State, I’ve been delighted to read science fiction that’s kind-of-sort-of based in my universe. THAT aspect of the series has been a hoot. Thanks!
I agree with worldhasteeth, those that bought the individual books may feel cheated that they don’t get the extra bonus material that comes in the single [e]book. Had I known that, I would have waited.
Despite John’s insistence that, as someone who didn’t read the serial, I would have nothing to contribute, I have something to contribute. As thrilled as I was by the concept of the serial, and as much as I wanted to read it, the lack of a “subscribe” feature kept me away. Yes, that may be a little bit of cutting off my nose to spite my face, but e-books are supposed to make things simple. As it was, the lazy-ass part of my brain said “Huh, serial. Can’t get it in one click? I’ll wait for the book.”
Moral of the story: OFFER A ONE-CLICK SUBSCRIBE MECHANISM. :)
I’ll echo what other folks have said — it would have been very nice to have the option to buy them all at once & receive them as they were available.
One of Amazon’s largest failings is that they make it more difficult than it should be to follow a series of books.
As a general comment, I’m not a fan of serialization. I want to read what I want to read when I want to read it, and not on an arbitrary schedule determined by the publisher. I understand some people really like the anticipation of the release of a new episode every week – I’m not one of those people. I’ve pre-ordered the hardcover release of the Human Division, and will add it to my to-read pile when it arrives.
I’ve been following along reading it each week. I haven’t finished today’s final episode, so perhaps this comment is premature. However… I’ve enjoyed reading it serially, for the most part. (I read Stephen King’s The Green Mile serially as well). And although I enjoy doing this occasionally, I’m not sure I would read another one serially anytime soon. It’s fun, it’s a snack, not a meal. But maybe I would (because, hey, all the cool kids are doing it, right?)
As a result – one of my quibbles as a writer and reader – is that the chapters tend to be, well, episodic. Yeah, I know, that was the point. I got that. But reading it as a “book” instead of as a serialized story, it feels episodic. I doubt it’ll hurt the overall sales of the book when it’s being sold as a book, but it probably doesn’t flow the way a typical novel would.
Overall, though, I’ve enjoyed it a lot.
I will eagerly await the next installments.
I think you captured the essence of what I imagine serials were like back in the day. The stories created tension from week to week, but without sacrificing the storytelling within an individual installment. I was overjoyed by the fact that you didn’t wrap up the story because I want more. I want to know John Perry’s reaction to these events. Is this what he meant to do, or are the unintended consequences weighing on him? Does he even know?
And didn’t you warn us that the hardcover would have extras when this launched? Maybe not. I will look forward to it arriving legally online. I paid the price for weekly instant gratification and will do so again.
I hated the serial format. It forced me to stop reading before I wanted to stop.
If Tor ever decides to release a book in serial format again, I will pass on it, regardless of the author.
John: Thanks for the response re: the extra story. I didn’t see your comment when I posted mine. That was my mistake.
Still, it feels like a punishment to those who bought the serial to have a story that is “exclusive to the hardcover for a while”. As much as I enjoyed The Human Division, I could have waited to read it in omnibus format. So, I’m looking forward to season 2. But, if it is a serial, I’m not going to buy the episodes, just the omnibus.
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
As im an author of serialized fiction, i gotta support it. And i really did enjoy it. The only suggestion i have is to make is the episode lengths. It came out to an average of 60 pages on my ipad. While some episodes did just fine, others felt more like a scene than an actual “episode”. i think 100 pages or 25-30,000 words is a good target.
My only problem with episodic releases is this.
It was all written and I could have read it all when you released the first chapter.
If you were writing it as we went or something like that, then I’m fine with episodic content. This was episodic just to be episodic.
The only reason I bought each episode is my love for the series, and I was an OMW junkie waiting for my next fix. I would have paid more for it all at once and not have had to wait.
I generally love this kind of story – So much like Retif or Miles Vorkosigan- Harry Wilson is an immediate star. I even enjoyed the fun/frustration of the episodic format. But, I almost screamed “NO!” out into the office when the series ended without closure. I was going to post earlier that this format forces the author to delay plot resolution until the last episode. I thought that was to maintain the suspense. Little did I know that you were going to maintain the suspense past the end of the book. That does feel unfair — like I rode along with you and now have to start all over again.
Also, John, I would really like to have Coloma back. She was a great character. Maybe they could find her in the wreakage barely hanging on?
My reaction to every installment: “MOAR!”
(Translation: I liked the episodic nature of the beast and respect what you accomplished with it, but the chapters were too short.)
The biggest downside of serialization is not that I had to click “buy” a bunch of times, but now Amazon thinks I really, really, really like Scalzi, space opera and milSF and recommends (a) lots of your books I already bought in some format (book club, direct from Subterranean, etc.), and (b) books by folks I’ve never heard of before (and I’m pretty well read) leading me to be skeptical of their value to me.
On the content, the stories are terrific, but I’d have liked a few more breadcrumbs dropped to thread the pieces together. It doesn’t hold up as well as a “novel” without the story coming to a conclusion (note, I’ve yet to finish ep 13, but the above notes lead me to think I won’t be as satisfied as I’d like to be).
I don’t really care for this serialized story format. I found the episodes too short to really engage me even though I felt the story was top-rate. For me, the smooth flow of the authors work as he develops the characters, story arcs and plots was too disrupted by the weekly breaks to be a really enjoyable read. Which sorta disappointed me because, well, like JS is one of my favorite authors and I was (am) so looking forward to something new. So with that in mind, I will still buy if more of your stories if are released as a serial, but it is not my preferred format. Thanks for the stories :)
P.S… I’m also quite annoyed I can’t get the “bonus” chapter without buying the whole damn thing again. It feels like I’m being punished for buying it serially.
Sob! Audible has some glitch and the final EP won’t download this morning. It sucks that this happened on the final chapter!
If they fix it before my morning commute, I forgive them.
I thought I would hate the serial format, but I really love it, instead. It’s true that this does not feel like a cohesive “novel,” but the chance to get a fresh glimpse of favorite characters in this form is quite satisfying.
I agree with all the above that a one-click to order the whole serial would be nice. If I’d had to wait until May I’d’ve bought the whole thing and gobbled it up and been happy. But something new to read every Tuesday was delightful. Now, if you want to make me really happy with the next one make it possible for me to pre-order the whole run, and then, at the end, trade-in my many episodes for a single complete novel file (with bonus material). The Kindle is a pain in the ass for organization, and one file would be better long-term than the thirteen I have now.
But hey, thanks for the news. I’m happy there’s going to be more, and I sincerely hope we get at least a passing mention of what Zoe’s up to during all of this.
Also, add me to the list of people requesting a subscribe-to-season option, particularly if it includes a omnibus edition at the end. I might even be willing to pay a small premium for that option, though paying up front really has a built-in premium.
Enjoyed the series so far, have not read today’s release so will just comment on some logistics buying experience.
About half way through I would have pulled the trigger on a subscription package , “i.e. sign me up for the rest and don’t make me go through the purchase every week”. Amazon (in my case) makes you have to add each episode to the cart and buy. Would be a lot easier to say buy episodes x-y in one shot. Yes, buying a non-serialized novel would accomplish the same thing but the appeal of a serial is a reader trying before they buy and the author still gets something for the trial. After a couple of episodes I gotta imagine most readers are committed to the series or not by then. I suggest looking into ways of making it easier to subscribe after the tipping point of say 3 episodes.
A general gripe I have with Amazon (and other online etailers) is that they make it more difficult than necessary to find and buy the latest book in series that a reader follows. Yes, they have suggested related books but a lot of times they are out of sequence or maybe by the same author but not the same series. If they were smart they develop a series navigator UI for Sci-FI series consumers. They could invite the publishers to manage the series sequences etc. and it worth the five mins it would take them.
Overall, next time I will buy the entire book, once it’s released.
Because for me, reading it as a serial lessened the experience.
Each week the story seemed so short that I had to remind myself it really was a normal length chapter.
But I have no overall feeling for the book. And my memory isn’t what it used to be. It’s sometimes hard for me to remember the details of a book I’m reading all at once. Something that happened 2 months ago? I dunno, hopefully context will clear things up.
And finally, there’s the matter of price. I paid 13 instead of 10 for the book by doing it this way. If you price the full book at 13, I won’t buy it. I’ll wait til it’s on sale, or buy a used paperback or … if I had downloaded a sample (of the whole book) then I might have become engaged enough so that I did buy the book, even at a higher price than I like.
Summary: don’t like the format, not sure if the book is good, but it feels lightweight, incomplete and basically, meh.
I really enjoyed the serialized format. I went into it thinking that it would be kind of annoying since my reading habit is large chunks at a time. I found that it was nice to be able to digest each section before going on to the next bit of the story. I would add that it would be nice to have a subscribe button or buy all at the beginning. Can’t wait for the second season!
I purchased through Kobo, clicking the link that you provided in case you get a few pence from that.
I was happy with the serial format, read the series on a Kobo Touch or Glo, depending, and saved the DRM free epubs so that when I want to I can load them into Moon + or Aldiko to reread on my Nexus 7 or Nexus phone at some point. You’re handling the issues around format and DRM well.
I liked the length: longer chapters to open and close, and shorter episodes of variable length.
A free copy of the collected version would be not only nice, but an Expected Courtesy really — except that I don’t know how you would administrate that so…
Extras for the hardcover would be a Very Bad Move.
By the way, John, good job and congratulations and thanks. I hope to see more of this not only from you but from other authors.
I did not like the serial format either, I did the first two episodes then stopped, I just did not pull me in and I got bored. That could have simply been the story but I suspect it was because I had to wait days between episodes from the time i finished it until the next one and I would get distracted with other normal books. I wont try the serial format again.
Thank you for replying. My replies to your replies:
Yes, I did see today’s announcement. Having another novel planned doesn’t make up for this novel/series being incomplete. You didn’t stop ‘The Last Colony’ when the missiles started raining down on Roanoke.
Yes, I saw the comments that the bonus story will be made available “eventually”. It still feels like a slap in the face to those of us who were there all along. I know it’s childish and irrational to feel that way. It doesn’t make me not feel that way to know that.
Unfortunately, my feelings towards “The Human Division”, which were warm and squishy for the past 13 weeks, went sour today. First there was the non-ending, and then a bonus story for other (not me) people. I hate taking the part of the disgruntled commenter who has nothing good to say and isn’t satisfied with explanations, so I’ll add some feedback that doesn’t look like so much ‘You suck, Scalzi!’
1. The characters. Always. Even the walks ons who were only there long enough to die.
2. The action. The plot. The mystery. The clues.
3. Most of the individual episodes were good, some really good, one or two brilliant. I disagree with others that the Clarke stories were clearly better than the non-Clarke ones. If I ranked all the stories, the averages for Clarke and non-Clarke would probably be about the same.
What could have been better:
1. Telling us upfront that this was “The Human Division: Part 1” and not a standalone work. Even with the contract stuff, if you’d said ‘If this project is a success, there will be a Part 2, if not, then not. For me, that would have managed expectations much better. Imagine counting down the miles with a kid in the car saying ‘Are we there yet? Are we there yet?’ and when you reach the exit, telling them ‘Surprise! This is just a McDonalds stop! We won’t be at Disneyworld for another 200 miles!’ That’s how I felt today.
3. A bonus story for the ebook people – even if it wasn’t the same one as in the hardback. This was sold as an ebook experiment, not as a new hardback. It makes us feel cheated, rational or not.
4. A ‘buy the series’ button. I recognize that is at Amazon’s end, rather than yours.
Congratulations on a (mostly) successful experiment, and thank you for making experiments in an effort to leave the industry a better place than you found it.
Oh, and pricing was just fine. The total will be more than I would want to pay for the whole novel but just fine for a leisurely instalment weekly.
Overall I really enjoyed the serialized format. I read other less well known authors who release their stuff chapter-by-chapter. Often there are months between new chapters, so I’m used to getting pieces of the story little by little.
Kvetching? Only two small ones.
The Kindle software really doesn’t handle episodic releases well – either on the Kindle Keyboard, or as an app on Android tablets. It’d be nice if someone at Tor could have a word with Amazon about making this easier. Not that I imagine it’s a high priority for them though.
Finally, as a whiny self-entitled reader, I do feel a little left out in the cold the extra story front. I don’t object to giving you more money – but buying the physical book is out (I don’t do that any more – storing/transporting them is difficult). I see your comment about the Hard Cover’s extra story making it online eventually, hopefully not too long away.
I enjoyed the serial format. I will confess that I sometimes rush through a book because i want to see what’s coming. Can’t do that with the serial. The ending today left me with “there has to be more coming” so I was happy when i got to work and read your announcement about another “season”
I don’t mind the cliff hanger ending. Television shows do it most of the time so why not written format?
I really enjoyed a lot of the series, but I think I went in anticipating more of a television series episodic structure, where the narrative follows a more linear arc, following specific characters. (Or a Dickensian serialized novel.)
What I got was a series of linked short stories that explored divisions within the Colonial Union on a micro (and eventually macro) scale among several different characters. So I lost my investment in the rise and fall in one protagonist in favor of small fleeting relationships with several different protagonists. And don’t get me wrong–the Sound of Silence was one of my favorite episodes in this run. I just wanted more time with that character.
In the end, it felt more like Metatropolis, or a sci-fi anthology with a theme, than a unified work. Which: not bad! Love those! But not what I expected.
It would be nice if there were numbers (early) in the titles (Human Division 1: The B Team) so they would sort by name and it would be easy to tell which episode comes next. Then I wouldn’t need to stuff an index card in my kindle, since it only displays the first n characters of the title. A minor annoyance, but easily fixed.
I haven’t read Part 13 yet, but did read 1-12, and my thoughts are:
1) Some of the episodes did feel a bit short, but I’m not sure there is much you could do about that.
2) I liked the overall plot, world, etc.
3) I would also have liked a “buy the whole set with one click” button.
4) I’m not upset with a 14th story in the print-only version. But since I’ve donated enough to Athena’s college fund, I’m also not buying the paper version. ;-)
So, I’m an end reader, and along about episode 3 the inability to check out the end had me intending to drop this and wait for the collected version. I don’t like suspense, and I don’t read comfortably unless I know pretty much what the deal is. (Which is why I read each episode at least twice.)
But I realized pretty quickly that since I wasn’t going to be skipping the discussion threads, I might as well accept the existence of suspense. At least most of the episodes felt pretty complete; given that we were told there was an overarching story for the book (which, silly me, I assumed meant it would FINISH), well, I actually got kind of into it. Wasn’t happy with the announced collected-book-only content, which seemed like an unfair way to treat the people who went with you on the journey, but as I said in the other thread, there ARE libraries, and realistically it would (as you have indeed now stated) be likely to be posted eventually. (Better than nothing, but NOT happy-making.)
Where I am now – seriously, do NOT tell people something is an entire arc when it isn’t. And from my point of view, it isn’t.
I came to enjoy the serial aspect. I suspect it would read oddly as a novel, though I haven’t tried it that way. But having each episode be relatively independent worked for me; unlike a lot of people, I enjoyed most of the side stories. I also didn’t feel shortchanged by the episode lengths.
You said in a post some time back that PNH suggested serializing Redshirts. Writing something as a serial from the get-go is a MUCH better idea.
I hadn’t noticed before quite how much you like to blow shit up. !!!FOOM!!!
Loved having the new story every Tuesday. I tend to be a really fast reader, so this was nice. BUT I am going to chime in with everyone else about:
1. The extras in the hard cover. Feels like and F-U to those who bought all 13. (Yeah I know it will be available “eventually”. Doesn’t help. Oughta be a freebie to us now as a reward.)
2. The central mystery remains unsolved. I’m glad the continuation has been announced, but again, doesn’t help. (Actually it does. I would be REALLY pissed right now instead of irked.) Its okay to set up a new mystery as you solve the first, but as is feels like a volume one. Burn Notice is an example of taking this particular trope too far, but you know what I mean, the big bad of each season turns out to be a puppet of the big bad of NEXT season.
Positives: Loved the characters, got invested in many of them. Cried for the poor boy in the box. Worried about the dog. Mourned for dear, dutiful David. Adore your women. They are different from each other. There is definitely a Heinlein vibe to your writing without being at all derivative, and your women are better. I love it. Can’t wait for the next series, curse your sudden, but inevitable betrayal!
Loved the story, and I’m no fanboi. I gave you some crap on Ep2 for the length vs value.
Looking back I can say I really looked forward to Tuesdays because of this serial. The story was good, my least favorite was probably the episode with Hart returning home. I loved the end of it, but the rest of it was just eh.
Over all I would recommend the episodes be more consistent in length. I look at these like tv episodes (and that is sort of how they were pitched) so I would have rather seen more content and less episodes rather then the super sort Episode 2. Somewhere around 75% of Episode 1 in length each week would be perfect.
Good effort and even though I was upset about length a couple times, I soldiered on to see what was next because you wrote a good story.
Pros: Made my Tuesdays! Short length was perfect for after-dinner or before bedtime. As the story built the anticipation for the next chapter became more acute; exactly what a serial should accomplish.
Cons: 1) Continuity was a bit of a problem with certain chapters such as Walk The Plank and This Must Be The Place. They seemed too far outside the main story line and didn’t add that much to the central story. 2) The idea that there is an extra story (coda) but only for hard-cover buyers sort of ticks me off. We are the Blazing Pioneers and as such should reap the benefits of being on the leading edge; it is our downloads that have helped set the stage for the success that is yet to come for The Human Division.
Summary: This was a darned fun experiment and I’m glad that you envisioned it and made it happen and that I was smart enough to participate. I truly enjoyed it and look forward to re-reading all the chapters tonight before I jump into the final chapter. Thank you John, and well done!
I read the first two episodes, but found that getting ebooks onto my phone so I could read them was a reasonable bit of a hassle, so I didn’t get around to getting the rest of the episodes. (The Human Division, for me, had the additional hurdle of “I don’t read ebooks, I have zero interest in a dedicated ebook reader, and I have a very possessive attitude towards books that I own (which makes me distrustful of the kindle/nook/etc ecosystems of books).”)
That said, I am buying this in hardcover the moment I can, because what I read was good and I want more. So I guess this is a statement about the serial nature which says “that wasn’t ideal for me, but since you are also giving me the option to buy a nice shiny hardcover, I’m happy.”
Getting the first episode free from Tor was significant: without that lure I never would have tried the ebook thing.
I would love to be able to get these in a serial ebook form from my local library, so that I could just borrow each episode as it came out.
I wasn’t too keen on the serialization idea at first, but after noticing how many of your short stories I had already paid a buck for and enjoyed, I decided not to wait. As it turns out, I’ve really enjoyed the format. I’ve also not been looking forward to the series ending, so I was happy to read the news of a second season.
I like the weekly serial format. I’m also reading another serial at the same time, so thoughts about serials in general are also probably going to bleed in here. I’m also writing this before reading this week’s episode, though I doubt that will change my feelings.
I liked that the Human Division had serials that were complete unto themselves, rather than leaving the story unresolved until the next one.
However, I felt like many of the episodes were too short for what it was telling, in a word: they were underdeveloped. (I’m not a long time reader of your work, so I don’t know if this is a trend in your writing or limited to the serial version. I didn’t feel that way about Agent to the Stars, which is the one work I have read.) The only time I felt objection to the price was when the pieces were underdeveloped. I didn’t actually keep track of word count, so I don’t know which ones are longer or shorter, but I don’t think the development lines up with length (for instance, I thought Walk the Plank was very well developed, and I know there were complaints about the length).
Like many others, I feel very frustrated that waiting for the omnibus gets an extra episode. I don’t care that it’s incidental and contains no plot to the story. I went for the weekly serial thinking that I was getting exactly what anyone who waited would get, and wanting to see if I liked the serial format from a publisher as much as I like it from an indie author. When I get the serial from the indie author, I get the entire thing. There’s nothing extra in her books that didn’t appear in the weekly serial. To get shorted by a publisher is very frustrating. I’m not sure I’m willing to take that chance on a publisher again.
I’m used to a more linear plot progression from my reading, and while I enjoyed the detours, I think I’d prefer to have a strong central plot with detours rather than the all over the place feel that this one had. I don’t know how much of that was playing with the format and thus different than your normal work, or if it was similar to how you usually write. While I plan to go read your other works now, I’ll have to think long and hard before investing in another serial from you or Tor.
I haven’t read the comments because of spoilers, so if I’m duplicating someone else’s comment, I’m sorry.
I haven’t read the whole thing, because there wasn’t really an easy way that I could see to “subscribe” to the serial on my Kindle. I don’t care about the cost, but I just forgot to go through the rigmarole of downloading an episode once and then that made it twice as hard to get the next one, three times as hard to get the one after that, etc, and eventually I figured I would just read it when it came out as a whole book. You should pretty easily be able to see if this is common by looking at your purchase numbers by episode :)
I think the ideal user experience for this kind of serialized book is one where i would sign up on Amazon and agree that I want to subscribe to “The Human Division”. This automatically charges me as the episodes become available and automatically downloads them to my Kindle. Added to this, it should automatically merge them into a single “book” (accessed by a single icon on the home screen) as they are downloaded. Having 10 separate episodes floating around and needing to remember which comes in which order is a pain, because the Kindle shows me just the cover and your covers are very pretty but the writing that says “THE HUMAN DIVISION #1” is so tiny that it’s not readable on the home screen (an easy fix for the future). The upshot of this is that it’s hard to figure out which book is next in the series without going to Wikipedia and looking up the correct order. Also I have 300 books on my Kindle and finding the one I want is already an exercise in painfulness as the home screen design works really well for 20 books but terribly for 300.
I know you’re not in control of Amazon’s systems, but Tor’s a big publisher, and if this is something they’re considering doing for more books, you might be able to provoke some change here to make the format work better, which in turn would help people like me enjoy more of your work and give you more money :)
The free first episode got me to invest in the serial, where I probably would have waited till the “full” version otherwise. I hate waiting for episodes of TV series, too…but you hooked me so you got me. Bonus for you, the free first episode encouraged me to nag my cheapskate friends to try it out.
A “single file”/collection version of either the audio or ebook should be available to someone who invested in all episodes of the serial and now wants it all in one place. In some material way, being a loyal follower of the serial should be rewarded…at least, definitely not penalized.
Similarly, learning that there is something I can’t get through the serialized version (the coda) means that I now prefer waiting for the hardcover again, and probably won’t do the serialized version next time for fear of missing out. It feels “off”, like being lazy and waiting is somehow more valuable than waiting in line all night for the midnight release. IMO, if you’re going to do serialized, it should have some value other than “being first”. I would not have the same reaction to ancillary materials…extra artwork, whatever-the-equivalent-of-dvd-commentary-is, etc….that would feel like “bonus” to me and would allow me to happily buy both the serials and the complete hardcover. But missing extra story feels like the serials are somehow second class citizens, to me.
Normally I enjoy a serial format; however, the Tor announcement said “There may be some small extra material in the full-length book, because we’re LIKE THAT.”. That has led me to steer clear of the serial format until the entire book comes out, because I don’t want to pay twice to get a “complete” version. I would suggest future announcements either state the complete novel will be exactly the same as the serial version, or that any “supplemental” material will be available as a supplemental “episode” for those who bought the serial version.
My only complaint about the process was that it came at a really busy time in my life and I couldn’t keep up with the releases. Eventually I just resolved to read the finished book, but I’m hoping that with season two I can enjoy the story as it unfolds.
I didn’t enjoy the serial format. Probably because the episodes seemed too short. If they were all (at least) the length of the last one it might not seem so bad.
I’m also upset that I paid just as much money for as the people who waited for the compilation and they’re going to be getting an extra story and I’m not.
I didn’t mind the story being broken up into episodes, though obviously I don’t know yet how it reads all in one go.
If the next one is a serial I’m definitely waiting to buy the compilation.
I wrote this earlier on what turned out to be the wrong thread, so cross posting:
But now having read the new post, I am not so sure. I am with worldhasteeth on this one: turning round at the end and telling me that there is more material I could have had if I hadn’t been so stupid to fall for the sales pitch on the serialisation leaves a nasty taste, and I will be much more wary of going down this route again.
So I end up with 13 files on my kindle with no way of consolidating them, making it a pain if I ever want to read it again, while being excluded from a 14th episode (and whether it is freestanding or not is beside the point). But against that, the pricing works out that I have paid substantially less for the all the pieces (and that still would be the case if there had been a 14th) than is now being charged for the whole. For some people, that might be a perfectly reasonable trade off; for me I would be happy to put the equivalent money down to get the equivalent product.
The bottom line is that I will still look forward to season two. If you had asked me yesterday, I would still on balance have signed up to read it episode by episode. With what I know today, chances are that I will wait until I can buy the whole thing, when I know what I am getting.
I haven’t read all 70ish comments in this thread yet, so I’m likely to be repetitive (which I guess is useful in it’s own, tedious way). First, I loved the stories. I’m a huge fan of the OMW world, and I enjoyed even (maybe even PARTICULARLY) the “aside” chapters that some other people didn’t so much care for.
While I like the idea of the serialization of the “novel” (more on those quotation marks in a minute), the aftermath of the technology is a bit messy. Now I have 13 files/books/whatevers/units where I’d like to have just the one cluttering up my Kindle “shelves.” If there were some mechanism by which we who bought all 13 episodes could get a free (or heavily discounted) edition of the whole “novel,” that would be very nice. This mess, however, won’t stop me from doing this all over again next time, because I won’t wait for the collected e-book to come out months later. I need my fix NOW. In any event, I applaud you and Tor for giving this a go. I hope it was successful for you.
I don’t think the stories hold together very well as a novel, and it’s not just because they range over lots of different groups of people and plots. I’ve spent a LOT of time thinking about this over the last 20 or more years, as I wrote my master’s thesis on similar books in the “literary” (whatever that means) realm (cf. William Faulkner’s _Go Down, Moses_, Sherwood Anderson’s _Winesburg, Ohio_, etc.). Are those books collections of related short stories, conveniently collected together for purchase and reading or are they, indeed, NOVELS and all the parts are required to fully grok the whole? As far as I’m concerned, you can argue either way for most of those books
The larger problem for me, though, is that the ending would be entirely unsatisfying if we didn’t know already that there would be more to the story. Maybe if _The Human Condition, Part 2_ is the next collection of stories and both volumes together tell a single (albeit enjoyably rambling tale), I’ll change my mind about it working well as a novel. But, the end of _The Human Division_ gave me the same feeling as the end of _The Empire Strikes Back_: that it was a pause between two halves of a story, even though the last chapter is definitely a pause, there’s still more of the story to wrap up, not just that there’s the potential for more OMW-world stories to tell, but there’s the REST of this story to tell.
I know you said it you haven’t read The Human Division to move along but….TFB, I’m giving you the benefit of my marketing experience anyway, with the caveant that the ultimate expression of marketing success is sales and I haven’t an inkling how that’s gone…
1). Serialized content created a much longer and more effective promotional window, at least for readers of your site- the message didn’t get old, it got more intriguing. Great cover art, neat premise, the more I read each entry on each episode, the stronger my desire to read the overall book became. Reading the final review you received, I will be buying the book (which is a change for me because both Old Man’s Man and the follow-ups for me were rather “meh” than “have-to-read-now-now-now-damnit-NOW!”)
2). I suspect the multiple serial entrants in Amazon probably contributed to the visibility and sales – James Patterson’s monthly book strategy does work and given the plethora of cheap, available e-books on Kindle, having multiple, low-cost, easy entry pieces is a good strategy.
3). Great entry point for new readers who might not want to invest in someone they were unsure about. $.99 is not a big leap.
4). Should have had the complete book available NOW rather than forcing people to wait until mid-May. I would like to get it now but don’t want the serialized episodes (too much work now to download them all – stupid, and lazy, I know…, and they would clutter my Kindle screen). By May, my interest may have waned or shifted to the next shiny object to grab its attention. You need to strike while the iron is hot and make it available next week.
That’s all. Hope it is helpful. Sorry I didn’t move along as requested.
Really enjoyed the serial format when I thought, at first, it was going to annoy the hell out of me. I think it succeeds because they really are complete, individual stories with a background narrative drawing them together. I think if you had just broken up the chapters of a regular novel, and released them one at a time, it would have been a disaster. Of course, you already know that, because you didn’t do that.
Can we get Lt. Wilson a drinking problem or something? He’s such a boy-scout.
Just read the Tor article. I agree that you did achieve the arc you considered important. I’m glad you intended to complete the rest, no matter what. I still would have liked not to have it sprung on me that the obvious arc wasn’t being completed yet. INFO!!
I agree with a lot of what has been posted already, but here’s my version: I took part in this experiment because I liked the idea of reading a book in this fashion, even though I’ve only read the first two OMW books. Getting the first episode free and the low price point ($.69 per episode on Audible) also played a huge part.
I generally listened to the stories week-by-week, though not always on release day, and generally found them fun and a good length, as I could finish them during my commute (I like to listen on double speed). I enjoyed the process and would read another book this way.
I however will probably not be taking part in “season two,” because I found I liked the idea of this project more than the actual story. It was way too fragmented for my taste, and not really akin to the “TV show as novel” I was expecting, since most TV shows follow the same characters from week to week, and this thing was all over the place, to the point that the plot felt barely there. Or rather, so much there that I was frustrated that we weren’t being allowed to see it. And with only a few minutes spent with the characters from week to week, it was difficult to keep track of who was who in which faction; a show like Game of Thrones or The Wire may follow a lot of plot threads, but they are interwoven a lot better.
I haven’t listened to the last episode yet, but the news that it doesn’t wrap up the story is not exactly a surprise based on the pacing thus far (including a few installments that felt like pure filler, and contributed little to the overarching story from what I could see). If I had known it would be half-resolved at the outset, I probably would have just waited until I manage to get to the other two OMW books first, and obviously I have totally spoiled The Last Colony for myself now (something I was willing to do for the experiment, mind you).
One final point: I can’t imagine reading this as a novel. It wouldn’t tie together at all and I think I would enjoy the reading experience a lot less.
So I guess I would say, overall: it was a fun experiment, I’m somewhat glad I tried it out even though it didn’t work for me, and I would do it again provided it was clear that, at the end, I would have gotten a complete story out of the thing.
Oh, but I also side with everyone who is annoyed that the extra chapter is only in the hardback. The early adopters are the ones who are going to go out and be evangelists for the brand, and this feels like a marketing ploy. I understand that it could be likened to deleted scenes or an alternate ending on a DVD, but I don’t think books really work like that, or people just aren’t used to it.
Apparently, I have more to say: while I respect your decision (as you have explained amply here in Whatever) to remain with a publisher, I’d like to see a world in which you can release new stories (short, long, intermediate) — free-standing or in a series — without having to go through the process of negitiating contracts and putting together marketing plans, etc., etc. Now, I completely realize that doing all of that probably maximizes your income (and thus your family’s security) and it works for you and Tor. But, it still seems like an overly cumbersome process to getting your writing to our eyeballs. Maybe the majority of your readership still buys your work printed on dead trees at their local Barnes and Noble store and may not even be aware that it was coming until they saw it there. Working with a publisher (even one as forward-thinking as Tor) allows you to sell books to those people as well as those of us who read your blog and/or other sources of news about your forthcoming writing on the intertubes. It still seems to me that we’re in the uncomfortable stage of a transition, though.
I really enjoyed the serial format, for two reasons:
1. Every week, I had a reason to look forward to Tuesday. (Well, two reasons. “Learning Town” also came out on Tuesdays.)
2. The serial format made me care more about the characters, because instead of spending just a weekend with them (like I would with a regular novel), I spent 13 weeks with them. By the end, they felt like old friends. Old, snarky friends. :-)
I’m delighted that there’s going to be a second season, and I hope it’s followed by a third and a fourth. I’m also happy to hear that the coda will be available electronically. I look forward to downloading it!
I have not read The Human Division yet, so I’m not reading the comments, but in case this is useful information:
Empirical evidence suggests to me that, as a Tor-published hardcover, I can expect the novel to automagically show up on the shelves of my library, so I haven’t been following the serialization. I think I’m doing the book equivalent of waiting for my Dr. Who episodes to show up on the Netflix streaming.
I’m not reading the thread to avoid spoilers, so I apologize if I’m just repeating someone else’s comments.
I do want to give a big thank you to Scalzi for trying something new. If, after all is said and done, the serial format turns out to have been a bad idea or just not worth the trouble, I still think he should get major credit for attempting the experiment. Publishing has got to try new things, even if they’re dumb or they don’t work or they sound crazy. Plus, he ended up on the NYT bestseller list a dozen weeks in a row, which is pretty sweet.
I bought and read episodes 1-4 on the days they came out, but then I had to stop. I loved, loved, loved the series, but I just couldn’t read them one chapter a week. I tend to speed-read like a maniac and read a novel in a few days. For me to hit the end of a chapter and go “Oh boy! What’s next!” and then not get to find out for another week was horribly painful.
Yes, I understand this is exactly what happens with TV shows every week and with book series between installments. I’m not sure why I’m fine with it on TV but not fine with it in books.
Regardless, now that the last episode is out I’m going to buy episodes 5-13 and finish the book in a week. My behavior will likely be the same for season 2: watch the releases, hear the buzz, look forward to the last release day, and then buy all of the episodes all at once.
*closes eyes, runs from thread*
FYI – criticism below is meant to be constructive – thank you for writing this book. I, like most others here, appreciate your writing and the world is a better place for having you in it.
I agree with others: Not giving the early adopters an extra story that you give the late comers seems a slap in the face. The most loyal customers who jumped in and gave you money sight unseen should get more, not less.
That said – I really enjoyed the episodic nature of it and look forward to reading more books that way in the future.
I think I missed something, but you have really, really gone down in my eyes if in fact there is a bonus available for folks who DIDN’T buy the series. WTF were you thinking? That’s plain wrong.
And if it turns out the story is incomplete, well, fool me once …
If I knew it was incomplete I would have waited til part 2 had shipped and then decide if I cared to invest in the whole thing.
This new trajectory doesn’t look good for you, not good at all.
Loved the stories. Loved the experiment. I echo the readers above: I wish I could aggregate all the chapters now & a subscribe button would be good. I would buy the hardcover as a gift but otherwise it seems very retro to have another “exclusive.” Also too bad entire ebook not now released for other readers, Nook, etc. Finally, I want a sequel with these characters asap. I cared more about the people than the plot; backstories would do. A good promotion would be to explain which previous novels link to incidents mentioned in Human Brigade so that if you were introduced via serial, you are inspired to go back.
Loved the serial. My only request would be longer chapters. So long as this story thread keeps going forward, however, I’m good with just about anything.
In general, I really enjoyed this! The end sort of leaves things more unresolved than I’d hoped, but that isn’t actually a bad thing it’s just me being fussy.
Uh, one nitpick that you might consider for the future: vacuum/space isn’t *cold*, per se. Temperature is the average kinetic energy of the molecules in an area. So temperature transfer happens when molecules with different average kinetic energies interact and transfer energy.
The upswing of this is that things in vacuum/space don’t get rapidly cold, because there are no molecules to take away kinetic energy through contact. It’s true that anything left in vacuum/space long enough will drop down to a few degrees above absolute zero, but that takes quite awhile and much of it is through infrared emission of heat. In the small amount of time someone was exposed to vacuum/space, they wouldn’t get numb hands/hypothermia because…there just isn’t anything to take the heat from their body.
Pro: I really enjoyed the serial nature of the book. It’s a much different reading experience than normal, and while I wouldn’t want everything I read coming out like this (gaaaah the waiting), I’d enjoy getting to do this sort of thing occasionally in the future. Accessory to this, I also enjoyed the discussion threads that paired up with the serial releases. I found it significantly easier (by which I really mean “doable” vs “not doable”) to follow and participate in the bite-sized chunk discussions as opposed to whole-book-at-once stuff.
Things to improve if possible: I’d really like to see “serial episodes + final package” as a single sales item (at roughly the same price point as “total serial cost”, as opposed to the current “buy the whole thing twice” option). That’s probably more of a sales infrastructure issue, but maybe Tor can push Amazon/B&N/etc to implement something. Certainly if something like a season pass is available then that meets the infrastructure requirement.
Cons: The additional exclusive-to-one-medium content is disappointing. I skip the word “hardcover” because issue isn’t the specific medium but rather the segregation of the book into two different versions despite what looks like a functionally simultaneous release. Sure, versioning happens, but Lucas waited until Empire was out before he started re-editing Star Wars.
I generally like short stories, and I love long chains of linked short stories. Love love love. So I knew going in that this was likely to be My Kind Of Crack, and it was. I also knew going in that most short stories are a 5 to 10 minute read for me, tops, and hitting the end of the queue would be sad. So I’d usually read 2-3 stories in a go, then wait for a new backlog to build. I was not expecting a novel, and I’m fine with not getting one.
It’s emphatically (and thankfully) not a serial novel. A serial is usually published in novella sized chunks, so you’d get 3-5 months of ~50 pages in a sitting. I love novellas, but most novel ideas do not work well if you try to force them into a 3-5 act structure where each act should in theory stand on its own. This is very easy to do badly, and hard to do well. (please note that I do not object at all to a chain of linked novellas)
I preordered all the episodes in advance, and it was really kind of a pain to do in iBooks or via iTunes. For whatever reason, despite the episodes having numbers in the titles, they did not sort in numerical order, so it took quite some time to check and make sure I had everything. For whatever reason, the initial pre-order publicity blitz tends to hit at a point in our monthly paycheck where it’s (usually) easy to work book purchases in, and waiting for the actual release tends to be more awkward to plan for. Since we live in an apartment building, surprise physical packages are not necessarily a good idea, so I don’t preorder paper books online much. Electronic books do not sit in the hallway looking tempting, and I don’t have to put on shoes to go fetch them. This means more book purchases.
The stories were pretty consistent in length and that length was emphatically short. Even the double episodes are fairly short, to the point where I don’t think anything even clocked in at novelette. IME, a more naturalistic chain of linked stories will have more length variation, and I think the pacing feels a bit written to order or TV like as a result. I am not sure what a reasonable way to handle this would be to allow a reasonable balance of aesthetics and the author making money.
I cannot tell you how much I appreciate not having to go on a Quest To Find the Missing Story. I’ve done that for a number of short story chains that later got fixed up into novels, and you probably remember how annoying it is to find that one story that got left out because it didn’t really fit a novel shaped arc.
Aside from some technical issues with the delivery on iTunes, I thought it went extremely well. It also left me wanting more every week as I tried to figure out where you were going.
Frankly, I cannot wait to get the final book, and the sequel!
I’m completely satisfied with the serial nature of THD and even with ending things on a cliffhanger. This wasn’t an artificial “oh, guess we’ll just end the story here and continue on” ending. It was a legitimate moment of transition where everything has changed from what has gone before: Abumwe, Schmidt, and Wilson have clearly leveled up; the story of the Clarke reached a satisfying (if sad) conclusion; and while we didn’t answer the question of who has been sabotaging the Earth/CU/Conclave relationships, we did see a fundamental alteration in the shape of those negotiations. It’s a fine place to stop. For now.
Each individual story was self-contained (except, possibly and by necessity, Episode 13), and the whole put me in mind of Asimov’s I, Robot and Heinlein’s The Past Through Tomorrow, with the caveat that those were collections of short stories later reassembled into loose novels, and this was a novel from the beginning. Perhaps a better analogy is Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, which is probably my favorite book ever — so my affection for THD is understandable, I suppose.
I’m looking forward to reading more adventures of The No-Longer-B Team, in whatever format you end up offering them.
Glowrocks, et al:
Tor and I have both been upfront from the beginning that the hardcover/compiled version would contain some extra material.
One of those extras (“After the Coup”) is already available online and has been for years; the other I expect will become available after an exclusivity window for the hardcover/compiled version. Not too much different from the hardcover being available after an exclusivity window for the electronic version (and yes, there are people who prefer print who didn’t much like that, either).
Part of the overall experiment is how to balance the needs and concerns of both electronic and print readers, and electronic and print retailers. Electronic readers/retailers got the episodes earlier than print readers and retailers got the compiled book; print readers/retailers get a bonus bit earlier than electronic readers/retailers.
To be clear, as far as I know, everything will be available to everyone at some point, in all the formats.
Right. So you’re doing the Very Bad Move by putting material into a collection that was not available to the readers following the serial week by week.
Not buying the next book, and likely nothing or little else by you in future.
Still, thanks. It was a nice experiment to follow.
Further to “I’m out.”
I just saw your comment that “Tor and I have both been upfront from the beginning that the hardcover/compiled version would contain some extra material.”
I don’t remember reading that anywhere. Most likely my faulty memory.
If I had read that, I would have waited though.
So, still out.
I feel like we got rooked out of more money than we would have spent for an actual ebook and ended up with a disjointed story that, while often individually amusing, moved us absolutely nowhere. I knew by around story 10 that unless y gave us a massive final volume we were screwed, and sure enough we were. The thing I have always enjoyed about your books is that they are self contained stories. They all wrapped up in a book, even when set in the same universe. This is a cliffhanger, with limited actual movement while having a ton of character development. I guess my expectations were too high. The shame of it is I enjoyed the story. Now we are told oh by the way, for the honor of having paid what is likely more money for all of these we actually get gimped a story. Wow. Just wow. I am feeling the love :(
I actually liked the serial nature of the book a lot more than I expected. It was like getting a John Scalzi short story every week.
I hated the fact that I had to buy each chapter individually and then individually choose which device I wanted it downloaded to. (I realized this may not be a problem for some, but we have 11 different devices in our family). This is serialized fiction, I should be able to buy the entire series at once. As it was, there were two occasions were I woke up on Tuesday morning and I had no story, because it has missed that episode when I bought the book. Yes, it wasn’t difficult to sign on and buy that week’s story, but I should not have had to do that.
God I hate cliffhangers. Because as stated it means we are going to have to wait the better part of a year, if not a year, to see who the masterminds is/are. I would think that you could have given us some kind of kernel as to who is behind what is going on. I wouldn’t have minded the ending if I knew that in 5 months part two would be released, its the not knowing that is going to make me hate you.
Other than that I liked all the stories, can’t say that I’m a big fan of the format but it’s not a total detriment that I would not pick up the part 2.
The entitlement issues of some e-book readers are really annoying. Also, too, the apparent inability to read what you’ve written multiple times now regarding bonus material. Plus, Kindle collections are your friend.
* I actually think this won’t work as well as a big-chunk novel. After having read the episodes, I think the seams will be too visible. Very nice as episodes though, except
* if I read a novel, and there’s a chapter in there that I find sort of meh-ish, then no big deal, I just speed-read across it. In this case here it _feels_ (even though it probably isn’t, actually) different, as I paid for every single episode. Meaning a meh-episode where nothing happens that contributes towards the overall story-arc and the people we meet move into eight-deadly-words territory from the first sentence (well no, actually into “there should be a revolution and these people should be up against the wall, I HATE these people *spit spit*”-territory) (I am talking about the chapter where we meet Harts family, in case you didn’t guess), feels more like “I didn’t get what I wanted, damn!”
* the ending and non-completion of the arc. Now I know that tons of TV-shows do this as well (and you seem to have modeled this after TV-shows a bit), but I think they are evil and wrong for it as well (and seriously, I will never recover from that non-ending ALF gave us!)
I think you’d do well to look at the example of the most awesome John Rogers (of the-secret-Global-Frequency-pilot-that-never-was and also Leverage fame) who says he always plans his season-endings such that they can be both, either a setup for the next season OR an ending that doesn’t leave people angry and hanging. So you made a gamble with that ending and in the end it paid off because you got that second season. But I feel _very_ annoyed at you having played with all our satisfaction by potentially never getting that second season and thereby potentially leaving us hanging. Great that you didn’t but apparently the thought that you might didn’t stop you. Meh.
* the bonus additional story for the people who DIDN’T participate in your experiment, fueling it with their money. Say what? And yes, I read your comment above about it. That is not an answer, that is just more infuration-fuel. _WE_ are the ones who should be getting an extra story, if anyone, not those-who-are-not-us. _WE_ paid up front, the others didn’t. WTF? The fact that it “will eventually” find its way towards us is missing the point. We feel like our loyalty is being anti-rewarded, even if that is not a word.
* the above sounds very complaint-y, I know, but overall, I’m still really happy for having read the whole thing. So yay for the Human Division and yay for season two. I just hope it won’t be more than a year before we can read that and that it will complete the arc satisfactorily.
I’ve never read much in serial format, but found I really quite liked it. I frankly don’t mind at all that the story doesn’t “finish”. It’s never felt like a single novel released one chapter at a time, but more like episodes of a TV show… which I reckon was the intent. I’m perfectly fine if it never really ends at all. In a TV season finale, you expect a bit of closure, but you also expect that the universe hasn’t cleanly ended. It’s what makes you look forward to more, even if more isn’t necessarily coming.
I will say that the extra coda is slightly offensive to me as well. Perhaps it’s a bit of completionist neurosis, but knowing there’s this little piece of the universe I may never see is galling. And the argument that it’s not story/plot relevant doesn’t hold water… we read these stories because we love the characters and the writing and the universe, not just because they advance some larger plot. It’s not the end of the world, but it does tarnish the experience.
Meanwhile, I’ll happily subscribe to (or, 1-click pre-order 13 times, I guess) the next series whenever they’re ready, and be glad to have them!
It occurs to me that the closest approximation to the economic model of this experiment is comic books: Those who buy the periodicals get a whole bunch of spiffy covers, but not the “extras” in the trades/hardcovers. I’ve only ever groused about this with “Hellboy” — there’s some alleged good stuff in those collections, but I don’t want to buy them again, I want my drip feed. You got your installments quickly, and marketing hopes they can get a few of you to part with your money twice.
Like a comic book, these installments move to (near) the top of my “to-read” pile: they’re short, I can read them on a lunch break or during one of those shows my wife likes more than I do featuring doctors having way more sex than people that busy are likely to have and repeat everything they say, everything they say.
If I buy a new Scalzi novel, it’s going to go on the TBR pile, and I might get to it in a couple weeks to a couple months… and that’s a compliment. Authors I merely like a lot may have a year’s delay in consumption, at which point I roll my eyes for not waiting for the mass market paperback.
This morning I bought episode #13 from Amazon. It was rated at 3 1/2 stars, which seemed unusually low for a Scalzi product. After reading it, I have to agree. Even if there is going to be a Season 2, I would expect some sort of closure. If the arc of the novel is telling the story of Wilson and Schmidt, at least show me how they have developed and changed due to events. That’s what made OMW such a success for me.
As a freshman in high school many long years ago, before personal computers and the Internet, I was able and willing to order paperback books from Scholastic. One month a fantasy called The Fellowship of the Ring was listed in the catalog, so I ordered it and started reading. I devoured that book, studied the maps, was completely in thrall, and all too soon reached the last page:
“Then shouldering their burdens, they set off, seeking a path that would bring them over the grey hills of the Emyn Muil, and down into the Land of Shadow.”
TO BE CONTINUED?!?
OK, I wasn’t quite that shocked when I reached the end of Earth Below, Sky Above, maybe only 4%. And god knows The Human Division isn’t The Lord of the Rings, and John Scalzi is no Tolkien. But still.
You may have said it (more content coming), but I (and apparently others) didn’t hear it.
Who’s fault is that?
Right now I feel like the title of your blog, whatever.
I paid too much, for too little, and didn’t even get the full package nor did I know it was only 1/2 the story.
I love your writing, but am not buying the next book in a serial format. I may never purchase it given how I feel now.
It’s an experiment, and I support that, I just don’t like the results.
I wish that serialized books worked more like albums on iTunes. The songs may cost $1.29 each when you buy them individually, but after you buy a couple, you can then “complete your album” for a total of only $9.99 and get the album exclusives too.
That avoids the problem of “I already spent $13 on this, and you want me to spend another $13 just to get the one extra????”
If the new story is eventually made available for purchase then I won’t be annoyed with the serial, however in the future I’ll give the serial a pass and wait for the compiled version. The immediate gratification was the reason I went with the serial, so if I have to wait, I might as well wait for the complete version. I understand that you need to balance the needs of your various customers, however I offer this as a data point for how I will balance my interests.
When I first started the serialized versions I liked it – but then I started to not like it as I love the chapters and wanted more NOW – so I think in the future, I will just wait for the book as I would read the chapter and be wanting more!
So evidently I am not patient enough for this type of delivery!
As many have noted, the serialized aspect turned out to be fun. I generally gulp books whole, and then am sad to be done so fast. Being forced to read slowly was enjoyable, like a fancy meal, and fun to look forward too as well. Thanks for helping me with my lack of self control!
As the leader of the Tor.com read-along, I’m obviously somewhat biased in your favor, but I really don’t have much, if any, sympathy, for the “Wait, the people who buy the print book get something I don’t?” crowd, especially when it’s framed as whatever’s going to be in the hardcover “oughta be a freebie to us now as a reward,” as someone said above.
Our reward was that we got to read the story ahead of anybody else, in–pace the problems with organizing the episodes on our reading devices–a highly convenient form. Now, in addition to that instant gratification, people want the stuff that’s in the collector’s edition, too? Ennh.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how the season ended since I skipped ahead a couple weeks ago, to prep for the final read-alongs. At first, I was gobsmacked that you didn’t wrap everything up neatly, especially since I didn’t know for sure until just before I turned in today’s read-along that Tor had greenlighted the second season.
Over time, though, and looking at it as a “season finale,” in the same way that “The B Team” was a “season premiere,” I came to peace with it. When I think about it in TV terms, I remember the end of the first season of AMC’s The Killing, which jammed things up to a rushed ending that turned out to be a cheat anyway, and which as soon as it aired convinced me I was never going to watch the second season. This wasn’t like that. As a season finale cliffhanger, “Earth Below, Sky Above” is filled with spectacular set-pieces, resolves SOME key questions, and leaves the door open to further adventures. It’s more like, say, the penultimate season finale of House, where (spoiler alert?) you know there will be repercussions for the spectacularly bad thing he did, but you had to wait to find out what they were. So now we have to wait for the B Team to regroup, and then hopefully go out and, once they reunite with Lt. Lee and the other CDF soldiers, kick some enemy butt in season 2.
And, honestly, if we didn’t have the guarantee of a second season? Having the good guys lose spectacularly, and then retreat nursing their wounds, is a pretty ballsy ending.
Sure, eventually, you’re going to hit your own version of the “Who Killed Laura Palmer?” wall, but as of right now it looks like you’ve set things up so it’ll work.
I love the serial format! This is the 2nd time an author that I am a fan of has done so. I also read Stephen King’s “The Green Mile” this way, although that was in print format. It has given me new reading material every week for the last 3+ months, even if most of it could be red in 30 min or less. I was for the most part pleased with every episode, even the fluff episode on Phoenix. We got to see inside the heads of some of the minor characters and the serial format gave me more time to care what happens to them. Tuesdays have been my favorite days for the past 13 weeks. I pre-ordered every episode in Amazon from day one and have had them ready for me when I wake up.
That being said, The episodes were a little disjointed, which made it more like a TV program than a novel. It was almost like 13 connected stories as opposed to one story told in 13 chapters. It did make it harder to follow, and I did have to go back and re-read to remember events from earlier.
That is really my only personal complaint. I love the characters, I am glad I got to see more of their minds. I will be all in with “Season Two”.
I think I would have waited for the physical book if I hadn’t gotten the B-Team episode for free from Tor; I’ve quickly become an ebook convert, too :)
I’d really like to have a way to buy the series at once rather than click through and buy each one individually, which was kind of annoying.
I really enjoyed the serialized approach, and I like that that allowed the episodes to be so different.
What I’d love to see is a premium digital subscription where we can preorder all episodes with one click, and then get full book when it comes out, with maybe an extra story or some other extras. I’d pay 20 bucks for that.
I am waiting for the physical book. Waiting a year after a whole book is bad enough that I think I would have pulled out my hair with anticipation after every episode while waiting for the next one. So for my sanity just waiting for the whole book.
You may have said it (more content coming), but I (and apparently others) didn’t hear it.
Who’s fault is that?
Uh, yours? This has been another in “Easy Answers To Easy Questions.”
An interesting experiment.
I didn’t buy any of the episodes, but the weekly reminders here kept the book “on my radar”. People seemed to like the stories, so I pre-ordered the complete book and will wait patiently for that to show up on my Kindle. Helped that I enjoyed “After the Coup” (can’t remember where I got it), so I could sort of see where you were going.
I might have bought the serial given a subscription model of some kind. Let me buy it once and then have it show up weekly as a little ray of sunshine during this fine Seattle Spring.
While I did very much enjoy the episodic format of the book (it’s always fun to wake up to a new bit of story on my iPad), looking back, I kind of would have preferred a bit more continuity between episodes. As it is, the book is a very “monster of the week” sort of thing. I wanted a bit more of a running story arc throughout.
That said, I’m very glad to hear that the “series” has been renewed. It’s a definite day one pre-order for me.
Nope. I did not enjoy the serialized version. Two major problems: 1) Now I have 13 separate entries in my Kindle if I want to go back and read it through and B) Since this isn’t the only thing I’ve read over the past couple of months I had a very hard time following the thread of plot through the serials. I would open a new one on Tuesday and start out with “now, who is this character? what are they referencing?” They don’t stand alone and they don’t flow well from one to the other. I guess that’s a third problem.
I’ll admit I’m not a big short story fan. I like being able to really get my teeth into a novel and watch changes in the characters and events over time. You just don’t get much change over the short period of a short story.
I don’t generally read ebooks (I’ve only read a couple to see if I liked the format (it’s ok, but nothing special)) and I’ve never bought any. As much as I would have liked to read this in a serial fashion, since I don’t buy ebooks, I (and presumably you) missed out on that author/reader interaction and whatever benefits it may have brought both of us. I’m assuming there are some benefits in this for you, though I admit I might very well be wrong about that. However, I’m also assuming you thought there were benefits in it for you, or otherwise, why would you have done this in the first place. And in my case, whatever you were thinking, didn’t happen.
I haven’t read it but I think I have a valid observation. The weekly posts have over loaded my anticipation circuits. GIMMIE GIMMIE GIMMIE.
I still need to read #13, but I have come to look forward to this every Tuesday! This is the way to read a book; this is the future.
And I’m very happy about the season 2 announcement.
Now if we can see OMW: The Motion Picture make some progress that will really be great. Better yet OMW would make a great Cable series but I’ll take it any way I can get it.
Random additional comment: I find it interesting that you’re splitting things up into a serial at the same time that Netflix has issued an entire season of a series all in a lump. Much experimenting on the possibilities of digital!
>> Who’s fault is that?
> Uh, yours? This has been another in “Easy Answers To Easy Questions.”
I see you’re apparently from the camp that believes that it’s my fault if I didn’t understand you.
I used to be the same way.
Now I accept that if I’m trying to communicate with someone, and I actually want to communicate, I don’t get to simply say my piece and declare it’s your fault if you didn’t get it.
Instead, to answer my question, the fault is shared, but given the importance of the message, I slightly weigh John’s responsibility to get *his* word out a bit higher than my responsibility to pick up on this particular point.
Remember when I said don’t attack people for having opinions in this thread? Yes, that.
Glowrocks and anyone else who feels negatively is perfectly within their right to make their points known — I’ve asked for those, if you recall. Don’t be poking at them for that, please. This is useful to me.
I very much liked the serialized format, in particular: 1- Given my current schedule, I can’t always find time to read a book straight through. (For example, two China books that are sitting on my kindle currently unread.) Having a set of short stories made it easy to read a small amount weekly without feeling like I was missing things by taking a break between episodes. 2- I thought the format lent itself nicely to having parallel plot lines, which I appreciated and also helped w/ #1. 3- As noted, serialization = anticipation. 4- I really appreciated the idea of a book in a serialized format giving me a new reading experience.
I picked up to about 7-8 or so in the run at once because I had a plane flight and your novel looked appealing as something to read as someone who’s read the OMW stuff. And then I picked up the rest, week by week. The length and format did not bother me to consume because I read similarly sized chunks of things all the time. But I somewhat regret not waiting for the compilation, because I hate having multiple files for things when I could have just one.
If I could get a preorder next time where I could throw extra ducats at Tor and your artist for HR art files and the promise of a compilation file as well as the weekly releases — which, I understand that may or may not be workable in the way of contracts, etc– I’d be on it. Else, I would abstain till the end, unless I had an immediate need for novels in my life.
I really enjoyed being able to read an episode on the bus each week. I normally read super-fast (I don’t think I’ve had one of your books last me more than a day before) so forcing me to space it out like this was fun.
But man, did you have to end it on such a dark note?! :P
Yeah, all that Amazon says is: “The opening episode of The Human Division, John Scalzi’s new thirteen-episode novel in the world of his bestselling Old Man’s War. Beginning on January 15, 2013, a new episode of The Human Division will appear in e-book form every Tuesday.”
Then the collected version carefully says “The Human Division will appear as a full-length novel of the Old Man’s War universe, plus—for the first time in print—the first tale of Lieutenant Harry Wilson, and a coda that wasn’t part of the digital serialization.” If someone didn’t read this blog regularly, I can see them being a bit surprised that the novel didn’t include the coda.
I just started reading the Old Man’s War series a few weeks ago; by the time I got to The Human Division, it was over halfway through, so I read most of it like a normal novel, and the last few episodes serially. I enjoyed both aspects, but I think I ended up liking reading it all at once better; in the last episode, particularly, I lost track of some minor characters’ affiliations, and had to go back to an earlier episode to remind myself who they were.
I’m very glad to hear there’s going to be a Part Two!
Enjoyed the serial version. And, after reading episode 13, LOVED being left hanging for season 2 — much more than I would have thought beforehand.
A “season pass” option for the next round (a la ITunes tv series) that also includes all bonus material would be highly appreciated. Not that I’m all that cheesed about the coda not being included this time around: Ron Hogan’s comment helped me put that in perspective. Anyway, I’ll just go to the bookstore, read the coda there, then wait for the download version.
I loathe serials. Always have, always will. My favorite thing about reading Analog was always the third or fourth issue when I could read the serial novel all at once. I have been patiently waiting for EVER for the final epsisode of this book. Now I only have to wait ANOTHER SIX FUCKING WEEKS to read the whole thing. What. Ever.
For me, the serial format played to one of your greatest strengths as a writer. It allowed you the freedom to take your story and characters in directions that the expecations of a more linear narrative might not have made possible. (Granted, that’s never stopped you before, as “Redshirts” and “Zoe’s Tale” demonstrated very, very well.) Maybe episodes like “The Dog King” and “This Must Be The Place” didn’t serve the larger plot, but they allowed us to discover the characters, and enjoy them as themselves. And for me, that made their fates in “Earth Below, Sky Above” all the more satisfying, from a dramatic context (though I’ll admit, I’m still upset about that one particular scene…).
Having treated “The Human Division” as a TV series from the beginning, I was prepared for the possibility that the conspiracy plot might not be resolved by the end. And honestly, by the “season finale” I didn’t want it resolved. The story, like its characters, was so engrossing that I wanted to see it go on, to see it given the time and care it deserves. I set that Kindle down this morning with a great sense of hope that we’d get to see that happen. And not 5 minutes later, I got my wish…
In sum, I thought Season 1 fantastic, and look forward to the next season premiere, however far away that might be.
Well done, sir!
I really don’t like serial books. Never have. Back in the late middle ages when Saturday Evening Post would publish novels in serial form, I would collect the full set of magazines, and only then read the novel. Same for SF pulp magazines that did (and sometimes still do) the same thing. That’s what I plan to do with the Human Division. I patiently waited for the real book instead of the pieces. I only ask that if you do other serial novels (and it certainly looks as if there will be more) publish them in an all-in-one-piece version also.
I’d posted above about extra content not being provided to readers of the serial and said as a consequence, “I’m out.”
I thought about it, and came back to say:
You know, I enjoyed this as a serial. Probably more than I would have as a novel.
I primarily read non-fiction, literature, classics, and for sf I tend to like Iain M Banks, Alastair Reynolds, M John Harrison, Margaret Atwood and so on. I’m not really interested in military sf. And Redshirts was fun, but, you know… (No offence intended at all.) But I had fun with the characters (I didn’t expect much from them in terms of development) and their patter, the colonial politics, and so on.
I was not aware of the issue of extra content until this thread, so my misunderstanding was my own and no fault of yours and so:
Firstly, I’ll read your blog more closely before purchasing.
Secondly, I’m in for Further Serial Adventures.
I purchased the first episode, saw there would be a hardcover release…and my ability to delay gratification kicked in. I figured I’d rather have it all at once.
I’m a very committed capitalist and can also appreciate the literary aspects of this experiment and I applaud both the marketing and the literary factors of this experiment. I simply chose not to participate after the first episode.
As to the extra material in the hardcover? Why is everyone so upset? the argument could be made from a hardcover purchaser’s perspective that a kindle use gets the story at a discount. I prefer to think of it as the author justifying the extra expense with extra product.
As for me :
– Serialisation worked perfectly, even with the momentary frustration at the end of each episode, quickly forgotten. It was a bit different today because I knew it was the last one (T_T). But it was quite obvious by the end that there would be another book at least coming after (too many things not resolved). I disagree with people saying that it feels unfinished. I think this was the end of a cycle for the B-team, who have proved themselves and won’t be the B-team anymore in Season 2.
– I was a bit miffed about the extra at first, but if it’s available later on, I’m ok with that. I already read After The Coup anyway.
– I liked the differences in length. I didn’t find the two episodes people mention most, “walk the plank” and “this must be the place” to be unnecessary or underdeveloped. To be precise, “walk the plank”, in it’s sheer horror, clearly introduced the villains as being roughless and brutal to an unbelievable degree (culminating in the ‘brain in the box’ idea later on), among other things. It might have been short, but it had quite an impact. And I read “this must be the place” as foreshadowing for Hart… which wasn’t entirely off the mark for a few minutes there, right ?
– I have the same “if only it all could be combined in one single file, now. And not having to go through paying 13 times while pre-ordering the episodes for serialised reading” request that probably doesn’t concern you directly anyway.
Otherwise, a rather positive reading experience, thank you. I’ll be there for Season 2.
I enjoyed the story. I’m not sold on the format.
It feels like you basically wrote a TV season or maybe a comic book run, complete with “when last we saw our characters” and the need to wrap up at least that day’s plot before the credits roll or you hit the ads for sea monkeys. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not the “novel” that I was expecting.
I like that you’re playing around with the possibilities that e-reader tech provides an author, and the episodes themselves stand on their own merits. I just don’t know that I was expecting to make this much of an investment, both in months of anticipation and in dollars, without a more, I guess, “conclusive” conclusion. Reading the final installment before the announcement of the second novel/series/season/whatever, I was pretty surprised at how much it still felt like setup instead of payoff.
I’m not sure if I like the fact that y’all have figured out a way to spam my Amazon recommendations- past a certain point seeing “Scalzi! Scalzi! Scalzi!” becomes counterproductive. I am waiting for the collection to be released, but that’s mostly because I’ve finally learned the benefits of delayed gratification.
I “subscribed” using the Nook software for the iPad, which had similar issues of sorting through episodes. So some sort of numbering that came through into the app would have helped a lot.
In addition, the updates were often a pain in the ass, where I had to log in and out of the app to get the episode to download. I think this may be a function of the Nook pre-ordering system, as much as anything.
I am not personally bothered by the extra bits in different formats, both because of familiarity with the graphic novel publishing approach (mentioned above), but also because the main story worked just fine without either “AFTER THE COUP” or whatever extra coda appears in the printed version.
Oddly, after 13 weeks, the overall feeling is that the overall work was short. I’m not bothered by the price point per week — again, cheaper than a comic book. I re-read REDSHIRTS during these 13 weeks, and while none of your novels feel like thick like a Iain M Banks Culture book, the “size” of REDSHIRTS felt noticeably larger than THE HUMAN DIVISION. I have no idea how they compare in word count reality.
Laumer’s Retief was mentioned above as a comparison, and many of those books were collected stories and novellas. But they felt denser — thicker — than THE HUMAN DIVISION does.
I think one reason is that since no individual episode was overly long, even the first and last ones, the weekly impact starts to become the feeling of the overall impact.
Have to echo the annoyance that the final episode did not feel like it answered enough about “WTF is going on?”, though it was a satisfying episode in and of itself.
FWIW, my favorite individual episode was THIS MUST BE THE PLACE.
Reflecting further, and considering what others have posted, my disappointment is not having the coda NOW. I know I will get it someday, and I don’t mind paying for a favorite writer to be able to keep writing, so really, all that leaves is my impatience. I suppose that’s a good thing.
“the ‘size’ of REDSHIRTS felt noticeably larger than THE HUMAN DIVISION. I have no idea how they compare in word count reality.”
Redshirts is 80k. The Human Division is 130k. So The Human Division is in fact substantially longer. It’s actually the longest novel I’ve written.
I thought that the serial format was fun, it felt a lot like a serial TV drama. The way each episode was sort of a standalone short story but they were drawn together via an overall narrative arc worked well. It’s a nice change of pace from other novels, but I’m not sure how often I’d want to read something like that.
My biggest complaints are some of the practical matters that others have mentioned. It’s really annoying that I had to buy 13 separate items, and that I now have 13 separate books on my Kindle. That alone may make me hold off on season 2.
I enjoyed getting “early” access to the story through ebooks. One corner of my brain told me that ALL the stories were already written, so the timing of the release was somewhat artificial. On the other hand, I don’t expect JS to write each chapter each week as I read them.
I did find it hard to track continuity over the weeks. I kept wondering if I was missing links between characters and had to go back and check earlier stories. That was a bit annoying.
Price point for the stories was OK. The shorter ones were still valuable as long as I felt the time wasn’t wasted (or the story just padding to make the overall book longer). I still haven’t figured out how I will combine them. I’ll probably look at what Calibre can do.
I was hoping for more closure/reveal (more Dun dun DUUUUNNNN) in the final episode – some new detail about the conspiracy. Maybe I missed it, but I don’t remember anything not revealed in earlier stories. I do understand the story arc you were shooting for though and enjoyed the B-Team switching to the A-Team ;-).
Regarding the extras in the paper book, I’m ok with not getting immediate access to them. If it really bothered me, I would check the book out from a library to read the extra story. I look at it like movie/DVD releases. Extras are not available when a movie is in the theater, but I still go to see some films. When a movie is released on DVD it then gets some extra content. If I want it, I can buy it then. Later on, there is often a “super duper deluxe” edition of the movie with more extras released later. If I am a real collector I can get that too. However none of that content affects my enjoyment of the original move. I don’t expect to get free access to it just for going to the movie theater.
I’m glad JS doesn’t want this series to be an ATM machine. Please don’t stretch this story line too long. I’ve been disappointed by other authors who wrote books in a series that didn’t have anything more to add and just delayed the conclusion. That turns me off from the series – I get annoyed/loose interest and stop reading.
John, re extra material exclusivity being disclosed up front:
I don’t know if that helps some of the folks with their angry-making, but as I read the comments, it may be beside the point. My observation is that people want their investment in the journey to mean something. The comment that this sort of “balances” things between print and online sounds like you (collectively) are thinking about this as simply an unusual delivery mechanism, and if so, you’re missing a Really Big Idea. If you take this serialization and make it more of a shared journey–discovery, surprise content along the way, special insights–you will have created something that some people would be over the moon for (they’re the ones bitching the loudest about the latecomers getting the cool surprise chapter).
Example: what if you took that same coda, kept it a secret, then sprang it on people on a Saturday morning between chapters 5 & 6 or something. Suddenly it’s an exciting treasure, and the people who are most invested in the exercise are the ones who get to see it first.
Do it this way, and the book is not only a hardcover book, but a history of the journey they took with you. Now it’s not only a traditional book for those who prefer it, but a momento for those who came along for the ride. (and I bet you sell more copies as a bonus).
Not the clearest explanation in a comment, but hopefully enough to get the idea across. I think there’s a potential for this approach to be a lot more than just another way to deliver the story.
From a business perspective, serial releases are initially profitable, but are poor models over the long-term. The reason the Human Division release did so well is because John already has a devoted, loyal following of readers. This book was an excellent read and I do plan to continue my patronage of this author, but not because of the release model.
Serial releases in themselves leave readers with a taste of disconnect. The consumer’s intellect, entertainment, and pocket book feel drawn out and spread thin over a lagging series of small (though well-written) flashes of short story. This is not a recipe for building loyalty, only for building one-reader-night-stands. It can be bad enough to wait on stories between novels, but that is an acceptable evil; a part of the process. What is frustrating is when a work is sitting on a hard drive, edited and ready to be shared, only to be kept secret and milked slowly for, well, money and publicity.
Because of e-readers and current technologies, serial releases may be the literature business model for the next few decades. However, I feel like the book industry has been profitable for the last few decades for a reason: they gave consumers a finely polished and (mostly) quality product as it was available. You may have more people buying these snippets of novels here or there. Sure, this is great for prophets and reaching new readers, but the drawing-in of new readers can be accomplished just as effectively through samples. Once I read the first chapter, I would have happily payed for the full-priced book.
I’m glad readers and publishers are trying new things. Progress is made by testing new waters. However, books are not television shows. They cannot be periodic, weekly entertainment. I definitely noticed the author’s intent to create a mini-series of stories strung together by a larger storyline. But, again, it just didn’t feel connected. I don’t think I really began to relate with any of the characters until midway through the series. If I were to make a suggestion, it would be to try out the pledge model (see Kickstarter, or Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’ album). I have a vested interest in seeing Scalzi be successful and I don’t think serial releases will help in that regard.
I don’t know… maybe I’m an entitled American guy who expects instant gratification. *shrug* It’s just that when I read, I like to simply finish a story, digest it, then share it with my friends.
I agree with everything worldhasteeth has posted.
A question for you, John: if the negotiations for season 2 didn’t work out, would have Human Division ended on a permanent cliffhanger, the way Stargate: Universe was?
I understand that the series was marketed as a serial from the very beginning and that it kind-of-sort-of-not-really implied there might be a second season, but damn, this is disappointing. It’s like waiting all week for a hot date, getting to the restaurant and receiving a text message saying “J/K lol can’t make it.” Yes, sure, I’ll still get to enjoy a nice meal at the restaurant, but the event itself would be ruined.
The extra chapter for the hardcover makes it even worse. Oh, sure, the e-book readers might get their hands on it if it can somehow “find its way online at some point,” to use your own words. But that’s not quite what I’d signed up for when I started reading the series. I’m sure that if I go back and read through the first blog posts, I’ll find a line or two about exclusive hardcover content. Call me crazy, but I don’t like to have to analyze my favorite writers’ announcements whenever they have a new project coming out.
I’m not a naysayer: the series had a lot of fun moments and quotable bits and pieces that I’ll put away for future use. The characters were great and the “you’re all ugly” dialog from episode 12 was quite hilarious. That said, I still feel betrayed by the way this all ended, and even more so by your announcement about the hardcover content that will “find its way online at some point.”
I’ve read all the science fiction you’ve ever published: the first edition of “God Engines,” with all its typos and horrible editing; “Fuzzy Nation,” which turned into a “Law and Order” fanfic halfway through and ended with (spoiler alert!) bad guys literally getting away with murder; even the little-known story about the sentient spaceship from the “Space Opera” anthology. It’s been a fun ride, but the way you wrapped up this 13-issue series and insulted (though probably unintentionally) your online fans by saying the extra content will “find its way online at some point” (seriously, wasn’t there a more diplomatic way to put that?) leaves me little choice but to stop following your work.
Yes, I know – mine is just another long post from a seemingly angry reader whose boycott won’t even make the tiniest dent in your profit margins. I doubt I’d be the only one, though. No matter how many fans you have, in the end it’s still a finite number. Try not to lose them all the way you did me.
Really enjoyed the serial nature of getting a new episode every Tuesday. A bunch of my friends and I all read or listened every week and had that as a shared experience.
BIGGEST FEEDBACK: I think there was too much of an effort to have the episodes be stand-alone, which ended up making the story more disjointed. Personally, I would rather you write your typical single, tightly focused, narrative, and then chop it into bite-sized chunks. That way we get to read it every week, but the story is still super tight. As it was, I felt like I spent a lot of time waiting for stuff to happen (e.g. I haven’t listened to today’s chapter yet, but I *STILL* don’t know who the bad guys are – 3 months into listening…)
Even though I thought the story was not as strong per my comments above, I really appreciate you having the guts to experiment. Keep it up!
Boo, Please don’t try to justify the “extras” thing. We feel how we feel. Tuck it aside and think about it in six months. Also, maybe ask us again then how we felt about it. See where everyone comes down. It’s a system in evolution.
” We are the Blazing Pioneers and as such should reap the benefits of being on the leading edge;”
And so you have – you got to read it sooner.
You might think this is a benefit of no value, but when you buy a hardcover, the additional money you spend is not for the object – the costs of printing a hardcover versus a paperback are much smaller than most think – but the privilege of reading it first. That is what you are paying for.
“It occurs to me that the closest approximation to the economic model of this experiment is comic books: Those who buy the periodicals get a whole bunch of spiffy covers, but not the “extras” in the trades/hardcovers. ”
This isn’t always true – a lot of non DC/Marvel comics actually have different extras in each. Which was maybe the way to go with The Human Division, best I suspect this would just lead to different complaints.
Grigory of Siberia:
“would have Human Division ended on a permanent cliffhanger[?]”
In fact, the answer to that question is here.
I enjoyed the episodic format even though it felt more like a collection of linked short stories rather than a full season of a story.
Episode 12 was my least favorite because it didn’t establish anything new for me. I’d been introduced to Danielle and already knew the bad guys were smart, ruthless and technologically advanced.
I’d happily buy a second season to see what happens next but like others I’d love to be able to but the entire run with one transaction.
The problem isn’t that there’s extra material in the hardback that isn’t in the serial. It’s that it was pitched to the fans as an experiment to stretch what was available with e-publishing. When it’s sold to me that way, I expect the e-publishing model to have everything and maybe more than the print models.
Really, all of my disappointment of today comes down to expectations mis-managed.
Bad joke – but the novel was a little… episodic. Seriously, I am glad you are doing it again – sign me up! But I would not want all the books in this series (which I hope goes on for many more volumes) to be this same espisodic format.
I honestly would have to read it again to see if it reads as a cohesive whole. I think it would be spreading it over 13 weeks makes it hard to answer at this point. Obviously it ended the way it had to end – it was clear to me that the answer to ‘who’ is behind the actions could not be revealed simply because there was not yet enough background to make the reveal that powerful. It would have kind of been like finding out the location of the Second Foundation at the end of the first book of the trilogy.
Like others I LOVE the fact that Tor releases it without DRM. When the publisher trusts the reader, the reader is more likely to support the publisher with both his money and his good will. I also like the short format / low price. I have bought almost all of your short stories available on Amazon or direct from the various publishers web sites. Paying for your child’s college fund – 99 cents at a time!
I also liked the weekly interview / discussion on the Tor website. It makes me feel like a member of an exclusive book club where I can read more about the story right after finishing it.
I personally love this kind of experimentation. I am glad your ‘show’ got ‘renewed’ but I would like to see more of the same but also a little different. Not sure what you could do differently next time but I think that experimenting with the ‘delivery method’ is not that risky as long as it is supported by solid writing and story like we got in the ‘Human Division’.
“However, books are not television shows. They cannot be periodic, weekly entertainment”
Er….this was in fact the way quite a lot of novels were enjoyed throughout the last two hundred years or so? Many of the classics even.
You might not like serials, and maybe modern readership won’t, but this isn’t something that hasn’t been popular in the past.
I am not surprised that the overall size is that big, actually, nor that HUMAN DIVISION is the longest piece you have written. In many ways, one of the comparison experiments that popped into my head halfway through was one of Eric Flint’s Grantville universe books, THE RAM REBELLION. Many different viewpoints, multiple authors, a plot that eventually connected everything, but much more disjointed in the various stories being told.
I think much of the actual experiment, creatively, ended up being about worldbuilding tools. I mean, just off the top of my head: Hart’s homeworld. Conclave POVs. Earth politics. Intersections between Colonial and Conclave and Earth politics. There was a LOT going on, often in a very short amount of actual words per episode. The B TEAM episodes were the main throughline, but only just.
The TV comparison is also interesting. I am binge watching JUSTIFIED right now, and the balance between standalone episodes, with bits and pieces of the overall narrative, and pure plot driver episodes, is often noticeable and stark, in a way that might not have been visible in weekly bites.
I am waiting for the dead tree version because I like being able to give it to a friend or donate it to my library for its book sale when I’m done reading it. So the serial didn’t appeal much. I also don’t like the feeling of having to read one section before the next comes out, even if it’s self-imposed.
On the other hand, the audio book as a serial was very tempting, though ultimately I didn’t end up buying it this time around. I don’t listen to many audio books, but to me it’s like going to a movie, paying to enjoy a performance, and so somehow I don’t feel the same way about wanting to “own” it and give it to someone else afterwards.
I loved the serial form of the novel. It gave me something to look forward to every week. And it made me late for work every Tuesday morning.
The price is trivial. 10 dollars? 13 dollars? Whatever, that’s the price of a movie or a pound of coffee. As a fan of the series I’ll end up buying the hardcover when it comes out too.
I’d really like to see more writers try this format. It was fun.
Serial or not I would have read the book.
– The wait for the serial every tuesday (it hit me midmorning at the office, so I had to take long meals to read the stories).
– Short enough to read in 1 hour
– the single episodes had enough story in them to stand alone
– 13 weeks of suspension :-)
– ebooks are a good format as my library is just getting to big.
Not so good things about the serialisation:
– I’m a fast reader, I think I would have read the book in about two days (I have a one hour commute). So the book took to long to read.
– Coda. (just not nice. *whine*)
– The Series is not finished, I will be waiting for episode 14 next week, as you stopped the series in a cliffhanger.
– Not selling it as a subscription was somewhat cumbersome
General: The ending really annoys me at the moment. It feels unsatisfactory and I can’t wait for the story arc to finish. There are to many plots not tied down. It’s like a two episode series and we only got episode one without even “In the next installment you will be….”.
Yes, I enjoyed reading the episodes (and almost every book written by you). I stayed up late, when I couldn’t read the episodes, because I really, really wanted to know what happened next. As with your other stories, I love your language, because it is very approachable for me (yes, if you didn’t notice as of yet, english is not my first language). I’d like to think that I even get the undertones, but then it might be possible, that’s just me imagining it. :-)
All told, yes your words work for me, if in episodes or in bookform does not matter for me, I will read it anyways. So keep up your good work, and hopefully you will be finished with your new book soon (so in 1-2 weeks would be really nice ;-))
I loved the episodic format. I chose to think of it as a printed television show. At 13 installments it ran almost the length of some of the better done tv shows. The shorter episodes or those not focused on the B team served to provide some time away from the main line of the story.
I did not and will not in the future mind paying 99 cents for a story. I got what I paid for. I bought all 13 installments with the knowledge that I would also buy the hardback on its release in May. Like others I would like to see retailers more tailored to this format, a purchase this “season” button and then have episodes roll into my account (kindle, nook, whatever) as they are released. At the end of the season, replace the individual episodes with one big file with the entire season. A bonus for e-readers would be nice, but not a requirement. Maybe not a story, but artwork or something along the lines of a DVD extra?
The other thing I would like to see? More authors doing this. That MIGHT be out of Scalzi’s powers though.
No subscribe option.
No compilation option
Having to wait for the additional coda (No problem with including “After the Coup”).
Not QUITE enough resolution (I’d prefer a bit more of the John Rogers method where if there were no continuations, you don’t feel quite as disappointed).
The wait for serialization.
The parallels with TV shows…because not all episodes tie into arcs…there are lots of stand alones and done in ones. It fleshes out the universe while still being in the same overall story.
The price point; if it’s slightly higher than the compiled version, I’m OK with that, as I’m paying for early access (I’d feel better if the additional material was a feature or author’s essay on how you approached the serialization aspect).
I’ve greatly enjoyed the serialized nature of the Human Division. It’s given me a little something to look forward to every Tuesday; those days have my most enjoyable commutes. I also enjoyed that the book is not just serialized but episodic. Since each episode had a beginning, middle, and end, waiting for the next week’s installment was much more bearable.
Next time there needs to be an “Auto-convert” option that ‘transforms’ the serial installments into a single novel at the end (ie “Thanks for reading along in serial, here’s the whole thing as one file for when you want to read it again”).
Most e-readers force you to manually arrange your collection on your e-reader (instead of letting you use a computer to auto-sort things by series), and even then group them in some automated fashion that has nothing to do with order. You need the internet just to figure out what the next part in sequence is because of this. Having to tote around all these separate files forever after is a big headache. Sony Readers are the ONLY ONE that lets you use Calibre to auto-arrange things, and the reader arranges series in order automatically by default; for everything else (kindle, nook, kobo), you have to poke them into place one by one on the reader itself and the default order is alphabetical or by add date.
Once the serial is complete, I want to condense everything into one file so I never have to worry about the organization again. Having to go buy it again just so I can get it as one large file instead of a bunch of smaller ones is a big turnoff.
I would have read the serialized stories but I want the book and I’m not willing to buy something twice. However, I would have paid in advance for the book and even a bit extra to receive the serialized stories as they became available and then the book. In general I wish publishers would sell the ebook and paper book as a combo.
I enjoyed the format. It highlighted writerly strengths and minimized weaknesses. It felt a little choppy because of the interludes with characters other than our main B-team. And it really doesn’t feel like its own self contained story the way a novel would. The ‘season’ description you’re using is about right. I really enjoyed the story and the stylistic changes throughout but it all felt more like season 1 of a tv show where the real problem gets set up. (This is not necessarily a bad thing since season 2 is in the works.)
I’m curious to see the response when it’s published as a whole. If you don’t add some connective tissue or transitions it’s going to be really choppy to read straight through. I’m assuming you’ll be publishing it as a collection of short stories?
I don’t know if it adds much beyond what I’ve said here and I don’t want to be promoting myself in your space, but I wrote some thoughts about it yesterday on my own blog.
Next time there needs to be an “Auto-convert” option that ‘transforms’ the serial installments into a single novel at the end (ie “Thanks for reading along in serial, here’s the whole thing as one file for when you want to read it again”).
There really ought to be an app for that….
Overall, I really liked the story. Your writing is always fun to read, so thanks for giving us another OMW universe story.
Regarding the episodic nature of the story, here are my quick thoughts:
– It would be nice, if possible, for each episode to be a little bit longer (besides the first and last, of course).
– If the story could follow a more linear trajectory like the previous novels, I think that would work better. So, if this is a “tv series,” I think it would work better in a serial format like “Lost” or “Stargate” (HA!), where you follow a core set of characters on their adventures. These seemed a little TOO disconnected.
Otherwise, great job and keep ’em coming! Thanks!
Other have said this: you didn’t finish a story. I enjoyed it and I will buy more episodes if you offer them, but I was very disappointed in the way you wrapped this up. Selachian Saltation?
I’ve got to disagree with all the requests for a more cohesive story. What made it so much fun was the attempt at different types of stories: horror, murder mystery, comedy, pure action. The episodic nature also forced each episode to work as its own story, with beginning, middle, and end. This made each week satisfying in its own right.
Longtime reader, first time poster.
I am thoroughly disappointed in this work. The method of purchase was clunky and somewhat frustrating. (Mostly due to Amazon’s website, not something under your control, but still your responsibility.)
It is maybe a fourth of a decent story, possibly half, but there was a great deal of fluff in this serialized ‘novel’. Everything that I read about this on your blog led me to expect a novel. With a resolution, not everything in a neat and tidy package necessarily, but at least with a more answers than questions. I expected this to be a complete novel, if told in a fairly unique way. The fact that you also said ‘It will also be available as a stand-alone hardcover book in May, 2013.” (Whatever – Scalzi – 10/23/12) also led me to believe that it would be a novel.
This post on the 9th of this year
‘The Human Division Part II: The Dividening?
If you’re asking if there is a direct sequel to THD at this point: No, not yet, although I have a pretty good idea of where things are going to go if Tor asks me to write one. What we need to see at this point is what the reaction is to THD, and how people respond to the episodes, to let us know how to proceed to this point. (Whatever- Scalzi- 1/9/13)’
Made it abundantly clear that there would be a sequel IF The Human Division did well commercially, and that again led me to believe that I would buy a complete story. Your work to date, led me to believe that I would buy a compete story. Sure there would be some loose ends, some open ended questions, perhaps even a cliff hanger, but there would be a complete story. So I took a leap and I trusted you, and you betrayed that trust.
Eleven chapters of a nigh omnipotent and omniscient foe, that thwarts plans years before they are even made, that has even more advanced technology, that has massive penetration of CDF, Earth and Alien Governments, that has the ability to custom sabotage parts for an aged warship, that avoids being discovered by four hundred and one advanced races, that manipulates public opinion at whim, that has… etc. etc. It got old Mr. Scalzi.
As it became clear that you weren’t going to honor your end of the story teller’s bargain, one bright spot appeared. It looked as if Hart was going to die. ‘Well’ I thought, ‘This is a crappy story loaded with ‘wow that was lucky, what are the odds!’ moments,(the advanced weapons pod that had just enough shots to cover the main characters, the bully pulling the door open to his own doom, even though that would be moving several tons due to air pressure, the medical scanners are just advanced enough to discover the evil nanobots, the Cubs win the world series? really?) but at least Mr. Scalzi is going to hit us with some real emotion here.’ Then Hart saw the emergency kit right in front of him, with JUUUUST enough stuff to make it to the escape pod.. Crap.
If you are entertaining then you can somewhat get away with this, but I didn’t find this story entertaining. I was just hanging in hoping that you could pull it out in the end, but, like a bad porn star, ya couldn’t.
Mr. Scalzi, you have lost a great deal of my respect as a writer.
I am another person who hasn’t bought/read THD yet but thought that my reasons may be a useful data point for you. I bought the other OMW books as well as your other books and really enjoyed them. Also I have been a daily reader of Whatever for several years. I love your writing. You are one of the authors that I would normally preorder months before publication date. I have a kindle and do about 70per cent of my reading that way now.
Some of my comments are for you/Tor but some relate to Amazon which I know isn’t you but as a practical matter impacts how/when(if?) I buy your book.
– I am not a serialisation person, sorry. Prefer big novels, box sets etc to bite size chunks which I find frustrating. So my preferred option would always be to wait till I can get the whole thing.
– although I use kindle frequently the thought of having to buy each individual episode separately is a pain and put me off immediately as was the difficulty in putting them all together in one book. Am not tech savy enough to play around – if it can’t be done for me or with one click then I’ll not bother.
– I browse Amazon recommendations frquently and have found some great new to me authors that way BUT at the moment I have 13 separate reccommendations for THD which together with it appearing here over the 13 weeks episodic release then presumably marketing/tour publications for the omnibus has left me feeling ‘enough already’ before I have even read it.
– News that there is a part 2 coming leads back to my original comment so I will now wait till that is available in omnibus to buy both books…. Long way away : (
So I kinda feel that the original excitement I had at hearing there was another book in the OMW world coming has been lost and what had been a must have has dropped to a maybe/ might be nice to have.
Thanks for the OMW books and Whatever – they brighten my life.
My five cents:
I am a very fast reader, which meant that I tore through each episode quickly on Tuesdays. At first that was annoying, but in the end I found I enjoyed having another episode to look forward to every week – you forced me to stretch my enjoyment of this story over a much longer timeframe than normal. If I’d grabbed the full novel I’d be done in a couple days, which I would still enjoy… but this was an interesting different way to experience it.
I’ll add another to the list of folks wishing I could have just hit “Order All” on Amazon and received each episode on Tuesday. It’s annoying to make 13 separate orders.
I was also bummed to guess and then see for sure that we wouldn’t get much closure this “season”. The Season 2 announcement helps somewhat, but I had just assumed that with this being experimental we’d get more answers at the end. I’d also be less bummed if the Season 2 announcement had been “there’s a S2 coming and I’m halfway done writing it already!” instead of knowing that you haven’t even started in. Netflix has spoiled me.
I liked the stories as delivered just fine, but I also liked the suggestion others had above that a serialized novel with a tighter focus and/or the same characters each episode would also be enjoyable – a story more like one of your other novels broken into chunks. I was expecting something more like that, though as I said, I still enjoyed this as presented.
I don’t feel strongly personally on the “coda” issue, but I definitely see where people are coming from. Because of this being an experiment, and because of it requiring weekly attention and multiple orders to follow along weekly, it feels like we’ve invested much more than when purchasing a hardcover or a normal ebook. The people who couldn’t wait several months to get some more Scalzi content, but wanted to get it every week as it was available, are ending up getting the least total content. Getting the story “early” doesn’t feel like much of a reward – we got it when it was serialized, which was the whole point of this experiment. If no serialization had happened, the whole book would have been available weeks ago – the episodes weren’t early, it’s the omnibus that’s delayed because of the serialization. Just feels weird for the earliest most active supporters to lose out compared to those who didn’t try out the serialization experiment or weren’t even aware of this book and stumble across it later. Hey, maybe I had stronger feelings than I thought! Not strong enough to boycott or anything, though.
I really enjoyed reading The Human Division episodes. It allowed me to experience what it was like for people in the 1980s (?) read science fiction and fantasy in those weekly/monthly magazine publications.
I have always enjoyed reading your work, my paperback copy of Old Man’s War is being held together by rubberbands I read it so much the spine is gone (haha). The Human Division however did not really read like a novel to me, more like an anthology or a collection of novellas. Despite that I still really enjoyed reading it, it was one of the high points in my week, looking forward to Tuesday for the release of the next episode.
I look forward to Season 2 and whatever other writings you are putting out. Also big fan of the blog.
Hah. I think Tim H. said what I felt. (And I’m agreeing WITH someone, as opposed to disagreeing AGAINST someone—the sentiment’s valid, but I really liked the variety and distribution of focus–it fit in with the serialization/TV season aspect. If we’re experimenting with distribution methods, why not experiment with literary structure that dovetails with that distribution?)
Overall enjoyed having something to read every Tuesday.
Would really have preferred to have had an omnibus edition that started as one story the first week and gradually got fatter as time went on for two reasons. 1) The state of ebook readers doesn’t really offer good tools for larger library management 2) At least on the BN site, the stories weren’t listed in order and so preordering them all was a minor chore. Alternatively having a subscription would at least take care of reason 2.
Week 2 seriously took the expectations built up in the ‘B Team’ and brought them to the wood shed to be abused and left in a shallow grave. While I came to expect even weeks would be more tangential than odd ones, this one didn’t seem to contribute much to the overall picture.
I haven’t read it and am skimming comments to avoid spoilers. I didn’t want to have my story in chunks over several weeks (I can read a book in one day) so I waited. I won’t buy a future serial, either, for the same reason. But then, I’m the opposite of an early adapter–I only have a Kindle because I got one for Christmas.
OTOH, I really liked the idea of you and Tor trying something new. I’m interested to see how this model evolves over time, even if I don’t participate. I like the idea of each chapter more or less standing on its own and working in the book. I’ll have to wait to see if it actually works well when I read the book or if it feels choppy. This was obviously successful from a sales POV.
Note to those that want to mash their individual episodes together into one book—try Calibre. I’ve found Tor’s DRM-free books to be easy to handle in Calibre. My copy of OMW I got from Tor came in .txt format as well as .mobi and .epub (on a data stick as a prize, but still). I could (manually, I grant you) mash it together with any other Tor .txt book and have a twofer, then use Calibre to convert it to .mobi (though Kindle handles .txt pretty well).
If I’d bought all the episodes that’s what I’d be doing—likely every week. I acknowledge it would be a pain in the butt. So finding some way to offer a whole book after all the episodes have been purchased seems useful. I don’t know how doable it would be across all the vendors.
The idea that the final episode leaves one hanging makes me sad. Maybe I’ll wait until both of the books are out. I do that sometimes when single books don’t stand alone.
Early adaptors are early adaptors because they don’t like to wait. I posit that’s behind much of the kvetching over having to wait for the free bonus bit that will be in the dead tree version (and re the hanging ending). Something to think about for Tor.
The weekly posts here and at Tor certainly kept the book in front of my mind for longer than usual. I doubt I’ll be thinking about The Year Without a Summer much 13 weeks from now. On the other hand, by then I will have finished reading it 12.5 weeks ago.
If this experiment takes off, will we have to break the Novel category of the Hugos into Best Novel Short Form and Best Novel Long Form? ;-)
First of all, I thought the “season” was fantastic. I’m something of a night owl and would often find myself staying up past midnight on a Monday night to be able to read the latest episode. Really fun stuff. I found the anticipation added a huge amount of enjoyment. I usually read books in one sitting, and having it spread out over a few months allowed me to remain engaged with that world for longer. I really liked the characters and that you had the opportunity to flesh them out in individual episodes. I think because I had the chance to reflect on each episode it made them more real in my mind.
The one thing that I would really like is a “subscribe” feature to the serial so I don’t have to buy each episode individually. I did it because I was confident I’d enjoy your work as much as I normally do, but it was definitely annoying. Amazon’s feature set, not yours, but as you move forward with this it might be worth a request to the developers.
I question the decision to have exclusive “print” content. I’m sure there’s a solid business reason there in the background, and that you prepped everyone in the beginning, but it is disappointing.
The other brilliant part of the serial format, I would think, is to have thirteen solid weeks of marketing for one book. I’d be interested, as I’m sure you are, to see how that impacts sales of the hardcover.
I’m just wondering from a process point of view, was yours dramatically different from your other novels?
And to anyone who complains about a cliffhanger ending three words: Who shot JR? It’s native to the form.
Looking forward to season 2.
Before I delve into the traditional picking of nits, let me say that I eagerly downloaded each episode of The Human Division every Tuesday, and often had trouble finishing things that should be a higher priority (work, family, basic personal hygiene) until I finished that episode. I remain an unabashed fanboy of the OMW universe in particular and your writing in general.
I won’t dwell on the annoying habit in discussing The Human Division, of treating it like something new or unique. Ignoring the serialized fiction of previous eras, there are a number of independent authors who have been self-publishing serialized fiction for some time now. (Exhibit A: Yesterday’s Gone) I get that you’re a traditionally published author and end up a bit dismissive of self-published independents, but you and Tor aren’t exactly blazing uncharted trails with this format.
I really enjoyed the serialized format overall. As others have commented, it felt less like a novel and more like a collection of short stories with related characters. I’m glad I read it each week as I think if I had read it in novel form, I might have found it a bit disjointed.
One thing that hit me reading this is that the dialog with all of the main characters sounds like it’s coming from one voice. Don’t get me wrong, it’s GREAT dialog. But with only slight variations, everyone tends to sound mostly like the same very smart, very witty, sarcastic person. I was reminded of watching a show known for great dialog, say Veronica Mars. While watching it, you find yourself thinking, “No one actually talks like that. Everything is witty banter, quick comebacks and clever flirting.” In spite of acknowledging it, and seeing it as a bit of a flaw, you don’t want it to end.
Lastly, the pacing and plot of the ‘big mystery’ felt a bit unnatural. The individual episodes revealed very few clues, leading to the natural assumption that it was all going to be revealed in the big season finale. When I saw the announcement this morning of season 2, prior to reading the finale, I actually felt some disappointment as I realized that I wasn’t going to get a climactic resolution to the story. Instead, I got a season-ending cliffhanger, without a single clue where it’s all headed. Reading it as a serial, I was disappointed. If I had read it as a novel, I’d be pissed.
And yes, I’ll be reading season 2. You seem to have an unnatural ability to extract money from my wallet in exchange for words.
First, I enjoyed each episode. Second, I enjoyed them as a joined narrative. Third, I ended up unsatisfied. I had entered this with the thought that the individual stories could stand alone (they did), that they would comprise a broader tale (they did), but that also they would be a complete narrative (they weren’t). This felt like the first half of a novel, or even first 2/3s, but it did not feel complete in any way. Without regard for whether my expectations were reasonable or not, when I’m done reading a book, I don’t want to have the feeling that story has stopped (not ended) abruptly. That’s the feeling here. It has the same drawback that the middle book in a trilogy has, in some cases, where it’s advancing the story, but cannot stand alone. It does make me want more, but I’m a little more resentful than perhaps was intended.
[Commence delurking. Deploying $0.02]
1) The serial format was interesting, but I don’t have strong feelings for or against it. I had a few episodes pile up before I got to them and
at that point I found the recapping of prior plot to be a bit annoying. Combined in a single book, I’d definitely find it repetitious.
2) The cliffhanger ending definitely left me wanting more, not entirely in a good way. The lack of any insight into the identity of the conspiracy by
the end kind of killed any sense of a larger story arc for me. There’s no forward progress, or even a change in their secrecy re: Earth
or the CDF; they’re just as mysterious as before. A bunch of entertaining stuff happened, there was a big boom, and then it ended. That said, I love
the world and the characters and want to see what happens next, so I’m definitely waiting for the next inistallment.
3) I would very much like to see an option to get the episodes combined into a single ebook file. Right now my Nook app library is 2/3rds full of
Human Division. I’d rather have it all collected into one file, but there’s no way I’m paying extra for the privilege. Well maybe a dollar or two, but
not full ebook price.
4) Definitely annoyed that there’s material in the final version than in the serialized version. I’d much rather wait and get more story than get it
now now now! I won’t bother getting the episodes next time.
[Re-engage lurking device]
I love the serialization.
I felt that the price point was a little high (but I feel that way about ebooks in general right now).
I felt like some stories were maybe divided in two to meet the pricing model- please do include a couple two dollar novellas in the next season if I’m going to be reading a better story for it.
Wait. Someone said the final version will have more material? How will those of us who purchased it serially get the “final” updates?
I did have to sit back this morning, and FTW? I stared at a blank wall knowing I had finished the last episode. I had no feeling of closure; the
identity of the bad actors was not resolved in the least. But I realized
that the B Team had survived and finally won their long deserved promotion.
I would like to know more and would like to see ‘justice’; but the promotion
is good enough. There was closure on that level.
As background I am approaching my 70TH year; retirement has allowed my to
catch up on reading. I use a nook for almost all my reading now. The
ability to reduce the font size, almost eliminate the margins, pull out most
of the leading and switch from page to page with a thumb tap, makes it hard
to achieve the same degree of immersion with the printed page.
I was curious about episodes. I have done serials in pulp mags of the
midtwentieth century; but weekly and without the need for bulking starting
summaries sounded really good. And the OMW universe. I bought The B Team,
sat down and read it. On the basis of the first episode, I went back and
preordered the rest of the episodes; twelve sets of buy/confirm clicks did
seem like such a burden. From then on the episodes just showed.
I started Walk The Plank thinking just Who are these people?’, continued with
‘Hey this is much shorter’, and ended with the thought ‘I am never going to
meet these people again’. And I had a lot more questions, and far fewer
I tried putting off reading episodes until Thursday or Friday, but that
still left a week in between episodes one way or the other. I find that the
writing is and has to be tight. I wanted more in each episode; but I have
not seen a way that that would work. I have hated walking away each week at
the end of an episode; but it made me stop and think about what I read. It
is a different experience.
It has been nice to fantasize about more episodes being written as things
moved along, fiction sure — but a nice fantasy. It was nice to find out
there will be more. But it sounds like I can not expect the ‘next season’
to start @01 June, which would be just about perfect.
I bought it. I would buy it again. I will buy the next one. Thanks are
nice and all; but volumes sold, and preordered, are where it becomes real.
I very much enjoyed the serialization; it was nice to wake up on Tuesday and find a new chapter.
I did not like the unevenness of the book as a whole. Some chapters seemed to really not contribute to the story as a whole; I would have preferred to stay with the central story — although I enjoyed the characterization in “This Must Be the Place.”
Most of the chapters felt too short; you told the story, but it felt pretty bare-bones. I’d have preferred to see a bit more length, just to give a little more dimension to the basic plot.
The biggest issue I have, however, is that the ending isn’t an ending. It’s a total setup for the next book. It really answers almost nothing; yes, there’s good excitement and adventure in the last chapter, but it’s truly maddening as a reader to get to the end of a book and find out that virtually nothing is resolved. Continuing in the same universe in the next book is one thing; but leaving your audience hanging with essentially a cliffhanger in a pretty good way to aggravate a lot of faithful readers. Oh, I know I’ll read the next book, probably in serialization again just because I enjoyed the weekly arrivals on my Kindle so much, but I’m not going to buy this current book in hardcover or softcover until you write the next book and issue the two halves as the single book it feels like they were intended to be!
Don’t get me wrong — I enjoyed the book, and I really enjoy the OMW universe as a whole; but the chapters were too short and it felt like half a book.
But at least the dog didn’t die (permanently)!
especially when it’s framed as whatever’s going to be in the hardcover “oughta be a freebie to us now as a reward,” as someone said above.
I don’t know about others of course but that is most emphatically NOT what I wanted to express and if it came across that way then I worded my post badly.
I did NOT mean I wanted the Coda for _free_, I was just offended that I’m not allowed to buy it at the same time that those who buy the whole thing are getting it.
Let me echo a lot of what has been said here regarding the quality of these stories; I have enjoyed the serial releases, and I appreciate how each self-contained story moves the whole toward resolution.
Having said that, I’ve been annoyed since I finished reading Episode 13 this morning, largely due to the cliffhanger nature of it, and your previously expressed sentiments about writing and getting paid for it. I don’t disagree with the “Fuck You, pay me” model at all, but I felt that you were doing readers a disservice by telling us you were selling a complete story (in installments) and then, you know, not finishing it. The idea that you’d do a serialization and essentially leave it on a cliffhanger seems really weird/ offputting, especially seeing how you’ve succcesfully made each episode an effective stand-alone story. And since you don’t write if you don’t get paid, (understandably) it meant to me that you viewed it as acceptable to sell us an incomplete story without warning. It seems disrespectful to your readers, which is at odds with the way you’ve treated us in all other venues.
I just saw the interview at the Tor.com read-a-long, and I’m somewhat mollified. Your comments about possibly self-publishing the follow-up, if necessary, means that the story wouldn’t remain incomplete, soothe my concern, and make me feel less disrespected.
And yet! I also read your comments about the evolution of the “B-team” to an “A-team” (trying to figure out who would be BA Barracus in this imagining…) as the actual arc of the novel, and one that we should be fine with as readers, seems to me a retrofitted rationalization. If that’s the case, why do we have episodes like, “Walk the Plank,” “A Voice in the Wilderness,” “The Back Channel,” or even “The Sound of Rebellion?” They are great stories by themselves, and I enjoy the texture that they provide to what *I* perceive as the overall arc of this sequence, but they do not advance the plot of the B-team, at least not in any significant way. Saying (OK, maybe just implying) that those of us clamoring for closure don’t “get” the book feels like a cop-out, since the Scalzi oeuvre has not included lack of resolution in the past. (I guess in “Redshirts,” lack of reolution was at least part of the resolution, but the greater point about story-telling was explicitly being evoked in that case.)
So: Fine with serialization. I’m a little peeved about the bonus coda in the hardcover, but nothing to write home about. (or mention up to this point.) REALLY annoyed at the feeling of being the victim of a bait and switch on the completeness of the story. Looking forward to reading more in this universe.
So you’re saying his book (which cost you less than $13) has to contain 325,000 to 390,000 words for you to not feel ripped off?
Having gone through the comments, I noted this. Mr. Scalzi, you say that Tor has been upfront that the hardcover would have additional material. How? For me, I buy the serials, and that’s never been part of the deal, so far as I’ve been told. I’ve been moving towards an incomplete product, I will have to avoid spoilers and discussions of the final serial, and even then, I’m left with what I was under the mistaken belief was a complete book. The idea of a sequel is not the same as the second in a series. The second serial here was not a sequel to the first, and the next book won’t be a sequel, it’ll be the next chapter in the first story, which lies incomplete. I’m disappointed. I don’t feel ripped off, I don’t feel cheated, but I feel somewhat mislead, and even if that’s my fault somehow, I’m not sure that’s the ideal place to leave a customer.
@scalzi: Do you know how many people bought individual episodes without purchasing all of them? So: is it important for episode 6 to be stand-alone, for instance? My assumption is that most people started at the beginning and read them sequentially week-by-week…
(Note: I also reply sometimes as Steve H, but WordPress doesn’t like me to have a human alias, for no apparent reason.)
I gave some of my review of this experiment in meta-Dickensian publishing on ++Google, but I will repeat the salient points here.
First, about the price. I ended up paying for the whole run what I would have paid for a hardback. The resulting book is not as big as some and not as thin as others, but normally, I prefer not to pay that much for a hardback so (unless it’s something like Subterranean Press where the author gets a higher portion) I don’t really like them. All my objections have to do with space consumed though; the e-book format obviates this objection. And despite Amazon’s and Tor’s cuts being higher than I would prefer, John still gets paid more, so I can shush my whiny selfishness and deal with it; I knew it would be available at a slightly lower price as a collected work later, but I paid the premium for early access.
Second, about the technology. Amazon’s Kindle is a proprietary entity. Collections are a feature of the Kindle, but currently, there is no way to create a collection on an android tablet running the Kindle app, nor is there a way to order the collections so they are presented one after another in a correct chapter ordering. This is just annoying and cluttered and altogether irritating, but Amazon does want to give you a reason to buy their device, and withholding features from a virtual version of their device is one way to do that. It ignores the driving rule “delight your customers” but that’s not been something Amazon has really worked consistently anyway. My understanding is that similar problems occurred with Nook.
This is a general ‘maturity of platform’ issue for e-books, not necessarily a problem for John Scalzi, but it does definitely get in the way of his making money because people (me, for instance) are going to be so put off by the clumsiness of the interface that they decide to just WAIT instead of subscribing to the serial form. (Although it does frustrate me enough that I’m poking around to see if I can fix it for myself. If so, well, I’ll say something later.)
Third, about the way it was distributed: I ended up having to pay a buck every week. I wanted the option to pay up-front. Amazon does provide a way to do this, with books that you pay for once, and which get updated by the author with new chapters when they’re ready. This is somewhat clumsy and relies on the user being willing to refresh books, and some users don’t trust Amazon to NOT delete their books (for good reason) so they disallow that function.
Fourth, about the story itself. It was pretty clear to me that the overall story wasn’t really moving along, about halfway through. I felt it was part of the organic nature of each of the segments – they had to stand alone, they could not foreshadow things too strongly or they would not stand alone. There were some conspicuous gaps that I will speculate about on that OTHER Thread, but for now, I have to say, I expected there would be another book, and if it hadn’t appeared, I know that Scalzi would have to dodge conventions for a year or two lest he be pelted constantly by outraged fen wielding overripe fruit and cheeze, to go with their whines.
I read the first installment on this site and really enjoyed it. I look forward to reading it all in it’s complete form next month. The only reason I didn’t buy and read the collection in its serial form is that I didn’t want to track and store 13 episodes on my reader. If episodes 2-13 could be offered as update files thereby simplifying the storage and management of the collection I WOULD TOTALLY BUY THEM EVERY WEEK. Or better yet, pay once and then have access to an update file weekly. There is probably way too much work on the formatting and programming side to make it happen.
The ending definitely feels negatively cliffhangery right now – there’s just no resolution to the overarching conflict. Yes, the characters have developed in a narrative arc and Harry and Lown, yay, but where are the -answers-? It really is as if you chopped off the book after the missile attack on the Colony or after The Falcon escapes from the Death Star or after Kirk gets dropped on that ice planet in the new Star Trek.
The interesting thing is that, given that I’ve been paying a dollar for each story, I don’t actually feel like I’ve been shortchanged, and I’m glad to hear that there’s more — but I suspect that those who buy the novel will feel shortchanged. Unless the coda is amazing, of course, which I suppose is a downside of getting it in serialized format, that we don’t get to see even that level of closure.
I stopped at episode 4 or 5, not because I didn’t like the story, but… I had trouble getting back into the story. Now that it’s all done, I’ll go and buy all the episodes and read them at my own pace.
One quick snark, and I apologize in advance, but … “putting the cart before the horse” … Dude. What cart? I know there must be one, I can hear it and the horse is straining, but I don’t see a cart.
I’m honestly interested in how people evaluate the book with respect to reading it serialized and reading it in collected form. Reading all the various complaints and praises made me realize that what I got out of the book has been distinctly different from what a lot of other people got out of it.
Well, I just finished the final episode, and I have to say I’m pretty damn annoyed with the complete lack of resolution. And no, that you’re going to write a sequel doesn’t make up for it — you billed this as a complete novel, and it’s not. Essentially, I feel you lied to us. If you had told us at the beginning that it was going to be more like a tv show, that would be one thing — in general, the final episode of a tv season ends on a cliffhanger, to make sure people tune in for the next season — but you didn’t tell us that, you told us it was going to be a novel, just released in serial form. I expected a novel, ending and all, and that’s not what I got. Finding out that there is also going to be another episode that’s in the print version that wasn’t released in the serial form — well, all those things together means that when Human Division 2 is released, I’m going to be waiting for the complete novel, and I’m going to make sure that it actually completes the promised arc before I buy it.
To be clear, it’s not that it ends on a cliffhanger. Lots of books end on cliffhangers. But when they do, it’s because they’re clearly part of a larger arc, e.g., the first or second book in a trilogy. (That’s happening a LOT now, I’ve noticed.) Readers can therefore choose to either read the books one-by-one and deal with the cliffhangers, or wait until all three (or whatever) books are out and read them as a complete set. But in this case, you billed Human Division as a complete novel, not as part of a larger arc. The expectation was that it would be COMPLETE. The lack of resolution therefore leaves the reader (or, at least, me) feeling cheated and lied to.
I originally planned on waiting for the compiled version, but the free first episode from Tor got me sucked in, and I ended up buying each of them as they came out.
Overall, I liked the serial nature of the story better than expected, or at least disliked it less than I expected.
-It was kind of nice to have something new hitting my inbox every week, and I did enjoy reading each of the stories over lunch.
-I really enjoyed some of the individual episodes. The B-Team and The Dog King in particular were some of my favorites.
On the other hand:
-I really do prefer to sit down and read in bigger bites than, really, any of the individual episodes.
-I suspect that the amount of exposition and reminding readers of what had gone on in past weeks will get a bit annoying when reading the whole thing straight through.
-I really didn’t like the cliffhanger ending. I was expecting that when all was said and done I’d have a complete story, and this really doesn’t feel like a complete story. It feels like the first half.
All things considered, I’d probably prefer to buy the next installment as complete stand-alone novel, or baring that in a smaller number of larger pieces, but if you went with this method again, I’d probably be right there from week to week.
I really didn’t like the cliffhanger ending. I was expecting that when all was said and done I’d have a complete story, and this really doesn’t feel like a complete story. It feels like the first half.
Ah. I just got it. The story was the division of the human race into two political entities. As described by the title.
I think we might have felt more resolution if the the Colonial Union and the Earth didn’t start out so far apart in the beginning, and that the separation was seen from the start as temporary.
To the extent that others agree with @bess and @dcspartan as much as I do, this doesn’t bode well for future purchases of this series.
Not having enjoyed it overall as much as the rest of the OMW series and now finding it is not a complete novel in two respects (missing coda and whole missing 2nd book!) I will not purchase the next one until it is complete. I’ll then decide to buy it or not, just like I decide on any other book purchases: do I want this particular book?
In other words, your credit is exhausted. I won’t be buying books just because you wrote them, which was true until now. I know, enough others feel differently that it won’t hurt you, but you did ask, and it is how many of us feel at this time.
My thoughts (and remember, you asked for honesty):
1) As the serial was coming out, I must say I enjoyed it greatly. While several readers were upset about the variable length, that did not particularly bother me. I always felt like I go a dollar’s worth of entertainment out of a chapter. It was a fun way to experience a novel, although I’m not sure I’d go in for it again.
2) I think the strength of the serial, that each chapter was more of a self-contained story, is a weakness in the finished novel. I think this inhibited a larger narrative arc and some of the development of the main characters. We still know very little about Abumwe, other than her family fled Nigeria, and that was just revealed in the last half of chapter 13. We know Wilson is from Chicago, but not a whole lot more. Even the detour to Schmidt’s family, while an interesting short story, didn’t really lead to any implications in the larger narrative arc. Finally, having the penultimate chapter focus on a previous bit player introduced in the last 1/3 of the novel was a bit of a surprise. In the end, I found the whole to be somewhat less than the sum of the parts, and I think the serial format contributed to this.
3) Expectation management. I had very mixed feelings about your announcement that “The Human Division” was “picked up for a second season”. I did enjoy the story, and I’ll seriously think about getting a second book to find out how things turn out. At the same time, I felt a little ill-used. I came in expecting the equivalent of a miniseries, not a season 1. By this I mean that a few loose ends would have been fine, but this really just felt like stopping in mid-book. Also, it may not have been your intent, but letting readers know that they were really only at the halfway point of this story on almost the same day that the 13th (and to many reader’s expectation final) chapter came out seemed like a bait and switch. I’m afraid that in many readers’ opinions, your credibility took a hit.
4) Overall, this was an experiment, and, from your other comments, it sounds like it was a great financial success. Congratulations, and good job. However, I recommend you take a few lessons from this and a) consider whether the serialization might be having a negative effect on the final product as a novel (if creating a novel is your intent – it might be that this business model gets a very high percentage of its revenue from the initial roll out) and b) manager customer expectations better.
Artistically, I really enjoyed the episodic serial nature of The Human Division. I have always enjoyed your short stories, and I like hanging out in the OMW universe. Have a series of standalone stories that fit within a larger arc is a formula tailor made to make me happy. A second season just makes it all the better. Best of all would be to have them optioned for live action TV (Netflix maybe?)
Regarding the complaints that the ominbus hardcover edition has an extra story that wasn’t available elsewhere (yet), I can see why someone people who can’t afford or don’t want to buy both the serial episodes and the hardcover would be annoyed. However, I don’t see that as unfair. There’s always a tradeoff between formats and modes of purchase. The extra content is something to make up having to wait for the omnibus release and I’ll note that no one has answered the question whether or not the hard copy book will have a color plate of the John Harrison artwork for each episode. I also notice that Scalzi says he’s sure the extra story will be eventually available on it’s own for those that only wanted the ebook version, so it’s not a forever problem, just a not fast enough for my wishes problem.
What I didn’t enjoy were the business end logistics.
– having to buy each ebook separately, rather than have a single purchase option available, especially one that would entitle us to a consolidated ebook at the end of the series.
– Audible having no clue what was going on with joint purchases. When I saw that the audio book versions were going for $1, I started preorder them as well, then I realized I didn’t know if I would be getting the Whispersync discount, and Audible had no clue what they were doing. Like the ebook, I would like to pre-order the audio books in one order *with* the Whispersync discount.
– even better, get a single audio book at the end with chapter marks.
– ideally, for us completists, there would be a whole-package deal – ebook and audio book as they are released weekly, a single file compilation of the episodes in ebook and audio book at the end of the series, then the hard cover when it is released at the very end for a discounted price.
I recognize that those are problems that have to be managed at the retailer level, but hopefully the success of the series will give Scalzi and Tor some leverage in dealing with the retailers to make it work. Personally, if you found a retailer that would solve those problems, I’d buy from them.
If you’d have asked me after ep. 2 what I thought I’d have told you I hated it and wouldn’t be back. But as the weeks went on I really got into the format. (I’ve been listening to the audible version) I’ve listened to most of the episodes several times, looking for clues I might have missed. I’m so glad to hear the series is continuing as I’ve been enjoying myself in this universe. Think I’m gonna go back a listen to the whole batch starting with OMW. (I’ve read them, but not listened to them all)
I really enjoyed the stories, and the serialization approach. It worked well with my reading habits, as I rarely have time to read novels. I am happily contemplating the next series. Well done.
Actually, I didnt like it. I am a ravenous reader and the idea of waiting a week for the next installment was more annoying than joyous. I stopped reading it at chaper 3 (I think, maybe 4, on the way to Joco3) and decided to just buy the novel when it comes out. Realize that I can finish a novel of 300+ pages in a weekend of casual reading – the ability to read rapidly and retain is good for school but not for keeping myself occupied.
My name is Laura and I am a binge reader.
I’ve noticed that serials are becoming popular, and as a reader, I am a fan of the concept. Weekly release dates work really well. Thanks to you/your publisher for doing that. I’m subscribed to a few serials from other publishers and their release dates are anywhere from biweekly (which is okay) to bimonthly (too long a gap).
I hardly ever buy audio versions because a) I don’t find the price to value ratio reasonable and b) I only really want to listen to audiobooks when I travel a long distance, and I’m rarely in a car for 8-10 hours at a time. The audio version of THD was perfect for me. They were released at the same price as the written versions and each episode lasted roughly an hour. The stories kept me marvelous company during my travels over the past few weeks. I’m pretty sure I would have read THD at some point (probably when it hit softcover), but this format and business model convinced me to fork over some $13 and to do it happily.
That said, I concur with other commenters that the titling of the episodes was clunky; I downloaded several episodes at a time and it was very hard to figure out the sequential order. I hope you’ll work with the distributors to number the individual episode more clearly.
On the whole, I quite like THD (although I haven’t finished it yet). I enjoyed the plotting and characterization and the mix of serious and silly. It feels more coherent to me than to some of the other commenters, but that may be because I listened to the story in several bursts over a few days time and so didn’t have time to forget how the characters and plot points tied together.
I’m in for THD 2.
That said, I concur with other commenters that the titling of the episodes was clunky; I downloaded several episodes at a time and it was very hard to figure out the sequential order
I take it that the various retailers are chopping off the numbering. When I download the chapters for my reader, it’s labeled THE HUMAN DIVISION #10, #11, etc. in my e-reader.
I liked having something new to read every week. It was like getting a Happy Tuesday present. And I was aware that the writing was at least kind-of-sort-of modeled on TV writing, so I was unsurprised by the episodic nature of things and the cliff-hanger, and they don’t bother me.
I am disturbed by the situation with the coda. I don’t remember being informed about that. Character development is my favorite part of episodic works. I’ve been reading this thing for weeks and getting invested in the characters and it distresses me that if I want to read the coda about a cool character I have to get my hands on a copy of the book. Which I will do. I will stroll into Barnes and Noble, pick a physical copy of the book off the shelf, and read the coda. Probably while standing up. Like I used to when I was fresh out of college and new to the world of work and couldn’t afford nice breakfast cereal, let alone hardcover novels. And hey, I read some good books that way, very cheaply. However, I would be happier paying yet another 99 cents and having the coda delivered to my Kindle and reading it while lounging on my couch. I really can’t justify paying $12.87 to read the thing in installments and then paying another $12.99 to get the one small chunk that wasn’t included in the serialization. If I had realized that, I probably would have waited and gotten the whole thing in May rather than following along on the installments.
Agree with Ellen. That sounds like something George Lucas would do. You know, tweak the original a bit and re-sell the whole shebang. It kind of makes a mockery of those who invested in the serializaton experiment.
Don’t be George Lucas.
(a) I chose the serial option because I’d finish the story a lot faster (i.e. not having to wait for another month and change to get it), and it’s cheaper that way, AND I got to be in on the experience with everyone else from week to week. Otherwise I probably would have waited for the formal book release so I could get the extra too. I did know this going in, I didn’t miss the memo and chose to deal with it in that way. I just wish I hadn’t had to choose from two so-so options on that.
(b) Tor really needs to have a “buy entire series” option.
(c) Tor really needs to have a “get the extra” option. I definitely feel irritated that I can’t get it without purchasing the hardback–or more likely, flipping through a hardback in the bookstore to read it come mid-May. I may buy a paperback copy of the whole thing later for loaning purposes, but I don’t want to buy all the chapters + a hardback. That’s just silly.
(d) I am not techie enough to know how to do this, but a “convert to one giant book + get the extra” option would be good. As someone else said, handle it the way iTunes does albums.
(e) I concur with the folks who found that chapter 10 was kind of odd in a book where Hart doesn’t do anything major after it. I am hoping this means that he’ll get up to more in the second book.
(f) Yeah, there was some frustration on the “hey, wait, there is no windup to this AT ALL and it’s just the cliffhanger?” front. If there had been no second book deal, fits would have been thrown. You’re not an author known for that sort of behavior, so it surprised us all in a not-good way.
(g) I did not have problems with some chapters being longer or shorter than others. It’s 99 cents for a chapter and plot divisions in the right places. That’s fine.
(h) I did enjoy having a story/episode to look forward to every week, a la TV. I’ve been wondering if anyone can pull that off, and apparently the answer is yes. I liked the weekly discussion going on and that was a lot of fun. It was an experience, not just a book to be read in a few days (I speed read). I’d do it again.
(i) I think you might want to ah…possibly hint to future readers if a book isn’t going to get resolved by the end a little more so as to lessen the shock and awe/anger going on right now with people. Okay, so that wasn’t under your control because book negotiations just ended, but I say it as a note for next time.
(j) I think it might behoove y’all to release the book in full on the same day as the day that the serialization ends, rather than have such a long lag time between them.
(k) Much as I like the serialized format, I think it might be better to not have as many one-off-ish chapters in book 2. For example, choosing to bring back Heather Lee and company rather than one-offs about doomed people a la episode 2 or Birnbaum in episode 4. Though I am fine with episode 2, as it did establish what is going on in the story well. I am just not a fan of “introduce them just to kill them off” one-offs that you usually see in crappy mystery books. I don’t think you need the “stand alone” episodes as much come book/season 2 anyway.
(l) At this point, I admit that I have no bloody idea who to suspect is causing this carnage. That’s….a problem. I can’t even come up with a reasonable suspect list as to who wants this to happen, other than “secret factions,” I…guess. It’s occurred to me that at this point in time, I have NO EFFING IDEA who might be behind this, other than secret factions of who-the-hell-knows, and it seems odd that we know their goal and their modes of operation, but can’t even guess at who beyond the “Erie theory.” (For those wondering what I mean by that: one of the Tor writeups mentioned that the name is coming up an awful lot and might have something to do with things.)
My main quibbles were the logistics/selling stuff, and the cliffhanging nature of it all, which is clearly driving everyone nuts. But overall, I am happy with the whole experience and story and will be back for round two!
I loved each single episode of the series – they were exciting, funny, occassionally tense, but overall great entertainment. I definitely do not regret the purchase, and I’m not only going to buy the hardcover, but going to travel 50 miles to the nearest signing event to squee at Scalzi in person.
That being said, I do have some kvetches:
– I feel cheated, or probably better said misled in my expectations, by the cliffhanger and unresolved plot points. Not that I don’t mind more upcoming fiction in the Old Man’s war universe, but I was expecting a standalone story and that’s not what I was getting.
– As I mentioned in last week’s thread, the one big problem I have with the serialized format is that I forgot details from the first episodes before the last episodes where even out. Maybe it’s my attention span that is to blame, maybe it’s the fact that the conspiracy/mystery plot requires you to pay attention to small details to get the most out of it, but for that reason I would have preferred to read everything in one go.
– I felt constantly frustrated by the fact that the characters seemed to have no real agency in the context of the larger plot; they were always just scrambling and reacting to external events. I know from the Tor.com post that the story was primarily about character development, but it feels easier to care for, root for and emphasize with the characters when they have a clear goal to work towards, and that overarching goal was missing.
I personally loved that the story was delivered in weekly installments, they quickly became the highlight of my Tuesday work commute and I’m a little sad there’s no more to look forward to. Very glad to hear about the new “season” when it comes out (I’m hoping for yearly releases, but I guess writing “the longest novel you’ve ever written” every single year on top of other commitments isn’t too feasible…
Only possible criticism I can think of is that the chapters were very episodic, which while it worked wonderfully in the serialised form I’m not sure how well some of them will fit in for the full novel. Hard to really say for certain without actually reading it that way though.
It definitely wasn’t made clear enough initially that the bonus coda (not counting “After the Coup” b/c we all got that free long ago) wasn’t going to be in the e-version. I read Whatever every day and Tor pretty often and did not come across that information.
So now everyone who went along to make the experiment work feels like they’ve been told “Yeah, thanks for going along with this and putting up with the hassles and giving us the money — but run along while we give more stuff to the REAL buyers, the hardback people.” Who will get more stuff at less cost (since books are discounted), and all in one chunk.
I suspect season 2 will get a LOT less take-up — why pay more for inconvenience and less content?
Discounted hardcover price at Amazon: $17.21.
Price for the series purchased as individual episodes: $12.87.
Yeah, I don’t think so.
I finished the book and am writing this from the hospital on my phone, so I can’t write as much as I would have preferred. Instead, I’m putting on my to-do list “Write annoyed review for Goodreads.” I’m trying to imagine the situation where John proposed to Patrick writing half an OMW novel, and Patrick saying “Sure!” That doesn’t fit either man’s MO, so I have no idea what happened. But as a purchaser of the series, I’m very disappointed with the book’s lack of resolution.
I really enjoyed each of the individual episodes, and I know that serialization is intended to be different from a straight up novelization(like OMW or GB) but it’s kind of hard to see how the pieces fit together to make an overall novel feel novel-y.
The lack of codas in electronic form also kind of seems like a rip-off from the perspective of “Hey, you folks who engaged in this grand experiment: Did you like what you read? Cool. Well here’s the the remastered special edition that you should buy again.”
@lurkertype – I consider this set up analogous to buying seasons of a current television show. You can buy them as they are released on iTunes or Amazon Instant Video so you can watch them right away. Or, you can wait until after the season ends and the DVD box set is released with bonus materials. You may not have read that the bonus coda would be included only in the hardcover but I remember it. And as I’ve noted, it’s not an unusual practice.
What would be nice would be if Tor or the retailers gave us the option of a “Season Pass”, the ability to buy the entire season at once at a discounted price.
I am not sure if these have been mentioned before, but here are my thoughts:
1.) More important: I sometimes found it annoying how each installment had to have elements that slightly explained certain things (characters, important plot points, tech, etc.) I don’t need to be reminded that Daniel Lowen is the daughter of the the US Secretary of State, or that a Brainpal is a computer in your brain. I think from your perspective, you should assume that your readers are going to read all of the installments, in the correct order, so there is no need to rehash over existing elements.
2.) I think, next time I am going to wait for them all to come out, so I can read it all at once and feed my binge-reading habits.
Overall, I loved the Human Division. Furthermore, the story-arc from Old man’s war to now creates a wonderful story arc that is much cooler than each individual book (although they are good too.)
On the plus side:
+ you got me definetly hooked.
+ the cast is great, each main character could hold a novel by him or herself.
+ the humour is great, it’s not too much and fits the speaker (but Abumwe is the funniest of all, then Sorvalh)
+ the price is fair
In the minus side:
– after three months of reading, the story just starts to unfold, the end oft EB,SA is not even a cliff hanger!
– all episodes except the first and the last were too short, 15 minutes of reading is a bad trade for one week oft waiting.
– the covers are a bit stereotypical, while missing a common graphical element to link them (authors name doesn’t count, sorry)
Overall rating: 4.5 stars.
I was unable to enjoy this “book” because it was not available in a format I could use, to my knowledge. my nook bricked on me 3 weeks after I bought it and my kindle had battery problems that I could get no help for. after those 2 miserable experiences I judged the electronic book format premature and will not delve back into those waters until I am convinced I am not throwing away another $100+ for a paperweight Thus I am forced to wait until I can get a paperback, or even a hardback if one will ever be available.
Perhaps next time you can sell it in a .PDF format? if not, then is there a free desktop app (PC please) that has the ability to read the chapters? I would have happily spent my buck-a-week, or whatever the pace, and enjoyed it w/ everyone else.
From The Department of Redundancy Department,
First, I am a huge Scalzi fan.
Episode 13 was disappointing. It was great to see the B team promoted. But, there were just too many untied threads. Particularly since neither you John nor we readers knew there would be a second “season”. However, I guess you can call it “author’s privilege”.
I’ve been reading serial formatted books since the early 50’s. In the bad old days it was often the only way to read SF. Thanks to Analog, Galaxy, Fantasy and Science Fiction et al. Serialization Is not my preferred format but, like so many others here, I was hooked after reading Episode 1.
The most frustrating part of this exercise has been the frequently aforementioned inability to consolidate the episodes. I got it through Amazon and read it on the Kindle App for iPad. Since I’ve read other Kindle books during the THD time, THD is scattered all over my Kindle app and, even with moving them into the “collections” section of the PC Kindle app, I can’t get them in order. There has to be a better way to handle the serialization. And, by the way, paying for it.
So, I have to say it’s been a frustrating experience. Even though I love the book itself.
Interestingly my pros and cons are more about HOW the book was delivered than the book itself.
+ Novelty experiment in publishing is to be applauded.
+ Covers great.
+ Characters & setting. I did want to read this, and I was hooked on a chapter by chapter basis (see below).
+ I will read the next volume…
– …but not in serialised form.
– Reading what turned out at the last minute to be (presumably) book one in a series in a serialized format made me cross. Sorry, that should have been a standalone novel to work that way. I read this over weeks and no closure?
– I wasn’t sure whether the story actually worked told in chunks like this; that is, I don’t know if this would have been a better read simply as a simple novel. A Rashomon-style multiple POV novel, or something playing with bricolage might have been more fitting to a serialised release where the abrupt changes wouldn’t ruin the flow of a single volume? Or perhaps a serialised release might have permitted a very long novel to be pushed out without the need to artifically find story breaks at the end of book-binding-sizes for volumes 1 and 2?
– Amazon is a pain when it’s recommending 7 of your upcoming chapters on every other book’s page. And it was annoying to buy several at once.
– The Kindle app on a my phone is a mess now, I can’t “collapse” all chapters into one book to re-read / flick past faster.
– I don’t get a break on buying an omnibus or paper?
– Searching/bookmarking/jumping back to re-read previous chapter / check something painful when the book is split. A channel which delivered a new chapter OF THE SAME e-book each week would be preferable.
The artistic quality of the episodes ranged form very good to excellent. I’d say your experiment was successful. I’m sure some of the boffins at Tor are looking at this and realizing that they can sell E-Books for $12.99 (+/-) and mostly people will be happy paying it.
I think missing the “coda” for now is not a big deal and complaints above are out of proportion (I suspect that Scalzi/Tor had a strategy for releasing that portion all along – either on Tor’s wesite, here, or included with something else)
my critisisms are few :
I’d like episodes to be of more equal length (and longer)
I agree with others that a subscription needs to exist – and either apply a discount or add some bonus material for subscribers (a compiled edition would qualify as a bonus feature IMHO, as would higher res art work)
My Wish list:
include the compiled e-book and/or audio version (omnibus whatever you want to call it) with the purchase of a super special limited edition hard cover.
The E-book format lends itself to all sorts of extra’s (maps, charts, art, audio) how about some easter eggs?
Kindle has a “loan” function that I used to read The Mongoliad. I got part one, returned it and got part two. This would probably work as a pay model. a reader could buy Ch 1, return it when buying chapter 1-2, return that when buying chapters 1-3, etc. until one would have a single copy of parts 1-13 at the end.
Ellen, et al:
“I am disturbed by the situation with the coda. I don’t remember being informed about that.”
Again, it was noted by both Tor and me that the hardcover release would come with extras. We never hid the fact. I don’t know we could have better informed people other than announcing publicly on our mutual sites that the hardcover release would come with extra material (and, in Tor’s case, noting the fact in the explanatory text of the compiled release version on every retail site out there). The information was always available.
Once more, the plan is to make the new extra bit available electronically after an exclusive period for the hardcover/compiled release — just as the individual episodes were available electronically for an exclusive period prior to the hardcover release. No one will be compelled to shell out full price for the compiled version to get it; they’ll have to wait a bit, just as those who prefer print have had to wait for the print.
I’m not entirely sure while people appear to be forgetting over the course of this comment thread that I’ve noted that extra bit will eventually be made available electronically; this is the third time I’ve noted it now.
I definitely enjoyed it. The only criticism I would make (and it sounds like it’s partially a function of the contract negotiations) is that because this book wasn’t marketed as the first in a series, the pacing felt a bit off. I had an expectation that the plot would be resolved by the end of the book, so it felt a bit like it was meandering. By the last chapter I got the sense that it would not wrap things up.
Well, to be honest, I don’t read all the promotional material for every book I read. I absolutely believe the information was out there. This reflection has not made me feel better about missing out on the coda.
I bought in on the serial because I understood it as an experiment in using a new means of distribution (e-books) to bring an old means of story-telling (serialization) in to the 21st century. And as a person who got into the thing for that reason, and has now been asked what I think, I think the exclusive coda in the bound/collected edition (and available on my Kindle after a period of exclusivity of as yet indeterminate length – a week? A year?)(but honestly, I won’t wait, though I might if the wait was short, I will just read it in the bookstore on my way home from work one day) is a bummer.
I would happily pay another 99 cents if Tor kept the period of exclusivity for the additional content very short. And instead I am plotting to read what appears, from the price difference, to be 12 cents worth of book without paying for it, and considering opting out of the next serial and waiting for the complete collected edition instead. Which is why I’m voicing my discontent – I think this issue has the potential to undermine the success of the experiment over the long term and, since there is going to be a sequel, I think it would be cool if the sequel included all the chapters (and codas) of that story.
I liked the story and I liked the communal nature of the reading experience. It wouldn’t bother me if the story just kept going in weekly installments for however long it takes to reach its natural end, but I understand the need for a production hiatus between seasons.
The ‘forgetting’ comes (for me) from this phrasing:
“It’s probably going to remain an exclusive to the hardcover for a while but I would be surprised if it doesn’t (legally) find its way online at some point.”
As I tell the kids, be direct and declarative in what you are saying. To me, and I think others on this thread, the passive phrasing doesn’t say ‘this will happen,’ but ‘this might happen.’
Like many other commenters, I spent the 13 weeks looking forward to Scalzi-Tuesdays, as I knew that I would always have at least *something* new to look forward to. Doubly so when I got a Wilson chapter; I’ve loved Wilson since his standalone short stories.
I will differ from the rest of the folks on the matter of the coda. It strikes me as more like how Battlestar Galactica aired the first half of a season in the US first, then aired it in the UK, then aired the second half in the UK and the second half in the US after that. You avoided the ‘I am impatient and will thus download the entire season online because otherwise SPOILERS’ situation that often happens when a show airs six months ahead of time in one country than in another, by ensuring that even if that happened each network got ‘their’ viewers for half of the season. I see the coda as a similar incentive for the print folks; we got the first part before they did, now they get the next part before we do.
However, I think there are definitely some rough edges to work out here. Some were within your control, some not.
I too was a little taken aback by the ending. I don’t mind a book ending without resolving things, but I usually like to know that I *am* reading the first book of a series. I didn’t realize that was the case here until we got to the end; while I’m happy to pick up the second season (and will even do so in serial format), I did still feel a little caught off-guard. Yes, I should’ve thought of it like a television series—see previous BSG analogy—and seen this as the ‘season finale’ which, in keeping with most television, would probably leave us on a cliffhanger not to be resolved until the next season premiere. But I didn’t expect it and so that caught me by surprise.
And like a television show, I felt like some of the episodes were almost more like filler. That’s not uncommon for a television series, but I didn’t really expect it in a book. Then again, I’m guessing that to turn things into a serial, it couldn’t work like a normal book easily anyway.
On a brighter note, I do notice that some of the issues otherwise outside of your control now have solutions: Amazon has apparently introduced a ‘Kindle Serial’ function which handles precisely this sort of situation, giving you a serial that updates the book for a single price. That addresses ‘it is a pain to find all the episodes and preorder them’, ‘the individual episodes clutter up recommendations’ and ‘cannot group episodes ZOMG MY OCD IS GOING NUTS.’ (I’d like to think that the popularity of The Human Division might’ve at least partly inspired Amazon to add that functionality, though I have no idea.)
Overall, I enjoyed the experience enough that I’ll be picking up the episodic form again for season two. I do think the result was not quite what I’m used to in a normal book, but I think that’s partly a product of this not being a normal book, and I think going into season two I’ll have a better idea what to expect.
First, I enjoyed the serialization. Second, I really like the OMW characters of Perry, Sagan, and Zoe. Third, I know like Wilson, Hart, and company as much, well done! Fourth, I’ll most likely do the second serial. And fifthly, all the rants and such regarding the bonus materials and their exclusiveness to print had me search for them. It took me many pages on tor to finally find it. Which made me think of this, from another author I love:
“But the plans were on display …”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”
― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Looking forward to season 2. (some SPOILER below)
– I enjoyed the pacing. I generally eat books without chewing them, so the forced delay was nice.
– Getting the story now now now.
– Sprinkling the story out weekly gave both more anticipation and more satisfaction. For instance, the end of the chapter with the brain in a jar would not have worked as well in a non-serialized format.
Now that I think about it, those are all pretty much the same thing.
– Some chapters were a little short. Don’t recall which ones specifically, but there were definitely times when I finished a week’s release and felt like “that’s it?!”
– Totally missed the messaging that there would be extra NEW content in the collected version. Leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
– Existence of 13 files now that there is/will be a collected edition.
– The story was kind of unresolved. I don’t have a satisfied “that was that story” kind of feeling. I’m left looking forward to next week’s chapter, with no idea when that will be out. (I see that you’ve got a second season, but I haven’t noticed a release date yet – haven’t read all the articles). You may have overdone a fractal treatment of serialization with this collection. Or maybe underdid it. They’re fractals, it’s probably both. I’d like a stronger ending for the collection. I’m betting that when I start reading season 2, it will be basically chapter 14. Maybe that’s what you’re going for, but that was not the impression that I thought I would be leaving the collection with.
Now that I’ve offered critiques, here are some suggested solutions:
Bring the average episode length up, even if it means fewer episodes. I’ll pay more for a little longer per-week experience.
In my ideal world, the collection would be offered for free to “subscribers”. In a more realistic world, I’d pay another 99 cents for the completed collection – this being my guestimation price of the bonus material.
Thanks for writing and enjoy my money!
I’m reminded of a classic Hitchhiker’s Guide scene:
‘…You hadn’t exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them had you? I mean like actually telling anyone or anything.’ But the plans were on display…’ o n display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.’ `That’s the display department.’ `With a torch.’ `Ah, well the lights had probably gone.’ `So had the stairs.’ `But look you found the notice didn’t you?’ `Yes,’ said Arthur, `yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of The Leopard”.’ -Douglas Adams
Eric – you beat me to it, dang it.
Tor’s announcement and mine were both on our front pages, not down in the basement, folks. It simply scrolled down as a natural process of time. Also, OUR LEOPARD IS REAL. His name is Chauncey. He likes snuggles and raw baby gazelle chunks.
I didn’t particularly care for the serialization, as every week I had trouble remembering who was who and getting back into the story (memory isn’t what it used to be). I ended up saving chapters until I had 3 or 4 so that I could feel like I had actually read something. Next time I’ll probably wait for the book to come out in its entirety before purchasing. If I can wait that long. Loved the book overall. The final chapter was very exciting and I look forward to the next book!
FWIW, I decided to not read the thread before posting.
From a mechanics point of view, I didn’t like having to order each book. I would also like to have the stories end up ‘bound’ together into a single electronic edition vs having separate files.
I’m also questioning my bias on this. I think some of it comes from thinking of this as a novel rather than a ‘comic book’ or ‘TV show’. Perhaps this is an expectation issue.
From the story telling aspect, I did enjoy the series and I’m looking forward to the continuation. I felt there could have been more story in each segment. In particular, there seemed to be more recap than necessary. I understand that with TV shows you expect people to jump in the middle and ideally each episode stands on its own. I think it worked ok here but I have this feeling I could have gotten ‘more’ if there was less of a concern of having to know more of the story arc.
While waiting for the next episode – and in some ways since each episode ended up being a very quick read (less than 30 minutes usually), I would end up re-reading it – almost immediately. I used to have more time to re-read books; now, not so much. I don’t know if I have a point here so consider this more of an observation.
I think it would have been more satisfying if each episode had about double the content. I’m not saying I want the stories padded but if we take the premise that each episode should be relatively independent and recap the arc, then the overall opus should be longer than a traditional novel.
While I agree the second episode seemed shorter because the expectation wasn’t that the first episode was double length, I think the overall content of the second episode was less than the episode later with fewer words. So, even though it had fewer words, you already established a base that didn’t exist yet in the second episode.
I don’t think I fully appreciated the cover art due to the electronic Kindle format. The cover art for the last episode also seems like a huge spoiler. One idea for the serialization is to do something like the Robert Aspirin ‘Starblaze’ edition books. These books weren’t full comic books but had illustrations that augmented the story. This could be difficult for the e-ink Kindle though.
As for pricing, eh, I don’t regret buying it. I’d buy it again. Would I be happier with it cheaper? Sure, would I pay double for Scalzi to have it done sooner, maybe. :-) As a stupid marketing trick, I’d probably wouldn’t have thought twice about the price if I got a ‘deal’ by getting 13 but only paying for 12 – call it the Baker’s Dozen Morning Serial Deal.
Big thumbs up on the serialization and the story. Beyond the mysteries left at the end I’m confused about why the CDF isn’t turning to the special forces to solve their troops issue. The have the production capacity to make all the bodies just use the cloning creches to make Special forces soldiers and your good. I mean Slizard even explained this as the only available action for the CU in the Last Colony. So whats up there?
These points have been made above, but they bear repeating due to the nature of your request, John.
1 ( biggest beef): Non-availability of the hardback story to those of us who pushed this project: I feel that this is a slap in the face to we who got behind and supported the serialized novel. This additional story should be available to us for purchase no later than the release of the hardcover. Without us this project wouldn’t have gotten to the “second season” therefore we shouldn’t be penalized by a waiting period before we can purchase that story. Without our purchases, you would not have been on top of those book lists.
On the note that you’ve made regarding “we should have known about this”, I just have to say that I read all of your books, and your blog, which means that (in my opinion) if I didn’t know about this, then I cannot be in the minority. It it wasn’t well enough represented for me to know about it, then it wasn’t well represented. If it had been, I probably would have waited for the hardcover.
This particular issue seems the easiest to rectify. Please don’t make us wait some random and arbitrary length of time after the hardcover release.
2 (smaller beef): If you and Tor had been more upfront that this was going to be the first edition of a multi-edition novel/season, I would not have been so genuinely pissed as I was this morning. From the beginning you’ve put forth that these 13 episodes would have an entire story arc contained within them. Unfortunately, I disagree. While there is arc here, we’re only at the top of the rainbow right now. An arc implies at least some resolution; resolution is lacking this “season”. If, again, you’d been more upfront about this, I wouldn’t be so upset.
One of the reasons I’m pissed is because regardless of the second season announcement, this story was going to end where it did today. What would have happened without a second season? Obviously there would have to be at least one additional novel based on the outcome of the episodic arc. This is the first we the readers have learned that this is a series of serials. Thusly, I’m upset.
3) (not a beef): I liked the serial nature of these stories. I appreciated getting a piece of the Old Man’s War universe every Tuesday, and I would do it again, assuming that points one and two are addressed in the future.
I realize that you’ve addressed these issues above, however it’s important to note that these items weren’t what I *thought* this morning, they were what I *felt*. My feelings aren’t controlled by rational thought and unfortunately, my feelings don’t like how this worked out. That will color future transactions.
Coda to my comment: I suppose it’s a compliment that you generated such a visceral feeling in me. That’s something.
Did read comments above, so I apologize if this is a common comment: I stopped after episode 2 in favor of waiting for the combined offering or buying all episodes at once.
Somehow the false-feeling serialization didn’t appeal to me the way it might have in a more historically periodical print form. I know it was just a week between each, but I couldn’t delude myself about the fact that you were done and just waiting.
Electronic waiting = huh?
Now I don’t have to wait. If that makes any kind of sense all these weeks later.
On the serialization:
1) I enjoyed looking forward to each Tuesday’s installment and had no problem with the varying lengths of each episode. That being said, I’m not sure that I would read serializations on a regular basis.
2) I was well aware of the extra content contained in the upcoming full edition, so I have no “Veruca Salt” concerns. I’ll probably just pick up the hardcover from the library and read it there if I can’t wait until it’s otherwise available.
On the retail experience:
1) I agree with the suggestions that the e-book retailers need to make it easier to order/pre-order the entire series at once.
2) My experience with Audible was atrocious. I don’t have a subscription, I just log in with my Amazon credentials. I’ve been able to “buy” free content with them on several occasions, but when I tried to buy the first episode of THD there were multiple problems that ultimately were left unresolved. It was such an unpleasant experience in customer service that I doubt that I’ll attempt to order anything from them again.
On the story:
Overall I enjoyed The Human Division; the OMW universe is one of my favorites. By the time I got to episode 10 or 11, though, I was suspecting that there wasn’t going to be a nice, neat bow to wrap everything up. I’m glad to hear that there will eventually be more, I would just prefer that it be ready by next Tuesday. Do you think you and Tor could work that out for us?
I enjoyed the whole damn thing. I have to tell you, there were weeks that sucked until I remembered, “Hey! It’s Tuesday!” The cliffhanger bugged me, but it was written in such a way that I had complete confidence that there would be more episodes. I think, though, that one or two answers would have been nice.
John, I think that you may have missed all the folks who perfectly understood that the coda will eventually be released, but are still a bit disappointed. As to the “information was available” argument, I hope it’s okay if I refer to that as the “Hitchhiker’s Guide” argument. That so many, myself included, didn’t see the information might say more about how that information was distributed than it does about our reading skills.
I understand that you and Tor want to make sure people buy the print edition. It reminds me a bit of Warren Ellis, wanting to make sure people bought individual issues of “Fell”, not just the trade. The difference is, his solution was to include “backmatter”- extras for the people who bought the individual issues, that would not be included with the trade. This is the opposite.
Yes, I know that the coda will, someday, be released. I don’t think your arguments about why that’s okay hold water. I don’t think the people getting the serial before the people _electing to wait for the collection_ is equivalent to the dead tree version having material that is not now available. We didn’t get the story early. We got it when it came out.
This will convince several people to not buy the serial. Not everyone- I’ll probably continue to buy it- but enough for me to believe it’s a mistake.
As a side note: I see the word “entitled” thrown around a lot, these days. Enough to make me think that there are many people who don’t really know what that word means. It has become the “political correctness” of the 2010’s- an easy way to dismiss any argument you want, without actually addressing it.
I may be of the minority here, but I have a problem with connection characters through books, especially when one or two are killed periodically. I really did not understand who Danielle (Dani) was until the last book. Is this a common problem, or am I just not paying attention?
I really did love the book, it just felt a bit disjointed. I think this might be remedied if the chapters were longer, or if there was more redundancy within each chapter. All the new characters fit in perfectly (to me) with how it should have been. It is a great addition to the Old Man’s War universe, and rightly so. I am no writer, so if this goes against all you have been taught and learned on your own, Mr. Scalzi, go ahead and ignore me :). I just wanted to let you know, because you asked. Just sayin’.
Thank you for giving me something to look forward to on Tuesdays, the real worst day of the week for a student. (worst classes) My Dad and I had a great time discussing the chapters and we raced to finish each chapter for bragging rights, and then read it again. And again. (I won!)
*Random* I was at a TMBG concert in Richmond, and I saw a man wearing one of your wonderful Gamma Rabbit T-shirts. Go you! Go him! Go TMBG! YAY FOR BUNNIES!!
I have been reading John Scalzi books for a long time. Started with Old Man’s War, then branched out to everything else I could get my hands on. I’ve had you in my top 5 author list since I read Agent to the Stars. That being said I was ambivalent to the thought of serialized story-telling. I did enjoy Tuesday mornings when I downloaded the audiobook, but was frequently left frustrated within the next 45 minutes or so when the short story ended. When I finished the last chapter, I felt let down, like I invested 13 episodes worth of time but there wasn’t much of a payoff because you didn’t want to wrap up the arcs. The truth is I would have been more likely to read your next serialized format if you had wrapped this series up more satisfactorily. I also think the hardcover-only coda shows some contempt for those of us that came along with you for the ride in this format..
I believe in the future I’ll stick with your full length novels and stay away from short stories that are fun but ultimately seem to go nowhere.
Loved the serial format. Shelling out $0.99 a week for an episode made it quite affordable. Now WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ON TUESDAYS Mr. Scalzi?
Very interesting experiment. I’ve been listening each week as audible released the next episode. While it was nice to have something new each week, it was also annoying knowing that the book was done and I just didn’t have access to it because release windows were already in place. Those exclusivity windows are just frustrating from a customer standpoint, be it movie, tv, games, books, any other media.
From a story standpoint, I think the episodes style writing was very interesting, but ultimately felt a lot more shallow in narrative. I don’t think its bad per say, and in this case it was still very entertaining. While a lot of things happened from episode to episode, in the end it didn’t feel like much had happened overall (compared to other Skalzi novels.)
TL;DR: Fascinating experiment that I’m glad I got to witness, but next time I’ll just wait for the complete season.
My quoting Douglas Adams was just for humor, not to be argumentative. Mr. Scalzi, I came to the game late, so I missed the initial announcement. I had OMW as a sample from Kindle for some time before reading it and getting hooked. Not to sound like too much of a suck up, but you quickly became one of my favorite authors.
I enjoyed the serial format. I like the “longer” feel to the episode versus a chapter. All the characters in each episode come to life more for me, especially since I can’t skip something I think may not be interesting to get to some other part. Serialization forced me to pay more attention to the current episode. I am thinking particularly of the episode “This Must Be the Place.” In a traditional novel, I may have been tempted to skip ahead. But as this was my “fix,” I read it, then re-read it a few days later. I really got a better understanding of Hart, and more importantly, I really liked it and realized the “normalcy” of home was very well written.
I look forward reading more. At the risk of antagonizing anyone, I’ll close with another Hitchhikers scenario. Whether moving little green pieces of paper (or book “extras”) around never made everyone happy, “which was odd as on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper (or book “extras”) that were on happy”
Oh joy, #240-something! Yeah, brain is fried after stuffing ITIL in my brain for 8 hours in class. More to come on the morrow! Woohoo!
Where was I? Oh yes, Human Division the serial version. Final impression is while I see many people were enamored with the idea (as was I initially), I must admit to losing said enamor. Didn’t like the tidbit nature of reading a novel that by your own account was the longest you had written yet. In fact, part of me feels compelled to buy the hardback to insure myself that this was, indeed, a 100k+ word story (no really?!).
On the other hand, it was a great story and one I’ll look to read again, but next time it’ll be all from one singular piece of science fiction literature.
Maybe you can take up a new genre of writing, the serial eStory. I could get into that, sort of like the comic book version of writing. Short 9-10k word posts that never end but cost whatever you elect them to cost for a reading.
OK, this is my third comment on the thread — the 13th chapter got read during lunch, and I hadn’t had a chance to comment before now.
So I’ve spent $12 on a novel — lots cheaper than a hardcover, more than most ebooks, certainly less than 12 issues of a comic book, for about the same “entertainment hours.” It felt shorter than your other books, but then I have been reading it over a period of three months.
There’s a lot of complaints above about pacing. I definitely *want* more of the story arc: Over a season of a TV show, I at least want to see who the “Big Bad” is even if Buffy isn’t going to slay him until the next season opener. If not the big bad, let’s put a target on *somebody* — even Babylon 5 gave glimpses of the Shadows, and had Mr. Morden to hate, in its first season.
However, this last chapter was *extremely* satisfying on a personal character arc level. Without giving too much away, several characters have grown, achieved goals, been heroic… Seriously, after reading “After the Coup” or “The B-Team” would anyone have guessed that Hart Schmidt would McGyver his way out of a problem?
Given how long this comment thread is I suspect I’ll be retreating most of what other people are saying, but nonetheless –
The series was very entertaining in its individual parts but I feel like it’s somewhat lacking as an overall arc, particularly given how short it was.
The episodes featuring non-main-cast characters, particularly “Walk the Plank”, feel somewhat extraneous to the series, especially given that many of them amounted to extended ‘flavoring’ when the finale wrapped up so very little – perhaps that’s disappointment talking, but in the end the ending felt more like a “midseason finale” than a finale and it makes me question the value of such departures.
Sure, there’s a 2nd ‘season’ coming, but I was hoping for at least some sort of finality to this mini-arc and finding that there wasn’t much is a disappointment. I’ll be buying the next series, as I certainly enjoy your writing, but this left me hanging and feeling like the story was unfinished, something I’m not used to with your work.
It was a fun read and I enjoy the OMW universe. I find myself hoping, however, that the next iteration has longer episodes (even if this means there are less of them) and more of a self-contained story.
I liked the serialized format. It was nice getting a new story each week, and despite the variations in length, I liked the dollar price for each story.
As for the stories itself, I liked everything with Hart & Wilson. Everything else…not so much. I especially thought the “experimental” stories were out of place. I was also peeved that there wasn’t any resolution to the main overall story regarding the conspiracy. I understand the need to leave an opening for the second season, but it would have been nice to have a little more knowledge into the who of this big conspiracy.
I’d also like to echo the complaints about the coda. I will probably buy the Hardcover, but I still think its poor taste to include story (even if it is not much) that wasn’t provided in the serial format. I know that it will be provided eventually, but it’s still kind of annoying.
On the whole, I really enjoyed it. I definitely got into the serialized format. (Though– this is more on Amazon/technical aspects, but if at the end of each episode there was a button to automatically buy/preorder the next episode, I’d have been hitting it automatically each time.) But the overall effect for me was similar to the more fun aspects of enjoying a TV show week-to-week.
Of course, my enjoyment was probably enhanced by the fact that I waited until #8 was out before I started reading. That gave me an opportunity get reading for a bit and not have too much of a week-to-week wait.
However, I did feel… unsatisfied by the more tangential/experimental/light entries. “Walk the Plank” and “This Must Be The Place” stand out the most. I liked them, but they felt like side salads while the rest were steak dinners, if you take my meaning.
Now: bring on season two, at your earliest convenience.
I enjoyed the novel. My only question is how soon we will get the first installment of the sequel. I am curious on the lead time between concept and publication.
I haven’t read the series yet, as I didn’t want to end up with 13 separate ebooks when the run was completed. So for me this has been a little bit frustrating to see the chapters come out, and have to avoid spoilers and discussions until it is released as a single volume.
In a perfect world there would have a trade in option where I could have handed back the 13 chapters and received a single volume at the end I would have done that. You said up front that probably wasn’t going to be possible, so I have been exercising my self-restraint and not bought/read so far.
I really liked the weekly (chapters?). As a long time comic book reader the joy of having characters return to you each month is what I enjoy most. The serial format also harkens back to the early days when books were in fact published in parts…I can think of Jack London and Charles Dickens. With the true coming of ebooks I think the concept works well with this format.
From a business perspective:
The close partnership with Audible was sheer genius for a few of reasons. First, getting an entire feature length audio book for $13 is a steal and the member discount knocks another 30% off that. So that means for $26 I got both an audio copy and a Kindle copy of the book. This is fantastic for my current reading style where I have to spend both a lot of time in the car and have random spats of downtime for reading on my phone. Second, WhisperSync. I’ve been keeping an eye on their WhisperSync for audio books for a while, but hadn’t actually acted upon it yet. Since I had already acted upon the first point, adventuring into WhisperSync wasn’t much of a stretch. Once I got past a couple of minor hurdles, it worked insanely well and has already generated several other purchases of other Kindle books to pair with the audio books I already had through Audible or vice versa (including more of your stuff). Lastly, you ended up having a great narrator. All of your other books I’ve listened to have been narrated by Wil Wheaton, so I’ve become accustomed to listening to your word with his voice. I was a little worried about William Dufris at first, but that concern evaporated quickly. I found his portrayal of several characters to be extremely spot on. For example, I was very glad to have listened to A Voice in the Wilderness as opposed to reading it because he put such life and vigor into the broadcast parts. Plus the minor amount of engineering done on his voice in The Sound of Rebellion really added to the immersion. The culmination for me is that his performance has piqued my interest enough to go back and grab the audio books for other OMW books. Audible just made this even easier for me by offering another discount since I already own the Kindle versions. Marketing genius here. You should thank them profusely.
From a story perspective;
The serialized content was a fun experiment for me. My commute time to and from the office is around 90 minutes, which meant I could listen to an entire episode in one sitting. That made them feel both bite size and short. It also made the shorter episodes seem that much shorter. Length doesn’t bother me if it’s got the right content. (It’s not the size, it’s how you use it?) Most of the time, I think you made excellent use of the episodes and had some fantastic moments. Your concerns about This Must Be the Place were unfounded for me. I found it to be an extremely personal and wonderful look into Hart’s family life and gave me a much greater appreciation for him. Prior to that part, I found him to be little more than Wilson’s bumbling half sidekick. And while he’s definitely not perfect, that chapter made me realize he was much more than that and had his reasons for what he was doing. He lived in quite a shadow and I’m grateful you gave me insight into that. Likewise, Coloma’s lamenting in Phoenix Station gave her a depth of character I appreciated. (Vagary intended to avoid spoilers.)
On the other hand, there were a couple of episodes in the series that I felt ended up being hurt by the episoding format rather than being helped by it. Some of it came down to structure of the pieces themselves, some simply because of how they fit into the story or universe as a whole. The most disappointing chapter for me was The Dog King. It felt a bit too cheeky and that some of the silliness was forced rather than naturally evolving as it tends to in your writing. I found the entire plot of the episode to actually be pretty transparent and picked up everything except the details of the resolution less than a quarter of the way through. This is something I attribute to the episodic nature itself. Because you constrained yourself to 13 self contained, but interrelated episodes, you lent each one some of the stereotypical structure of a TV episode, for good or bad. With The Dog King, I found the structure to be almost glaring in its obviousness and that part of my brain that has to figure things out couldn’t keep silent. Don’t get me wrong. The structure and transition between the five major phases worked in a classical way, but I was hoping for more. When I realized it wasn’t there, I had to settle for the classic Scalzi one liners and wait for the twist. When it came, the twist was mildly interesting in that it fit both the circumstances and the universe (as did the resolution) and you got a good laugh out of it in later chapters, but I feel that, overall, it could have been more.
The second most disappointing chapter for me was The Sound of Rebellion, which is odd because I actually really liked the story and characters. The reason it disappointed me was that it felt like a side story to the main plot. A C Team, if you will. The key to the episode resonated well with the title (pun intended), which I appreciated, and I liked how that factored in well with the BrainPal, which gave a new trick to the CDF soldiers. Unfortunately, I thought the ultimate means of resolution was disappointing in that we’ve seen it used previously in your other works. It was really neat the first time, but not as much the second time. Was it the right resolution for that character in that situation? Almost certainly. Could there have been something even cooler? Probably. That being said, maybe I was the only one who felt that way, in which case, I can’t very well ask you to write just for me (unless I paid you a lot).
So, in summary, I think your experiment was an overall extreme success. You created an engaging piece in a new format that wasn’t necessarily groundbreaking, but was uncommon and unfamiliar to the modern written market. Some of the technology decisions, whether yours or to your benefit, ended up being extremely successful and likely netted you many additional sales because of the convenience and psychology of how they were presented. The story itself was above average and an excellent return to the universe, even through its low points. All in all, if you keep up work like this, I’ll continue to throw money in your direction.
Lets be honest, the Human Division was a disaster…. in large part BECAUSE it was serialized. It is frustrating enough to wait one week between each instalment, but to finaly reach the end, only to discover that there is no resolution to the story compounds that frustration exponentially. Not a single question was answered. Nothing was wrapped up.
It wouldn’t have been so bad as a novella that could be read in a day or two, but as a serial that spans 3 months, it just doen’t work. Just look at any of the great scifi serials of the past. Cliff hangers along the way, but never at the end. The Human Division is not high art – nor does it try to be. It doesn’t pose deep ethical questions. Its not character driven (in so far as there is no real character growth or development over the story arc). And thats OK. This is obviously meant to be a fun scifi tale. So make it fun and give it a proper ending. Sure, you don’t have to resolve everything, but try to resolve SOMETHING.
On the positive side, I rather enjoyed each episode.
I liked the format because it gave me something to look forward to every week. Sort of an enforced slower pace of enjoyment for those of us who read too darn fast :).
One downside of that extended reading cycle, though, was that I didn’t have as clear a sense of the details which had gone before as I do with a book I can read in bigger chunks.
On the purely technical front, I’d appreciate a way of knitting all the individual chapters together electronically so they’re a single book. That would make re-reading easier. Not to mention saving me the cost of buying a copy of the full book :).
Episode #13 was just a slight disappointment. Seriously? You spent 12 episodes building up this mystery villain arc and you don’t resolve it? The B-team’s bonding/career advancement just doesn’t compare.
I don’t recall the “extra material” being mentioned either, but that’s a minor annoyance compared to the season ending.
I greatly enjoyed the series, but I do have one bone to pick. When the next series is released, I’d like to know before I buy it whether (a) the series ends with a cliffhanger, e.g., a looming crisis, and (b) whether the writer and publisher have already agreed to provide a follow-up series. I’m fine with a multi-series story, but not one that might just stop in the middle. (Yes, I read the announcement of a follow-on–good deal!–but I wasn’t aware that telling only half a story was even a possibility when I started buying chapters.)
Back again. To be clear – I DID know there would be additional material in the full version, from the start. I didn’t like the idea at all, but hoped it would be something like After the Coup, which I already have, or something like an OMW encyclopedia, or that it could be purchased for another 99 cents when the full book came out. Yes, I wondered all that when it was first announced.
Didn’t turn out that way. So yeah, even knowing it was coming didn’t help when it came down in the way that it did. I never could figure out why it seemed like a good idea to you and Tor. I knew there would be extras, I hoped they would be uninteresting or would be readily available, I assumed the story would be complete. And yeah, about 21 hours after reading the episode, I’m still feeling jerked around. Sorry, but there it is.
I mean, didn’t *anyone* say “This is a bad idea”? I considered saying it but decided to wait until I had actual info on what the extras were.
To people kvetching about the extra material in the hardcover, think of it like extra features in the DVD set that you don’t get when you buy the episodes as they are released on iTunes or Amazon Instant Video. It’s not an unknown or evil business model.
That said, reading other people’s reactions and taking time to consider my own, I think that a lot of the angst comes from expectations. THD is not like other novels, not just because it was released in small chunks on a weekly basis. It wasn’t just an an experimental sales and distribution channel, it was a different way to tell a story (in much the way that the codas enriched the Redshirts story). To me, THD was enjoyable because it was a similar story-telling format to arc-driven television series like B5, Person of Interest, or Fringe. I wouldn’t want THD to be just a single novel because Scalzi wouldn’t have been able to go off on more character based stories like “This Must Be the Place”. I don’t want an entire novel like that, but one episode to take a break from the political intrigue and get deep into one of the characters and into the day to day life in the Colonial Union? Sure!
Would I have liked a bit more hint as to who’s behind everything? Yes, but I’m not as incensed as some other folks. Probably because I’ve been looking at it from a television-type story POV rather than the traditional novel. The first season is usually a lot of set-up, in terms of universe building (even though OMW has been established through four novels, two short stories and a novella, there is a lot of new information to absorb in the aftermath of TLC/ZT), introduction of characters and set up of circumstances. In my experience, the second season usually has a big payoff. Yes, I’d would have liked a little more information on the why, who and how of the mystery, but the ending of “Earth Below, Sky Above” has me more curious than angry (especially since I went in knowing there would be a second season).
If you don’t like THD because it’s not like a traditional novel, that’s fair. It’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it. I just want to point out that THD isn’t “broken” or “wrong”. What you see as a bug? I see as a feature.
I’m ending up with a generally bad taste in my mouth about this whole project. I had the idea, going in that this was a novel that was being released in a serialized format that would later be available as the same story in a single novel format, one-off, not as part of a series that required ‘buying in’ for all the episodes like a TV series, and I engaged in it as such. I’ve seen consistent issues with the actual editing (typos and bad proofing) that distracted me from the reading itself, which made the whole thing feel almost amateurish, and I feel like I’m paying for “the experience” rather than “the read” as it were. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been fun, but at the end of the day, if I’m paying 13-14$ for a complete reading experience of about an hour or two, I want that experience to be under my control for ease of use forever, like a novel, and know that I’m not going to have to pay more for the sense of completion that comes from a story actually being finished, which this apparently isn’t. I had zero idea that this was going to be part of a series that would continue another year, and yah, I’m frankly a bit peeved that if I’d waited I’d have been able to buy the paperback for the same price and get more actual story content with less effort. And that’s whining, and I accept that, but negative comments were asked for as well. The fact is that this works as a “commercial model” for you the author but overall, I think it didn’t work well for the actual story and ongoing experience for me the fan. Not dissing it as an experience per se, but it’s over-all not for me. Been fun watching it happen though, annd no hard feelings.
Pretty mixed, wasn’t that? I think in the end it doesn’t feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth, which, to be fair, says more about the way we value things than the story or anything else. *sigh*
Fun stories and I like the characters, but I dislike the model itself. Would not engage in again, and sorry to kvetch in public about it.
I liked the serialized format, but would like to be able to subscribe somehow instead of having to buy them separately. It would also be super cool to get a kindle version of the entire book as part of having bought all the bits — its a bit fiddly across 13 books when I want to re-read it later.
I found the last chapter disappointing though. I wanted more resolution of what the “bad guys” are up to (and who they are). Hopefully the next set of serials wont take too long to come out!
Look, the coda thing is not going to make me HATE YOU FOREVERZ. Honestly, it’s not a deal-breaker. I will not burn the Scalzi Shrine in my basement (although it may be time to install a new goat head). I don’t think you and the Secret Chiefs of TOR sat cackling in a smoke-filled room, plotting “Operation: Scalzi Fan Butthurt”, or anything. I just think it was a mistake, and I really hope you seriously consider the objections to it, beyond merely repeating that you told us there’d be extra stuff, and then buy us all ponies to make up for it.
But I don’t want that to get in the way of the story. To me, this is a bit different than a novel. It’s more akin to a T.V. show- there’s an underlying uberplot, and various character arcs throughout the season. The hardcover could be seen as the DVD box set. I think that’s a better way of looking at this. It reminded me of “Babylon 5”, actually.
So, to reiterate: I truly think the thing with the coda is not a good idea. But I looked forward to Tuesday for 13 weeks, and there were a couple of Tuesdays that were brightened considerably by the presence of “The Human Division” in my Kindle. And I, for one, will shell out $0.99 a week for as long as you are willing to continue it.
Overall, a worthwhile experiment. The good: more great stories and characters in the OMW universe, and having something to look forward to on a Tuesday. The bad: lack of a satisfactory ending. I know there’s more to come, but not knowing who’s behind the chaos pisses me off.
I’ll be back for season 2, probably buying the episodes again, because I love the OMW stories. But on balance, I’d have to say I prefer getting a novel all at one time.
All I can say is that I’m glad this was successful. I really enjoyed the story and the episodic nature of how they were released. Can’t say I thought this was going to be a roaring success but Scalzi pulled it off marvelously and I’m thrilled for a second “season.” Actually that was the one thing I kept thinking while reading Human Division, when is Scalzi going to get his own TV show. Honestly, after reading Human Division I would jump on board any series that had Scalzi involved as writer. I hope the second season is here sooner rather than later and I hope Tor takes a good hard look at it’s roster to see if anyone else might give this a try in the future.
Really liked the series, Tuesday morning became quickly a day anticipated like Wednesday morning (new Comic Book day!). The episodes could maybe be connected a bit tighter and slightly longer overall (maybe 700 positions? The finale episode had a bit over 1000) to work better if read as a novel, but as what it is meant to be – episodic fiction – it worked marvelously.
Definitely in for Season 2.
I am new to Scalzi and have not read OMW at all. So I am not sure if my reactions are in line with what you were expecting. I agree with many of the sentiments expressed above. Let me focus on emphasizing a couple of points (light spoilers):
a) structure: I was fine with reading it serially. In actuality, I read the first 4 together, then the next 3-4, then I read the rest weekly. The one downside to the serial structure (in that I read them grouped) is that it was not easy for me to find the next book in the series given my kindle app on the ipad. I had to go to the end of the file on the kindle then locate the name of the next book, then find that one to read next. a minor inconvenience though.
b) the story: I thought the chapters in general were engaging, and I quite liked The Dog King, but I thought that there would be a callback to the events in the story (e.g. a human being being revived or the planet would become important for an unexpected reason) in the future and that didn’t come to pass. I was very disappointed that the series ended where it did. It did not feel like a complete novel. This felt like a supplement to a primary novel, not the actual novel. A lot of backstory, some events here and there, but no clear progression of characters or events. I wasn’t bothered by “This Must Be The Place” because I figured it would amount to something within 3 episodes. But I was mistaken. I don’t mind that there will be additional parts, but I figured that there would be some kind of information about who was behind the attacks – any of them! I was disappointed at the conclusion because I kind of felt “this is where we ended up? nothing happened besides some battles!”
I would agree with a comment above about the “he saids” earlier in the series. There were a lot of them and it was not as noticeable to read it, but very very noticeable in the audiobook (which I got for the first 2 installments.
As a general issue, I could take or leave the serialized approach. It was nice having a new episode to look forward to each week, but I also kind of prefer to immerse myself in a novel, rather than skipping across it like a stone. The two more or less balanced out for me.
But the coda-for-hardcover-only (at least for now, though you are confident that the remaining episode will be released “eventually”) seems not to have worked out well. Like many of the commenters above, I understood that I would be getting the whole package (and getting it earlier) if I bought the episodes individually. And while I completely believe you that you said otherwise, not only didn’t I realize it at the time, but I just tried looking for any such notice on Whatever, and I still managed not to see it.
Again, that’s probably a matter of my eyes being a bit glazed from lack of sleep, rather than you not making it clear somewhere. But I’m obviously not the only one who managed to miss it, and it really does irk a bit to find out now. My own fault? Assuming (as I do) that you told us and I just missed it, then yes, you could definitely say it’s my fault that I bought into the episodic experiment and thus ensured that it would be longer before I had the full story. But a successful part of the experiment?From the evidence, I think not.
Whilst I liked and bought all the weekly serials of this book, and they were generally well done, and a couple were brilliant, there was some level of dissatisfaction such that I would be reluctant to do this again.
The bad bits were: some episodes were too short, one of the (hidden) costs of making the novel work in episodes is some of the layers and complexities possible in a normal novel are not there (or are at a reduced level), disappointed the hardcover has more content.
I greatly enjoyed the format, story and characters. Nothing helpful to add there.
The serial format performed magic by getting me to part with my money for an item at “full retail price”. I’m just saying that I paid less for a like-new hardcover of Old Man’s War (with shipping), but that was of course years after publication. My current plan is to busy myself with other books until Season 2 is offered as a single eBook at discounted price. In reality, I’ll cave on some road trip when I’ve just finished a book and still have hours to go. I’ll say to myself, “I’ll just buy the first one to see how the new season starts, it’s only $1.” Then it’s all over and I’ll be paying for Athena’s Ivy League education/networking extravaganza.
I remember reading something along the lines of there being the possibility there was going to be some extra content when the book was published in book form which I took to mean there was definitely going to be extra content in the hardback but I bought the stories as they came out anyway. I think I had it in the back of my mind anything extra would eventually come out in some form I could get later.
I’ve bought a few Tor.com original short stories, all for the same price as a chapter of HD and some of those were shorter than some of the shorter chapters in HD and the size never bothered me because the content was always good. So I wasn’t bothered by the fact that some of the chapters where shorter than others.
I bought the stories as they came out but for various reasons I didn’t start reading them until half of them were out so I didn’t get a good feel for the serialization aspect of the project until the last couple weeks when I was waiting for the new stories but that was a fun experience to find a new chapter on my phone near the start of the week. So that part worked for me.
The part that didn’t work for me was what I thought was the non-resolution of who was behind the conspiracy. Since parts 11 and 12 were pretty heavily involved in the conspiracy I just sort of assumed there was going to be a resolution to that. I mean, why wouldn’t I think that? It’s kind of unsatisfying getting to the end and then having to go to a web site to find out “Oh, by the way, we’re coming out with another book later on”. I get what your saying when you felt the main story was the characters who were part of the B-team and I liked how that ended up but right now I’m just feeling a little underwhelmed by the resolution of the conspiracy aspect.
John, I still love your writing and the characters were great – just didn’t enjoy the serial form. Sorry but for me that was the only minus. Otherwise, thank you for more great tales.
Cross-post from my blog…
John Scalzi’s modern take on the serialised novel has come to an end. ‘The Human Division’ saw 13 chapters published digitally over 13 weeks, a sort of Amazon Kindle version of ‘King of the Rocket Men’. It was billed as an experiment, and now the hardback is ready to be published in a more regular fashion, Scalzi has asked for feedback on his blog.
I think it will be a tough book to read in one sitting, as opposed to thirteen blocks of content. Much like classic Doctor Who stories relied on the gap between the cliff-hangers to build up the story, and that breathing time was lost when you can play the next part on your DVD, ‘The Human Division’ jumps around so much I think it loses whatever flows.
There’s also a massive armoury of Chekov’s guns lying around, and that’s my biggest issue.
Vikki and I have an understanding on modern Doctor Who. If I know it’s a two-parter, I tell her before the episode starts. No story details, nothing else, just ‘this will be a To Be Continued’. Scalzi did not do that, the project was always advised as a serial release of his upcoming book.
Which means, steaming into the last chapter with a lot of unresolved issues I was expecting a few things to be left in the air, but there would be some answers provided. Nope, not even a hint at who the big bad was, or any of the other elements that were left over from other chapters.
Scalzi mitigated this very slightly by announcing ‘season two’ on his blog just after the last chapter was posted, but I would have preferred to know this going into the series, not when coming out. And while I know he’s done production work with Stargate: Universe, this was not a TV series in words, this was a serial release of a book, and the texture and format of a five year TV-arc on Amazon can’t be a one for one lift.
Still, an interesting experiment, but I think I need to rebuild my levels of trust in Scalzi before I commit to another round of thirteen chapters.
so, Mr. Scalzi, it seems to me as if you still don’t actually understand how/why people are upset about the coda thing, given that
a) you reiterate that you did, in fact, communicate it beforehand, and
b) you reiterate that “it will find its way online eventually”.
Let me re-iterate and clarify my point, because this is driving me nuts (or the head-splitting headache is driving me nuts, could be either one).
* I (I don’t know about others of course) don’t object to not getting the coda _for_free_. I’d happily pay another 0.99 for it.
* I very much object to your claim that you communicated this beforehand. I might be way off base on this, so please to reply, but do you really think that a reader, wanting to buy and read and enjoy a story of yours, would necessarily also have to follow your blog/your twitter/tor.com and if something had been communicated there at some stage shouldn’t complain about not knowing it? There certainly wasn’t a note about this on the amazon-page where I bought the novel. And neither was there a “this is actually really just half a story” note on said amazon page.
* maybe my grasp of the English language and its nuances is not as complete as it should be (given that I’m not a native speaker), but the wording of the sentence “it will find its way online eventually” grates almost even more than the mere fact that is communicated with this sentence. To me, this sentence sounds _extremely_ condescending. Which I just don’t understand. You seem like a nice person. Why would you say it like that? I presume it is a conscious choice, since you have now repeated it multiple times (or maybe I’m misremembering and it’s just other people repeating it when discussing it?). It is worded in the passive, sounding like, to me, you don’t consider this a priority that you might get behind yourself AT ALL, even after numerous people have told you that it looks extremely bad, and, additionally, the word “eventually”, to me (and again, I might be wrong) carries a lot of “and I, John Scalzi, could personally care less when that is, now shut up”.
So .. I’m thoroughly confused. You seem like a very nice person in your every day interaction with your fans. Yet this thing here .. it’s puzzling, to say the least.
I suspect it might be your grasp of the language, actually — and if it’s not and the fault is mine, allow me to rephrase.
To be clear, I’m not at all upset about the criticism re: the coda — remember that the point of the thread was to allow people to air both positive and negative comments. The reason I brought up those two points repeatedly was because in the thread it appeared that people were not reading the previous notes from me regarding me and Tor being upfront that the hardcover would ship with extras, and that the extra would eventually be made available.
In the latter case, I wanted to be sure people knew they would not have to buy the full compiled book to get the extra, they’d just have to wait. In the former case, I wanted to let people know we did tell people that the hardcover release would come with extras, and did so in an obvious, rather than surreptitious, way. In both cases, I wanted to be sure people knew where we were coming from, i.e., there’s not an intent to deceive or punish on our part.
It’s not to say I have the attitude of “hey, dummies, why didn’t you see it?” — indeed, one of the takeaways I’m getting from it is that while both Tor and I were upfront that the hardcover release would come with extras, people still weren’t aware. That’s an issue, because I, at least, don’t want people to be unaware of things like that. I want to be clear again that neither Tor or I hid the fact, which is a salient point in terms of intentionality, so any implication we did so is, flatly, incorrect. But the complaints here do suggest that in the future, if we do something similar, we need to do other things to make sure people know.
That is very useful to know, and one of the reasons I put up the thread: So I can have the data and that Tor I can think about it for respective future serial projects.
Mr. Scalzi — re: your reply to Michael: I know it would have helped *me* if Amazon had mentioned that the extra material will be in the print edition. I don’t follow Tor online and I rarely have time to visit this website, but I did buy the ebooks right there on Amazon.com.
I love the way you write and I love your characters, but I too feel cheated that there wasn’t a lot of closure at the end of THD13. Not finale-of-“Lost” cheated, but somewhat unfulfilled.
ok further to how and where you make that information available:
my presumption would be that a would-be customer who is thinking about buying your book looks at, e.g. the amazon page for said book. There’s a bit of text there that, as far as I can tell, is provided by the publisher. In the text for the omnibus edition, it says “plus—for the first time in print—the first tale of Lieutenant Harry Wilson, and a coda that wasn’t part of the digital serialization.” BUT, and this is the key here, as somebody who bought all the individual episodes, why would I ever look at the info for the omnibus edition? I would only do that if I already suspected that there’s an extra there, which I didn’t. But the info text for, say, the first episode of the serialized version of the book contains no note saying “note that the omnibus edition will contain a special story that will not be directly available in this serialised (serialized?) format” or something along those lines. If that _had_ been there, _then_ a “but we told you upfront” would be something I would agree with.
And OK, I’ll accept that my reading of the subtext of “eventually” and the passive construction might not actually be what was intended and a misreading on my part.
I really enjoyed reading the series. I liked having a new chapter waiting for me each Tuesday, it was a fun little thing to look forward to.
That being said, I’m really disappointed with the lack of resolution in the final chapter. I was initially hoping we’d get the full story arc here, but as we got farther into it I realized that wasn’t going to happen. Even with those lowered expectations I was still disappointed that the main conflict in the story was left completely hanging.
That being said I’ll still buy and read the next season, because now I *really* want to find out what happens. My wife is probably not going to though, I think she feels burned by the ending of this run.
I liked the serial format; it gave me something to look forward to on Tuesdays.
However, I have to chime in with the chorus of disappointment on the ending. It felt like just another episode. I wasn’t expecting everything to be wrapped up with a bow, but I did think that by the end of the book, they would at least have discovered who the Big Bad who’s messing with them is. Because my disappointment at this is so great, I won’t be purchasing season 2 as a serial — I’ll wait until it’s completely published and someone I trust has read it and told me that there’s some sense of resolution (and yes, for me, just knowing who they’re up against would have counted there) or at least progress by the end before I fork over more money for it.
Speaking candidly (and thank you for the invitation to do so), I’m a little bummed. My immediate and unshakable feeling is that I’ve been strung along for 13 weeks while I patiently waited and doled out the dollars only to find there is no resolution.
Having said that, the characters are wonderful, the storyline is strong, the repartee is great, it is a good read. My suggestion is: if you’re writing a trilogy, tell people up front. If this is the first part of an open-ended series, tell people. That way they don’t have inconsistent expectations. Reading through recent comments, it seems you have addressed this issue. Driving the DVD anaolgy a little further, the bonus features were a major selling point. Don’t ask the people who support innovative new approaches to take the short end of the stick by depriving them of the “bonus” story. If anything, people should be encouraged to make the transition to new media and styles through a little something extra.
Consider longer chapters on a monthly basis. This gives you more time to craft the work and readers a larger burst of enjoyment.
I enjoyed the serial format but like others found the stories a bit uneven. I enjoyed the chance to learn more about other characters. Might some of them potentially be developed into spin-offs?
I did find it hard to keep a lot of the changing characters straight and found myself having to go back and re-read stories to get it all lined up. The final episode was actually better than I had hoped, I was expecting Wilson to have to choose to save either Hart or Dani.
I would contrast this with Wool, also serialized, in which there were fewer stories in a very tight story arc. Admittedly, they were confined to a silo….but I had more of a sense of discovering new things as I went and enjoyed the surprises.. Not sure there were as many surprises in Human Division,. Except the brains in a box.
I also echo the thought that it would be better if there were a “buy the season” button on Amazon, but my bigger issue is actually with Audible. My husband prefers to listen to audio books, and he would have liked to listen along with me. However, there’s no point in paying for each episode in (admittedly small amounts of) cash, when he can wait and get the whole thing for a credit or two. If there had been a “buy the season” option on Audible, where he could use his credits to pay for the whole book but then get it delivered as episodes, he’d be caught up with me right now. I don’t know how much control you have over Amazon and Audible, but adding those options would be very helpful.
As one of the fast readers mentioned throughout the thread, the ‘bite size’ of this particular experiment does not fit my reading style. My engineering workaround was to go grab the portions on a monthly basis. How’d that work? Really not well – mostly due to the crippleware version of the Kindle reader put out for Android (all negative comments upstream apply in spades). Their ordering system for this also is bad – I’d hope if there are more serials like this Amazon figures out their recommendation system should have “You’ve ordered parts 1-7 of Serial ZZZZ, here’s what’s now available in ZZZZ”.
One thanks I do have is for the DRM-free release. Any day now (TM) I’m going to pump THD through Calibre and get it backed up locally in a more friendly version. I haven’t looked yet to see if the various organizational complaints I have can be addressed that way; will report later if that helps.
Having slept on it, I find I’m less upset by the missing coda and more by the fact that I bought and paid for a book but only got 1/2 half of the book.
Well, that’s not it. I’ve purchased many multi-part books.
The difference is I knew going in that I was buying into a series.
In this case, it was sold as a stand-alone novel, and it, simply put, isn’t.
That really frustrates me, and rather than reward you for this behaviour I will wait til the 2nd version is out in paperback, and then buy a used copy.
Yeah, my loss in the sense I have to wait to read the rest of the story, but at this point, I don’t even really care. I was too busy to consume this week’s chapter at Tuesday lunch like I usually do, and now, knowing the book wasn’t even finished, I don’t know if I’ll even read the last chapter.
So yeah, write me off as a whiny whatever, but I think I’m not alone and it’s in your interests to understand how people feel *burned*.
What’s worse is you’re the *last* person anyone would have expected this from.
a day later
and i still can’t find anything to bitch about
i am just way too easy i guess
i’d love to see the last episode on tv
I’m not overly upset about the ending not having a resolution (Who is the big bad?) I would’ve liked to have more hints/ had a better Idea of where this is going – but I remember feeling the same way at the end of “The Last Colony” – the ending was Perry going to Earth to open a giant can of worms – it was open about the ramifications of the relationship between Roanoke and the Conclve, The Conclave and Earth – what Perry’s life would be like as a trader etc. None of these were addressed on Zoe’s Tale (IIRC another experiment?) and really these weren’t addressed (yet?) in the Human Division- so I pretty much expected an open ending- and I’m hoping that the loose threads from the previous novels get woven into the ongoing arc.
I wrote down my thoughts about The Human Division over at http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/586214484
Basically, I think your experiment was a success. I’ll be there for the next season. Thanks for a good read!
BTW, speaking as a marketer and UX person, it is really very hard to keep multiple messages in consumers’ heads over a 13 week period.
The main message — new episode every week — got through just fine. But some of the subsequent explicit and implicit messages got lost or jumbled. Like: different material available in different formats at different times, or “this is an artistic experiment as well as a commercial one”.
Some of it is about how hard it is to change familiar patterns on people. Whenever I have redesigned even the shittiest, most unusable website structure and navigation, there are always weeks of complaints from folks who have adapted to use the old, broken systems. In fact, we often plan for those complaints, and how to respond. It’s even worse when the systems are good, or even OK.
With purchasing patterns, clearly some of the same things are happening. If I had bought 13 issues of a comic book, I suspect most people would be OK with it ending roughly the way that THD/ “Season 1” did. Structurally, it would depend on creative execution, not format.
Last thought: I am pretty sure that if I go back and re-read the episodes with a critical eye, there will be some reasonable clues that imply the Bad Guys Behind It All.
OK, I was clearly wrong about the “last thought” part. The “1/2 a book” feelings, even as you’ve mentioned that it’s your longest work by word count, are interesting reactions. CLearly, some of it is due to the way the final episode concluded, but some of it is also seems to come from the specific artistic choice to write the episodes to be self-contained, and possibly also that each week didn’t only follow the “main” characters. I think the balance ended up being not quite right, between “here’s things going on in the whole universe” and “here’s what’s happening with The B Team”.
I wonder if the feeling would be different if every week had been a de facto cliff hanger, a more traditional “chapter” instead of an self-contained “episode”. Not sure, but interested in thinking more about it.
With purchasing patterns, clearly some of the same things are happening. If I had bought 13 issues of a comic book, I suspect most people would be OK with it ending roughly the way that THD/ “Season 1″ did. Structurally, it would depend on creative execution, not format.
Yeah, that’s what it seemed to me. There were certain expectations by some people, and in a lot of ways, HUMAN DIVISION could not, inherently, meet them. As a comic book reader, I’m certainly more used to an open-ended ending like this. And…seriously, folks, since Scalzi actually did use a lot of TV season metaphors, why be disappointed that it ACTED like a TV season?
Above and beyond this, the work is somewhat experimental, meaning that there is considerable room for improvement to adapt to a somewhat different form of storytelling. Thinking that John can’t improve his craft in telling a serial story seems a little silly to me.
The serial format was a great way to release this story. It felt like appointment television from the old days (pre-DVR, streaming, etc.) where every Tuesday held a special new adventure that could be good (Walk the Plank, Voice in the Wilderness), so-so (The Dog King), or great (Sound of Rebellion, This Must Be The Place).
The arc of the story was very strong and provided a good look at the challenges that the Colonial Union is facing after The Last Colony. I will confess to wanting to see Egan and her CDF partner suffer in Ch. 13, but understood their place in the story and why they had to live. The relationship between Hart, Harry, and Abumwe was a great deal of fun to watch develop and the reunion at the end was handled very nicely. The Dog King didn’t work for me as part of the greater story, it seemed like an injection of slapstick farce that was out of place in the overall story. Voice in the Wilderness and Sound of Rebellion were the highlights of season one for me, as an longtime radio/sound engineer, particularly the latter, that was a great way to bring the features and capabilities of the soldiers into the story in a surprising way.
I am looking forward to season two and finding out who is behind all this, is it the Consu? You can tell me, I won’t tell anyone else, promise.
“And…seriously, folks, since Scalzi actually did use a lot of TV season metaphors, why be disappointed that it ACTED like a TV season?”
Why? Because it was contrary to expectations. Expectations that a new novel, not part one of a series, is what folks were buying.
Had it been presented as what we now know it is, I daresay there would have been a lot less frustration.
No one likes buying one thing and then finding out they got something quite different.
Caderyn said: ” Don’t ask the people who support innovative new approaches to take the short end of the stick by depriving them of the ‘bonus’ story. If anything, people should be encouraged to make the transition to new media and styles through a little something extra.”
This. I was trying to formulate this thought, but Caderyn has already done it better than I would.
Why? Because it was contrary to expectations.
I submit that when the author is using a lot of TV season metaphors, there are appropriate expectations being set.
“Why? Because it was contrary to expectations.
I submit that when the author is using a lot of TV season metaphors, there are appropriate expectations being set.”
Whatever. Clearly the expectations weren’t set for a lot of folks. I’m glad you got it, but that doesn’t change that many/most expected a complete novel, not part 1 of N.
Does every novel have to have a complete and closed ending?
Does every novel have to have a complete and closed ending?”
No. Of course not.
This one is different in that there’s barely any ending at all, in the “normal” sense. Also different in that most folks know in advance if a book is a series, or ends like this.
That’s one of the things about this experiment. Because of the serial deliver, no one knew until it was too late to make an informed choice.
I truly enjoyed this book as I have all Scalzi books but not the serial format. I found it annoying and frustrating.This may be space opera but the TV soap opera format was not enjoyable. When I read a good book I want to read it beginning to end not stop and read another book while I wait for the next episode.
I enjoyed the whole thing immensely. The serialized aspect was great for me – every week (I pre-bought them all in advance) I got a little notice saying my next instalment was now ready to read.
I do wish there was some electronic way to bundle them together now on my Kindle. I’d be happy if Amazon was to provide me with a copy of the collected edition in exchange for returning the 13 instalments.
My only complaint was on the story itself. I only read a few of the above comments, so this may have been said already. I did feel like the whole thing did not lead to a satisfactory enough finish. The climax at Earth station was excellent, but it left all the characters standing around saying, “WTF?”
I’m okay with a non-resolved, downbeat ending, but it didn’t leave much of a hook to the future. I’m thinking about Empire Strikes Back. Nothing was really resolved or fixed, everything was in a bad way, but the good guys at least had some idea what to do next. The Human Division folks were left waiting for the next shoe to drop.
It would have been nice to see them left in a proactive stance – Let’s find out who the Enemy is! – rather than – Well, I guess we just wait and see.
Still, I enjoyed the stories and the experience, and I’m eagerly awaiting season two. Write faster Scalzi!
The second line of the announcement for THD is: It is not, strictly speaking, a novel.
The next paragraph goes on to liken it to a tv show.
The good things:
I loved the serialisation and enjoyed the weekly wait for the next instalment.
A highly entertaining and great addition to the OMW universer.
The serialization model allowed me to buy a new novel given my financial straits. The ability to run the payment over 13 weeks was brilliant and highly convenient for me.
The bad things:
This was sold as a serialized novel, not volume one of a series. I would happily have paid the weekly fee and would do so again, but we really should have been notified that this was the first of a series, not a stand-alone novel which is how it was marketed..
The coda for thems that buy the hardback: well this is a remarkable miscalculation. Those of us who supported the telling of this story by paying for weekly instalments are punished by being told that there’s an extra story we won’t get and then patronised by being told that it’s our fault for not reading arbitrary websites in full detail. For the record, I look at tor.com and this site daily and I was unaware that this was the plan. And also for the record, as someone who has spent 10 years running a business I would point out that blaming the buyers for your failure to make something clear is not good practice.
As it happens, I am on a very tight budget but I also am very keen to pay authors for their work. This was why I rushed to sign up for a new John Scalzi novel in this format. I also was very taken with the idea of a well-established using this technique of selling a story at a time when there is a such a danger that readers will become accustomed to the idea that original fiction is something you can pick up for a song. I am very disappointed that Tor Books and Mr Scalzi have decided to actively work against this idea. The coda story shows that I am being penalised for buying on this model and vague promises that it will be available at some point are not acceptable. I have no issues about paying for the extra story, I have major objections for paying yet again for the other ones. As a direct result I will not be buying the second Human Division on line. Rather I will wait to get it from the library or buy it second hand, thereby losing both Mr Scalzi and Tor books their profit. This was certainly not their intention I assume.
“And…seriously, folks, since Scalzi actually did use a lot of TV season metaphors, why be disappointed that it ACTED like a TV season?”
You mean, like, say, Buffy season 1, where they not only found out that the Big Bad was the Master, but they vanquished him? One’s expectations of a TV season varies depending on what one is comparing it to.
I’m mixed on the serial format as a reading experience – I waited until the last one was out and then bought the entire set because I wasn’t willing to wait until May, but next time I think I’ll read each story as it comes out.
I’m more concerned with implications of the serial format in terms of story construction – I’ve seen too many TV series (and comics) write themselves into a mess or end up trailing off and going nowhere because the serial format encouraged them to just keep going episode by episode without having a clear plan for where they’re going to end up and how to get there. You’re an amazing writer, Mr. Scalzi, but I’ve seen some shows with pretty good writers fall into this trap.
In short, I’m looking forward to season 2, but would be much more confident if you said that season 2 would conclude this story. Even if you said it would be concluded in season 3, that would be an improvement. I’m willing to read long running stories, but only if I’m convinced they’re actually going somewhere, not just continuing so their author can keep selling them.
I enjoyed the individual episodes very much. I looked forward to Tuesdays. The episodes were short and self-contained, which made them perfect for reading during lunch. The price was fine; $1 week over a few months was easy and somehow seems less to me than $13 upfront. I would have preferred a subscription option from Amazon, but really, it wasn’t too hard to pre-order each of them individually. Overall, until yesterday, it was a great experience and I would have said that I’d be glad to do it again.
However, I join with the others in being hugely disappointed and turned off with the way this ended. The description of “The B-Team” on Amazon describes it as the first episode of “John Scalzi’s new thirteen-episode novel.” Only now I realize that there’s a 14th episode that I can’t get until some indeterminate date in the future unless I pay another $13, and that it wasn’t a complete novel at all, but only Part One of . . . . how many? Perhaps all of this was explained at some point, but if so, I missed it.
I don’t think the first 13 episodes can be called a complete novel. There was no resolution to the central problem set out at the beginning – to quote the Amazon description again, “CDF Lieutenant Harry Wilson discovers there’s more to the story of the missing diplomats than anyone expected…a secret that could spell war for humanity.” Well, it’s still a secret! I don’t buy the explanation that the story arc was really about the development of the B-Team into the A-Team, since too many episodes had nothing to do with the B-Team. The thing that held the 13 episodes together was the developing conspiracy. This ‘ending’ felt completely different from, say, The Last Colony, which certainly left me wanting to know what was going to happen next on earth, but otherwise resolved the story of Perry and the Colony.
The bottom line I guess is about expectations. I thought I was getting a complete book; instead I got “Season 1.”
@rochrist: I didn’t take the time to dig for that, so thanks. But I think the fact that you had to look it up is an indication of why some people have commented on what they got vs. what they thought they were getting.
If you go to the sidebar here at Whatever — at least right now and throughout the run of the serialization; people of the future, you’ll have to take our word for it! — you’ll read “The Human Division is the latest novel in the Old Man’s War universe…” And if you go to Amazon, you see this every time: “The Nth episode of The Human Division, John Scalzi’s new thirteen-episode novel…”
That’s what many (most?) people saw on a day-to-day basis — no searching or good memory required — and I’m sure that’s the basis of some of the reactions.
You mean, like, say, Buffy season 1, where they not only found out that the Big Bad was the Master, but they vanquished him? One’s expectations of a TV season varies depending on what one is comparing it to.
I think this is a fair comment. I’ve made a few comments where I felt the arc was not large enough in terms of plot (which is separate from character arcs). And I think we can think of ways where there is a proper plot arc that still leaves the masterminds unrevealed. I’m only commenting on people’s expectation that this would be a typical novel, only chopped up into 13 parts. That was never my expectation and I can’t see how it could be, given the distribution and format.
I didn’t take the time to dig for that, so thanks. But I think the fact that you had to look it up is an indication of why some people have commented on what they got vs. what they thought they were getting.
I remember that from the beginning and continued to expect that throughout the process, compounded by the multiple references to TV season.
I generally don’t care for the serial format, so I am simply waiting for the compiled e-book to come out, & I will purchase it at that time. Mostly, my personal schedule gets a little wonky, and at some point I’ll miss a release date, & then I’ll get behind, & then I’ll start to stress about needing to read the one I missed before I read the next one (which is just a thing about ME, not how the work might actually be structured).
It’s just a personal preference, & I have enough stuff to read & keep me occupied that I was content to wait on the Human Division to be released as a single compilation, & avoid neurotic self-induced stress. :-)
Would you consider if we pre-purchase the final version before the serial starts that we could get the serialized version for free? Then we can get the bonus material at time of release too?
I only made it about halfway through the comment thread before I started skimming, so sorry if I’m retreading covered ground here (unintentionally, anyway; there’s some ground I’m going over again intentionally). The below is all my negative reactions, but I did very much enjoy the story, as with everything of yours that I’ve read–which, I think, includes everything you’ve published–and will be ordering the first part of season 2 the day it becomes available.
1) It shocked me when I read that this was your longest novel. The installments felt so short to me. I usually put them away during a lunch break, and as much as I liked them, felt vaguely dissatisfied — like eating a meal that’s juuuust two or three bites too small. I don’t know whether or if this could be changed, but maybe fewer, longer episodes? When I finished, I was convinced I’d read a book around two-thirds the length of Old Man’s War.
2) I know you couldn’t have told us earlier that a second season was possible due to business concerns, etc., for this particular work, but it was difficult reading the fourth-, third-, and second-to-last episodes and feeling like there was no way this would be wrapped up. Then I read the last episode, and it wasn’t totally wrapped up, which is why I wandered over here to see what on earth was going on, and am now relieved there will be more. There are some novels released that are noted as the first in a sequence; I think if there’s a next time you write a serial contemplated that way, it might be good to explore ways to clue people in that this is at least possible/contemplated.
3) Finally, the retreaded ground. I’m another voice really unhappy about the coda being hardcover exclusive, especially since it sounds like it’s about one of my favorite characters from the new series. It feels like a slap to the people who really (and financially) supported your serial experiment. I’m one of the lucky ones who can just wander to the local bookstore and read the coda there, but I’d be incredibly frustrated if I wasn’t. (Then again, I’ve spent the last two days futilely trying to arrange Comcast service, so my customer service sensitivity level might be a little high right now.)
Anyway, thanks for the series, I really enjoyed it!
I agree with most of the points people have made here.
I’d like to suggest that reading this book as a serial modifies how we the readers react to it, and changes our expectations, in ways that might not happen if we read it as a single novel. I suspect you didn’t anticipate that.
John, it seems that in writing this, you viewed this as a story about (i) how Earth and the colonies are driven apart by mysterious outside forces, and (ii) how our viewpoint characters react and adapt to the situation. From your point of view, the “sinister forces” are just a McGuffin to drive a plot of this book (and possible sequels as well). You offer a few clues here and there about there nature, but the mystery of the sinister forces isn’t really the core of the book.
I can believe that if I had read this as a novel in one gulp, that idea might have come across more clearly.
I’d suggest reading the book as serial (instead of in one go) emphasizes the mystery aspect of the book. Every week after the next installment came out, the big discussion is about the new “clues” we’ve been given, and we’re reading the next chapter closely for possible new clues. So, when read on the installment plan, the book seems to be “about” the mystery of the sinister forces.
Anyway, that’s a theory for you about the disconnect in expectations between you (the author) and the readers.
I didn’t read the other comments, so I don’t know what the general theme is here, but I was disappointed. I expected to get resolution to the question of who was behind it all. As it stands now, The Human Division was just a bunch of stories that were slightly connected, but with no resolution.
I honestly expected better of you.
I think I’ve crystallized the issue I have with the serialization format. I’m fine reading series, either serializations a la Analog in the 70s, where I read a lot of great novels, or current book series, like The Expanse. I was happy to read Leviathan Wakes knowing that it was the first in a series, and the book kicks so much ass it is effectively stand-alone.
The difference between the serializations of the 70s and today is that now we have Internet reviews, which would have alerted me that The Human Division was not a complete novel. Had I known that, I would not have bought it now; I would have waited until the second volume was released. I just did that with the Benford/Niven book from last year. Because of the nature of this experiment in serialization, Tor/Scalzi (I’m not saying maliciously) withheld reader information that I for one have come to rely on. As a result, I ended up as an annoyed customer, rather than a happy one.
John, I’ll keep it simple.
1) The Serial Format: I really, REALLY enjoyed getting a fresh installment to read at lunch every Tuesday. The price was right, the format was good and while I didn’t like having 14 books instead of one, I’m happy with the product (even if my nook library is stuffed to the gills with Scalzi, now).
2) re: Bonus materials in the printed copy: I don’t care. I was unaware, but I assumed that something would be done to make the print copy different or exclusive. If I can get that material later and it’s not crucial to the book, I’m not particularly concerned.
3) The story itself: being a fan of a lot of the SF ‘novels’ of the 60s and 70s, this felt like that, particularly a classic Retief story or something from Niven’s ‘Known Universe’. i liked the universe, I liked that characters and I liked the stories. I enjoyed everything except the fact that it had to end. I’m an easy win,here.
Put simply, I can’t wait for the next book and if it gets released in a similar format, I’m down with it.
The serial format worked very well for me for the most part; just as with a TV show, I was always happy to see that the next ep was available. As a bonus, it turns out it takes approximately one meal to read one of the episodes, and I find myself eating alone in restaurants quite frequently.
The only downside to me was the lack of a “Previously on ‘The Human Division’…” sort of leader; I sometimes had to think a bit to put myself back in the plot and remember all of the characters.
Looking forward to the next series/book!
Okay, one more. I promise that I’ll shut up, soon.
Here’s my thing about the ending: My favorite American SF series is “Babylon 5”. One of the reasons is that JMS handled the mysteries so well. As an example: Season 1’s mystery was “What happened to Commander Sinclair at the Battle of the Line?” By the middle of the season, we had some of the answer, and by the end of the season, we had most of it. The answer provided more questions, and other elements were introduced throughout that indicated a deeper mystery, but the fact that JMS provided an answer purchased the trust of the audience- There are answers, the showrunners know the answers, and they’ll provide them. The show is going somewhere, in other words. This is as opposed to the “Lost” model, which is a can of worms I won’t open, but I think you see what I mean.
The ending chapter had everything a season closer should have- it was a “wham” episode, and a damn good one. But an answer at the end would be a good idea. Not even the reveal of the Big Bad, but a sign that we will get that answer.
A cliffhanger ending, in and of itself, is peachy. This is SF- book series are practically its lifeblood. But a crumb of information at the end would have provided a nice punctuation mark.
I hope this makes sense. And I want to make sure that I’m clear: I will buy the hell out of ne next series.
I wasn’t too sure about the serialisation idea at first. I do like to sit down and devour a book. Would it be too irritating to stop reading my current book for a day each week, just to catch up? Would I end up download a few of (or all) the episodes before reading it?
But then, it’s a new Old Man’s War story. I really wanted to read it.
So. I pre-ordered it. Thirteen pre-orders. A bit irritating that there was no simple way to pre-order them all in one go. But this was an experiment in serialised publishing, so maybe Amazon will come up with a simpler system if serialised novels become more popular.
Each Tuesday morning I went to work on the tube, fished out my Kindle and the latest episode downloaded. (My station is above ground, so no problems with a signal). I love living in the future!
As the story progressed it became clear why the term episode was being used. Rather than being chapters of a book these were short stories, structured much more like episodes of a TV series. I think this helped with the wait between the instalments.
I was wondering how the story could be wrapped up by the end of the thirteenth episode, since there seemed to be too much left to explain. So I’m very pleased that there’ll be a second volume (season?)
Wow, what a long thread.
Most of my points have already been covered, but:
1/ I really enjoyed reading it.
2/ I really enjoyed reading it.
3/ As someone else said, it would have been good if you’d said upfront “If this project is a success, there will be a Part 2, if not, then not.”, and then kept us all up to date on how likely it was – that would have managed my expectations much better.
4/ Can you please tell us if there’s going to be part 3?
5/ It would have been much better if I could have paid $12.87 up front, and then automatically been given each episode as it arrived *and* the complete story with bonus. I knew from the start that there was no bonus, but couldn’t resist buying the episodes anyway.
6/ I really enjoyed reading it.
I enjoyed the serial format and I think providing it DRM free was a good way to make up for the wait for the serial sections. I am glad that there will be another serial continuimg this story so that we can find out who are the villians. I will be buying it.
A suggestion for the future provide DRM free material introducing the universe so I can pass it on to friends to hook them on your books and so that they will buy additional copies of books in the shared universe.
I work in a used bookstore and love introducing someone to a new author or series that they can get hooked on.
Keep up the good work.
I consider The Human Division a huge success. I want to collect your novels, and the novels in the Old Man’s War series in particular, so I definitely thought about whether I wanted to buy a physical release. However, there was no way I could pass up purchasing the episodes. Tuesdays became my favorite day of the week. I couldn’t wait to download my new episode and give it a read. Every Tuesday I would eat lunch alone so I could sit while reading or walk around the block while reading.
The episode lengths were perfect. I enjoyed being able to read each episode during a lunch break. The first and final episodes worked well as double-length episodes. If you choose to continue with a similar format in the future, I’d be fine with the occasional longer episode, but I’m also just fine with the current length. I don’t care about the quantity of words; I care about the quality. If a particular episode is shorter than normal, that’s fine too.
The pacing of The Human Division was excellent, and the order of the episodes worked well. We didn’t stay far away from the central story very long, and the auxiliary episodes were always interesting and related. I particularly liked seeing settings with which I was familiar but hadn’t seen – Earth, Phoenix, and the Conclave. I’d love to see more of all three. I also enjoyed seeing the points of view of different characters.
Walk the Plank was the perfect second episode. After the long introduction episode, Walk the Plank set the expectations. It showed that not every episode would be about the same characters and that some episodes might not even seem related at the time. It also made a point that episode length could vary as well. Walk the Plank always stood out as particularly odd to me. How was it related to the story? In the final episode you bring us back to the Eerie Morningstar. Not only does this give Walk the Plank context, but it also reminds us that we do in fact know a little about the Colonial Union’s enemy.
After finishing Earth Below, Sky Above, it was evident that you were at least hoping to continue. I’m very pleased to learn that you already have something planned. You might not have answered all my questions, but this is just the first season of The Human Division. Even if not everyone fully grokked that The Human Division was modeled similarly to a television series, it still worked well. I hope to see a similarly structured second season that answers some of my questions and leaves others open (for a third season of course).
Thank you for continuing to explore the Old Man’s War universe. The delivery and format of The Human Division worked exceptionally well. It’s nice to see some experimentation. In fact, I also really enjoyed the format of Redshirts. I’m sad to hear that the hardcover will have a time-exclusive extra story, but the trade-off allowing me to read the episodes weekly (along with the fact that I will eventually be able to read the story) is worth it to me. While I’ll continue to purchase your books (and any other creations) in any formats, I hope that you continue releasing episodically.
Thanks again, John!
As I mentioned in the “Whatcha readin'” thread, I really enjoyed the serialized format. It helped me know what I was reading and when. I also like the anthological structure, where each episode was a unique story, and not just a chapter from the same story. It makes the serialization seem much more imperative to the novel, and less like a gimmick. (A novel written as an anthology would seem just as gimmicky to me.)
I also mentioned before that The Human Division was the best TV series I’d seen this year. I doubt this is an accident, so I don’t mind using TV lingo when discussing the book. I do, however, feel think the comparison is a little unfair, as the book has a distinct advantage over TV. Since the stories aren’t locked into a 24 or 47 or 55 minute time slots the way a TV episode is, they can be exactly as long as that particular story demands. (I think you mentioned that the lengths varied from short story to novelette?) So, none of the sense of short stories being stretched too far, nor long stories condensed down too much.
Now to kvetch. I hate where you ended it. I was getting worried, round about “A Problem of Proportion”, that you were working toward a season ending cliffhanger, After the “side story” nature of “This Must Be the Place”, it felt like things needed to start falling into place, and fast, but the stories continued to pose more questions than they answered. I’m glad “Earth Below, Sky Above” (still love that title) didn’t quite go that route. But, your two-hour season finale, while itself another self-contained story, didn’t resolve the central story question of The Human Division. That being: Who, exactly, is fucking with the CU and CDF?
Obviously, this is a personal concern of mine, but I’m just leery of multi-season story arcs. Even more than multi-book story arcs, though they suffer similar problems. I worry that the writers of such stories get so enamored with doling out clues that the momentum of that arc stalls. I’m hesitant to get too involved in Game of Thrones (which I’m 4 episodes into) or A Song of Ice and Fire (which I haven’t even started) for this reason. I’ve just gotten burned too many times on this. The X-Files comes to mind, and Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series hasn’t moved its story anywhere in 4 or 5 books. On the other hand, Babylon 5 worked well through season 4, only stumbling in season 5 because J Michael Straczynski didn’t think he was gonna get a fifth season. And Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files series is, a little past the halfway mark, starting to fill in the puzzle pieces nicely.
Just the same, I would have preferred if The Human Division, as a novel, had been more self contained. Or at least gone as far as answering that central question, and left further volumes to show what the CU and CDF (and the Conclave, or at least it’s ostensible leadership) intended to do about being fucked with. As it stands, I feel like you’re 1 season and 13 episodes in, and you’ve barely finished the exposition and set up of the story.
This worked well, I think, because you established the world in previous books. So much of a de novo world has be spent explaining the rules. Here, you were mainly (not entirely, but I expect mainly) selling this story to previous fans of your work familiar with the Old Man’s War universe. For a new world with new rules I expect you’d have to spend too many of the weekly chapters laying out the setting.
I enjoyed it very much, but this ending does feel like there HAD to be a continuation of the serial. I hope you don’t make us wait too long for it.
Hey, here’s a challenge – Just-In-Time serial novelization. Write the next serial only a week or so ahead of each chapter being published. Isn’t that how Dickens did it? :)
One other thing: man, this book’s a blood bath. I’m talking Macbeth levels of blood here. More than Redshirts or any other OMW book. And I’m not even counting all the faceless, namelss people on the various ships and space stations, either. Just how many named characters did you kill in this one? And mostly death by spacing, too, which just gets me as a horrible way to die. And yes, I know you don’t explode upon being exposed to vacuum. You just simultaneously freeze and asphyxiate while every capillary in your skin and eyes bursts. Yeah, that’s much better.
That’s not really a kvetch, by the way, just a (slightly terrified) observation.
I’ll post more thoughts later, but it would be GROOVY if there was some way to make the stories DRM-free for audio as well. I love what Audible does, but am incredibly put out by their love for DRM.
I’m pretty sure I knew early, if not from the start, about the extra material in the hard-cover, thus my decision to wait for it instead of buying weekly. But then, I’m also cheap and married to My Librarian, who will gladly bring home anything I put on hold. (He prefers that to buying books.)
If you get what you reward, then you made some interesting choices in this. Serial followers get the bulk first, hardbound get the coda first… it’s a tie in my mind which you were trying to get the readers to buy into, electronic or paper.
Many of the comments about the delivery system snafus (Audible, Nook, Kindle) make me wonder how much you (John) had to do with those decisions. What would you do differently?
Two thoughts….I started reading as the early episodes came out, but felt I lost continuity from week to week, and so I’ve buffered them up and now that they are all available, I’ll read the whole bunch. Also, not sure how much control you have over this….I wanted to gift the serial to a couple people for Christmas, before the first episode was available. One uses Kindle, the other Nook. In neither case could I pre-order the episodes as a gift. I ended up doing an e-book gift certificate that said as a message “This is to buy the Human Division.” It would be nice to be able to pre-order as a gift.
My thoughts …
As far as story goes, I had mixed feelings, mostly positive. There were some characters and plot lines that I wanted to follow through to their conclusions; I feel that’s a desire of anyone who is reading an enjoyable story. After a few episodes, I became used to the idea that while connected by an overarching plot, many of the scenes were vignettes, and allowed the reader looks at various aspects of the OMW universe that might not be seen in a novel with a narrowly coherent plot line. I’m not typically a fan of short stories, but the serial novel seemed to have the positive characteristics of short stories while still advancing an overall plot. I thoroughly enjoyed getting those glimpses of the OMW universe, and the characters and various plots were very well-defined, even the sort of one-off bits.
Perhaps because I became used to the format, the cliffhanger ending didn’t actually bother me, aside from really, really wanting to know what happens next. I rather expected a cliffhanger sometime around episode eight or nine, realizing that tying up the ending properly would result in either a) extremely long final chapters (which had already been implied would not be the case in that the first and final volumes were roughly equal lengths) or b) a cliffhanger, which although making me want to bet my head with my iPad in frustration, also makes me anticipate the next installment. I’m a person that enjoys sequels and series, however. Some don’t.
Extra material in the hardback has some people thrown for a loop, but I expected to buy the hardback anyway. I like having physical copies of the books of my favorite authors on my bookshelf. It’s not like I have money to throw away, but my wife and I both have our budget exceptions. With her, it’s shoes; with me, it’s books. Even if I weren’t planning on buying the hardback, the extra material is going to be released later, so my only problem would be the wait, which can be a problem in this era of instant gratification.
Specifically regarding the format, the serialization made it possible to enjoy the book and, except for Tuesday mornings, maintain my study habits (I’m a med student, so I study nearly constantly). I would normally prefer a single volume, but this format worked for me the way my life is now. By the way, I was really surprised to learn that this was actually longer than Redshirts. It certainly didn’t seem it.
My biggest concern is the next installment. I worry that if it is also released in serial format in the same sort of snapshot approach, the individual pieces might not make up a resolution that does the major plot concerns justice. I suppose I just have to ask myself if I trust the author enough to continue. Some of the readers here have said “no,” and some fraction of that number really won’t continue. I say “yes”, and hope the number of readers that really don’t continue aren’t enough for the publisher to have second thoughts after the release of the first few chapters of the next installment. I would personally rather have a single volume, but I’m not willing to wait if a serialization precedes the hardback.
As an update on the matter of the extra material in the hardcover edition:
I dig the serial format, and the fact that it’s available for a quite reasonable price of $.99 per episode on Audible. I listen at work, where actually reading the stories isn’t really feasible.
The one issue I have is a bit of an editorial issue. When the characters are speaking with one another, at the end of every sentencethe narrater states “He said.” Never any variation, and it’s really kind of jarring, killing the flow of the conversation. It seems like it’d be an easy fix to substitute some synonyms and modifiers, like “he answered, she commented, he stated wryly, she shouted, etc.” that sort of thing. I think it would go a long way to improving the audio version.
No TV show ever puts out the season on DVD without some extras, so that’s not a surprise. My only concern is the amount of time between “seasons.” On TV, you get the cliffhanger in May and the resolution in September. As much as I would love for that to happen, I’m guessing it won’t.
Also, and this is probably just me, I’m less concerned about the CF going forward than I am with the Earth. They just had a shocking number of the Best and Brightest get butchered, something that, even with their troubled recent history, is going to be a world-changing experience. What happens there will be just as interesting as the A-Team’s attempt to solve big crimes.
Good luck, John. We’re all counting on you.
The story was very entertaining. I am disinclined at this point to repeat the experience though.
The first episode was about the right length to my mind for an episode, leaving me feeling disappointed when I would quickly get to the end of the other episodes. I believe this is based on how much time I normally devote to reading before sleeping.
Where once I might have likened the experience to watching a weekly TV series, I have been spoiled with timeshifting of TV series, where I get to view story arcs or entire seasons in short order.
Having a week between your episodes meant losing a sense of continuity and recall details of the story.
Finally, I purchase your books primarily, albeit not exclusively, in physical form and I feel like I am paying for the story twice now.
Thanks for listening.
@Mike said this better than I can so I will repeat it and add, I don’t understand … it’s a mystery. Something about perception I guess. This isn’t criticism (unlike some of my previous remarks); it’s simply an observation that I find interesting, especially know how long the book is compared to some others!
“1) It shocked me when I read that this was your longest novel. The installments felt so short to me. I usually put them away during a lunch break, and as much as I liked them, felt vaguely dissatisfied — like eating a meal that’s juuuust two or three bites too small. I don’t know whether or if this could be changed, but maybe fewer, longer episodes? When I finished, I was convinced I’d read a book around two-thirds the length of Old Man’s War.”
I’m with @Mike and @glowrocks. I’d prefer fewer, longer episodes next time around.
This is basically a “me too.” John, I have tremendous respect for you from lurking here for several years, but it’s not clear to me that you’ve heard the point of those of us who are disappointed by the fact that we bought the serial but now have to wait for the coda.
People who bought into this experiment are, by and large, early adopters. What is the one defining characteristic of early adopters? We’re IMPATIENT. (Also, in this case, we’re likely to be among the more hardcore of your fans.)
So, what you’ve done is to tell a hardcore and impatient segment of your fanbase that they have to wait (or pay significantly more) for something that everyone else can have now — precisely BECAUSE we were willing to play along with your experiment. Justified or not, I think it’s entirely predictable that it comes across as punitive. I can’t find it in me to find that smart.
And, regarding the initial announcement: these sort of fans are not the sort to read the fine print: I know that my initial reaction was something like “OOH NEW SCALZI SHINY EXPERIMENTAL SHINIER BUY BUY BUY!!!” I never saw the announcement, and I would have seriously thought about joining the ride if I had. But, you would have probably had to put it in tags at the top of every page in order for me to notice — and, given your target audience for the serial, I think you should have known that.
As for the story itself, count me in the camp if those who liked it, are excited about season two, and who will read all the fine print and wait awhile before signing up for another serial.
I most definitely DON’T want fewer episodes next times. No, no, no, no, nein, no. I thought 13 was the absolute minimum to get a sprawling, mosaic look at the situation here…and I’d certainly pay for even MORE episodes. Even if they’re same length.
I DO find it fascinating how other people felt the book was so short. To an extent, I sorta felt that. But the number of looks still felt satisfying to me.
John, TOR. Make of that what you will.
@Alistair Chadwin said it so well I’ll simply point to his comments regarding the fact that even rabid fans, reading carefully, didn’t know that the coda wouldn’t be available online. It really does seem like the Vogon planning with the cellar and the cheetah, and I don’t think a “Woops, our bad for the miscommunication” is too much to ask.
On the good side, I really liked “Walk the Plank” and “This Must Be The Place”. They both add to the overall picture of the CU, and the events of “Walk the Plank” certainly set up the conspiracy.
Also, Hart learned a lot, he got to be all Action Hero himself! In the middle of giant ‘splosions!
I was never a detractor of the serialized format of The Human Division. I felt it would be a curious and interesting experiment and I would wait and see if I found it would work, or if I found it otherwise.
After finishing “Earth Below, Sky Above”, I can say that to me, the experiment worked wonderfully.
Having an episode a week gives one something to look forward to reading, keeps you on your toes, and instigates dialogue and theorizing on the series. I’ve had wonderful exchanges with my fellow readers on most episodes.
Of course, sometimes the episodes would feel a tad short, one usually wants MORE, but each was a pleasant surprise regardless. Some episodes stood out more than others, but overall, they balanced out the equation. The “book” was thoroughly enjoyable.
And of course, after the great ending… that “wanting MORE” feeling is very prevalent. I know I am not the only one that hopes that season 2 begins sooner rather than later.
Season 2? Bring it on.
I mentioned most of this in my Amazon review:
First off, I find it laughable when people complain about Kindle prices. You’re paying 0.99c an episode, people. If you can’t find “value” in that, I don’t know what to tell you.
This final episode contains the type of depth and character development I would have loved to see in *all* of the episodes. It gave each character a spotlight, and the amount of plot progress was great. This is what I expected from each serial episode in the first place.
I agree that this final episode did little to resolve the grand conflict the series is premised on. I would have liked to see more of a conclusion, but I’m not distraught over it because it was still a great read. I’m looking forward to a future serial that builds on these characters and provides more of a “conclusion”.
Overall, I *love* the idea of a Scalzi serial giving me a quick, engaging read every week. It’s what kept me coming back to my Kindle every Tuesday. My only hope is that future serials contain the same amount of “meat” in them as this final episode does in order to connect more with the characters and the plot.
Loved it, would subscribe again.
I wanted to wait until I had finished the last episode and had some time to think it over before I commented. I know that what I’m about to say has been said above, but I just want to add my voice to the chorus:
– I enjoy exploring new storytelling formats (new to me, in any case) and so this was a success in that sense. It was a different way of telling a story and I was generally entertained.
– I found the pacing a bit slow. By this I mean the reading time to wait time ratio was just too low. This would have been easily remedied by releasing two episodes a week, rather than just one.
– I too would like a “compilation” app where I can assemble all the parts into one digital volume. I’m OK waiting for this until the last extra story is released, but I don’t want to have to manipulate the digital files myself.
– Count me as someone else who missed the fact that the hardcover has extra features that aren’t available for the digital readers (yet) but I’m not that upset by it. As long as I can read the missing stuff eventually, I’m ok waiting for that.
– I was more upset that I didn’t realize this was the first part of a new ongoing series. I don’t know if I would have done anything different if I had had this knowledge in advance, but it did kind of irk me when I realized there was no way you could wrap up all the story lines in just one or two more episodes. I like to be mentally prepared for that sort of pacing rather than have it sprung on me.
– I agree with whoever said above that while the witty banter was entertaining to read and amusing, it did begin to all sound like the same voice. Like watching an episode of Veronica Mars or The Gilmore Girls. I enjoy it and it’s fun, it’s just hard to immerse yourself in the world sometimes when you get jarred by the artificial nature of the dialog.
– The price point was fine with me. $13 for a book this long and this fun doesn’t seem unreasonable at all.
All in all, I will want to read (and buy) Human Division II for sure, I just am not sure if I will be content with sucking up the dribs and drabs or if I will wait for the full volume to be released so I can devour it at my own pace.
I didn’t buy the serial format. While I think it’s a great idea, I am just not that wedded to my e-reader. I don’t even watch TV episodes serially; I wait for the entire season to come out and consume it at once via Netflix or DVD.
Having said that, I can grok why the people who did buy serially (and apparently had to pay for 13 episodes instead of the “bundle” price of 10?) might be a bit annoyed if they’re just now cluing in to the fact that you were also releasing this in hardback and giving those of us who wait a reward of our own by having first access to the extras. However, I look at it as offering two separate sets of compromise packages, not a “perfect” option with a consolation prize for us Luddites. You’re still experimenting with ebook serial formats, and the advantage to that package is in getting access to the material in a steady stream, ending with having all the mainline story material at least a month before it will be available to us hardback fanciers. The corresponding advantage for us is getting first access to the extras. It’s a fairly even balance, all things considered.
If there’s not a mechanism to collect the individual episodes into a single object (either as you go forward or at the release of the final content), then my reluctance to purchase serializations in this format will only continue.
I’m a longtime fan of your work, and I’ve bought each Human Division serial as it’s come out, and really enjoyed them. I’ve thought they were a little short, but not short on entertainment. I was really enjoying the episodes, and I decided to stop by your blog today (after only reading it a few times before).
I think my main feedback would be this: had I not stopped by the blog, I would have had no idea that this “season” was over until I tried to buy the next one. I really expected much, much more to be developed and eventually wrapped up. Number #13 was certainly a fun, dramatic episode, but it never even occurred to me that it was an ending.
I really enjoyed the whole thing, but I’m still not sure what I think about the abrupt realization that it was over after #13.
Me: I read OMW in hardback from my local library years ago. Loved it, bought every single OMW book to have for my own as they were released. Its a great universe, I’m very invested in it and eager for more.
Harry Wilson (deserves special mention, my favourite by a long shot)
Closure/Ending/Answers (lack of)
Inconsistent length of episodes. Compare to TV that this has been likened to: you know the length of the episode before you sit down to watch it. Always either 30/60 minutes, with the occasional longer episodes. THD seems all over the place.
Logistics (no subscription option)
Bonuses for late comers, rather than those supporting serial experiment ie Coda in hardcover.
Either THD was always going to get a Season 2 (and we should have been told up front, to set expectations). Or S1 was going to end on a permanent cliffhanger. Whichever is true, I’ve lost a lot of faith in you John.
I won’t be participating in another experiment.
I won’t be participating in another experiment.
So, folks are thinking Scalzi will never deign to change his writing due to feedback, hm?
What’s the point of experimenting if nothing can be wrong?
This was a very entertaining novel. The format was not the primary issue for me. In fact, after I read the first few episodes, I quit reading and waited until the final installment was about to be out to resume. I prefer to be able to read all the way to the conclusion – or in this case – the cliffhanger. Thanks for the new characters, some of your best.
I really enjoy the OMW universe and the periodical format helped me feel more involved with it. I really appreciated your flexibility in hopping story lines and characters so much. Particularly, the episodes Walk the Plank, A Voice in the Wilderness, and The Sound of Rebellion were fabulous back-stories that would have had absolutely no place in a traditional, single-stream story line. I appreciated that with the periodic format I was able to read those stories, think they were totally random, and then see how they all played together as the series wrapped up. Those “ah-hah” moments were fabulous. I feel bad for your readers who didn’t get how Walk the Plank was involved…
gwangung, for me it is not an issue of whether John listens to feedback or not. Simply that I feel misled in THD being a new novel, when it is in fact part one of at least two parts. Even worse, it was only meant to be a single novel but with no closure. I’m not sure which would be worse.
First, enjoyed the episodic format immensely. It was great fun getting small bursts of Harry or whoever every week. I am sorry I won’t have another to read next week.
Second, trying to think of the “Season 1” as a novel is … difficult. Considered as a whole, it reads more like a television season, or, really, half a television season. Particularly after the conclusion, which didn’t really reveal anything we didn’t already know — that someone REALLY doesn’t want the CU and Earth to get back together. We don’t even know who the big bad is. (Is it a rouge CU faction? A Conclave faction? The Consu stirring things up just to be Consuish – ungkat or bust? I have no idea.) This is clearly intentional, but is a problem for a novel.
Third, in some ways it feels like we have not met the main characters yet, just the problem solvers. (This is not a drawback for me, I like the solvers in question.) We have thirteen significant events with very little connective tissue that lead to a dizzying array of questions for which there are no presented answers. It’s like reading the longest prologue in history.
Anyway, my two cents. Keep up the good work.
P.S. Loved After the Coup too. Picked it up a couple of years ago and have been wanting more Hart and Harry ever since…so I guess I am saying thanks for Tuffy.
I am dividing my comments in three parts, so I can separate my thoughts on the story(s), the serial format, and the delivery system(s). I’m sure I won’t be entirely original, but I’m guessing that John (and Tor) is treating this thread like a survey as well as a focus group.
Spoilers, including other OMW-universe stuff, is probable.
Loved the episodes, individually as well as an impressionistic whole, with holes. There doesn’t appear to be any omniscient narrator stuff going on (will require a close re-read to work that out), so I felt like I was discovering information at about the same time as the characters themselves (the exception being the closed room murder mystery), which was nice.
Had no issues with the various deus ex plot devices. It was not only convenient for Harry to have access to advanced bioscanner tech and planetfall suits, but without them, we wouldn’t have had those stories. (Also, John played very fair with them. We knew at the start of stories that Abumwe was negotiating for an advanced scanner, and Harry was going to do a tandem planetfall demo, so they were not classic deuses/dei.) Actually, if we are going to complain about plot driven synchronicity, having Harry assigned to Abumwe and the Clarke in the first place is the elephant in *that* writer’s room. We might as well complain about John Perry running into the one Special Forces soldier gene patterned on his dead-before-she-could-join-up late wife, and how they happen to end up as leaders of the sacrificial colony, with a step daughter who happens to be the spiritual center of a more advanced race. Fine by me then, fine by me now.
My response to those who felt that every story should’ve followed Harry/Abumwe/Schmid/Clarke: the title of the novel is _The Human Division_, not _The B-Team_. Assuming that “Division” means “separation into groups of disparate and conflicting interests”, the stories absolutely cover the gamut of human POVs: CU, CDF, wildcatters, CU planetary governments, pro-CU Earthlings, pro-Conclave Earthlings, and even the “bad guys”. (The only humans we miss are John/Jane/Zoe, and Special Forces.) We also get some non-human POV with the Conclave and alien individuals and groups, but it’s worth noting that every story had human POV.
My frustration with the story is that we don’t get any resolution of the “big” plot. Assuming that our host can satisfactorily resolve this in “season 2” or “season 3”, this would be no worse than the experience of fellow commenter Mary the Hobbit not knowing that Fellowship was only the first of three books.
I also bought all the audiobooks for the episodes, and usually read the new story before listening to it. I like the fact that William Dufris had different line readings than what was in my head.
I knew these were going to be standalone stories, but I did get a bit frustrated by the required exposition. Question for our host: John, do you think these episodes could be edited into a unified novel, and how would that change the nature of the individual stories?
And a serious question to those who are annoyed by this not being a “novel”: Would it have made you feel better if this was billed as a “short story collection” that happens to fit an overarching chronology and have recurring characters (like the Star Trek Log books)?
Amazon, Audible, and Apple/iTunes all need to improve how they do things.
While I, too, can click the “Buy” button thirteen times, that doesn’t work at Amazon. The minium number of clicks on Amazon is twenty-six: after bringing up a complete listing of all thirteen episodes, you can right-click each into a new tab and then click “Buy”, which gets you to twenty-six (thirty-nine if you count clicking on the “close tab” button); or click on an episode, click “Buy”, click “Back” in the browser to the episode page, click “Back” again to get to the listings, lather-rinse-repeat, which gets you to FIFTY(!) clicks to buy/pre-purchase all thirteen episodes. Did I mention that method two also has the potential to confuse you because the link to purchased episodes don’t always change color, so you need to manually keep track (or use the shopping cart), and if you looked at that page previously but didn’t buy the episode then, you’ll have to check against your Kindle library, etc, etc.
Audible is easier since you can add items to your shopping cart without leaving the listing page, then it’s only a couple of more clicks, and possibly a login, to buy everything.
However, neither dealt well with having the payment credit card getting cancelled in the middle of the run. This happened to me (enemy action, not lack of funds), and because all the unreleased episodes were on *pre-order*, my card hadn’t been charged, so when the next Tuesday came around, I got fun emails from Amazon and Audible.
At Amazon, changing your current credit card—even if that’s your only method of payment—doesn’t automatically propagate to pre-orders, and there was also problems with switching out the payment option on pre-orders, which might’ve been specific to digital content. In any case, I had to cancel all those and reorder them.
At Audible, their pre-Amazon acquisition system only had one card on file, and that remained the case post-acquisition. Furthermore, my change at Amazon *did* propagate to Audible, so both their tech support and I thought I was ok. However, it seemed like their billing system was not as flexible as we thought, and so the *next* pre-ordered episode also failed to arrive. They finally confirmed that they used the same system as Amazon, that pre-orders are tied to the credit card at the time, and that this card couldn’t be changed for that order, so I had to cancel all the pre-orders and re-add them manually. Audible was very nice and credited my account the cost of the entire book. I wasn’t particularly annoyed at them to start with, but this sure soothed whichever of my feathers may have been ruffled.
I didn’t buy anything THD-related through iTunes, but I did purchase an ongoing TV season from them, so I got to see how Apple deals with dead credit cards on file for something that I have *already pre-paid*. The answer is: some poor support person had to go tweak their CMS and “credit” me episodes that became available while my dead card was on file. So if iBooks adds episodic content support before THD Season 2 show up on there, I imagine that dead payment methods will still be an issue. (I should note that from a billing standpoint, my full TV season was paid for back in October, because that was what was on my iTune billing email. Why the system needed a new, valid card—which won’t be charged—in order for me to automatically get already paid for content is for a separate discussion.)
The existing way to get paid, episodic text content in iTunes is via Apple’s own Newsstand app, but I don’t know if there is individualized control over the purchase of each “issue”, since it’s on the subscription model. I imagine that to skip an episode/issue, you’d have to cancel the subscription, then start it again when the next desired one comes up. I also don’t know what the mechanism is for buying past episodes that weren’t paid for. It may very well be that turning on the subscription automatically gives you access to the “archives”, but that could be on a title by title basis, and that would need to be programmed in. (Tor people who are lurking, please don’t ask me. Check in with Marco Arment and Apple.)
Enjoyed it immensely. The serial version worked very well; one day a week I listened to Scalzi SF on the way to work. A “prebuy all episodes” option would have been nice, however, especially if I could have applied Audible credits (which, given their usual value, it would be wasteful to spend on individual episodes).
I hated the episodic format. Given the size, nome of the episodes could really leave a lasting impression, and spread out over 3 months, I’m sure absolutely nothing is going to stick. Come season 2 I expect I’ll be completely lost. I don’t think the novel benefitted at all from its episodic nature, except perhaps giving the author an out for not finishing the story. I don’t mind a cliffhanger, but the end of this one didn’t even feel like an ending.
I’ll also echo the statements about the episodes being too short. On one hand I can appreciate that once something is “written” it doesn’t benefit from more being tacked on for the sake of more. However the majority of these episodes didn’t feel like stories as much as well written outlines of stories. This would be less apparent in the full novel or when consuming one after another, but broken down in such minuscule chunks and spread out over time, it really screams at you.
I’m curious what the perceived benefits of the episodic format are? What benefit does it offer the author, other than the aforementioned excuse for not finishing the story?
Aussie listener and enjoyed the series on audible.com. The ‘series’ format worked well and the price of each episode was very reasonable. My greatest issue with the series was the use of William Dufris for the narration. While William did a commendable job and his work didn’t detract too much from the quality of the story I believe Wil Wheaton is a more perfect fit for your writing. Wil’s narration of your other works are some of the best I’ve heard, with ‘Fuzzy Nation’ and ‘Android’s Dream’ becoming 2 of my all time favourite audio books. Please consider Wil for any future audio versions of this series.
I really enjoyed the episodic nature of this book, the cliffhanger ending and the characters the story centered around – particularly Abumwe and Wilson.
It would be nice in the future to purchase the entire “season” instead of each chapter individually but the bright side was getting 13 pieces of outstanding cover art.
Looking forward to season 2! Thanks for making Tuesdays a little more fun John.
P.S. Speaking of episodes and seasons, Syfy would do well to produce a show of this caliber rather than the usual run of “Mega Croc vs. Super Cockroach” shite that is their normal fare. Are you listening, err reading Syfy?
(Haven’t read comments above, just replying to OP)
Loved the serial format. Thought it presented an interesting way to pull out various threads and aspects of the series not possible in a single novel.
my only complaint is we still don’t know anything about the Saboteurs beyond the speculations of APOP and EBSA. As a novel, it’s more open ended than I like. Knowing that it’s getting a Second Season mitigates that a lot. We knew so little at the end of S1 of Babylon 5, or Stargate Universe, or Dollhouse, so I’ll wait.
Didn’t care for the format of Walk The Plank. Just doesn’t fit.
A few too many trips to the “tricks with smartblood” well. Ghost Brigades, Dog King, Observers, Sound of Rebellion, all turned on the same technology. If you’re going to keep weaponizing it, I’d like to see reactions and awareness of the impact of those innovations all around. I can see the Rraey cursing humans for even filling their soldiers with dangerous blood, the damnable creatures.
No, I didn’t like this experiment and it’s taken me two days to get why that may be. Like many here I am an avid reader of your work, having worn out all paperbacks in the OMW series and now have well-thumbed hardbacks. I’m not a casual reader of your work. I was angry at the ending, feeling left out of the secret. For me, it relates to the comments you discussed receiving about the Last Colony: What happened to the werewolves and when Zoe was with General Gau? It’s the same thing here. You may well have known what was going to happen/did happen but I didn’t. The ending for me was not about Harry, Hart, Ode, and the Clarke but the ark of the Human Division story. So, no ending for me. I never felt that way with any of the other OMW series.
As for episodes or not, I have difficulty sorting out my feelings with an ending that really honked me off but I think I’ll just wait for the book next time.
Just adding to the comment by Meteorplum 8 or so above….My credit card company decided about half way through the weekly releases that .99 charges from Amazon were possibly fraudulent micropayments leading to an impending misuse. Not something in John’s, Tor’s, or even Amazon’s control, but frustrating nonetheless that I had to call the card company 3 or 4 times before they stopped refusing the transactions.
While the ‘new bit every week’ was nifty, it did feel like each episode was a little short. In some places, especially where there was a deeper emotional hit, the length made those moments…less intense, so I felt robbed of a a proper chance to be sad/angry/hurt/etc. The end of the Clarke was fitting, poignant – but it almost but not quite felt rushed, as an example.(I know, I’m using a ship as an example of an emotional moment. But it’s not the metal we’re talking about, here…) And it felt like the series concept was an extended stage-setting for the BIG story, and at the end, I almost felt like there should be a big beefy novel waiting for us in a a few months – sci-fi readers being trained to huge sagas, I guess. The story was amazing, and I’ll buy anything in the OMW universe, just to find out what happens next – but golly I’d love more to sink my teeth into.
My apologies if this is somewhat off topic but I’m curious if the planning and writing the serial is materially different than writing a traditional novel. For example, did you write the novel and then split it? Write a set of short stories and join it in an arc? Somewhere in between?
Would you do a ‘live’ show where you’d write an episode a week and publish as you go?
I liked it, it was something novel (get it?) having the book released in weekly serial form.
I’m glad there’s more coming, be it serialized, or as a novel.
I’ve read so much horrible SF, and Mr. Scalzi’s work is so good that I’m not going to nitpick details on this well-written story.
Bring on Season Two!
I really liked the serial format. I liked that the episodes covered different characters/places and not always the same team. I listened to it, and I felt the lengths were generally appropriate. I didn’t like every episode equally, but I never expected to. I liked that each of them had their own story but also moved forward the major arc (except the last one). I didn’t like where we ended in the major arc — like many people, I feel we were promised a sort-of novel in a known universe, and not a sort-of first book in a series. I also found that the story ended way too easily for (almost) all the characters we cared about — there’s a lot of deaths of nameless people, and a few people who were named in the episode itself so it didn’t seem like all but one of the major characters survived, but that they did.
I was really positive on this until I found out that — surprise! — there’s no resolution to the major arc of the story (say what you will about the major arc being the B-team levelling up, the digressions were all about the Big Bad, not about Wilson/Abumwe/Schmidt). I’m not sure I’ll get the next set serially until I know whether it will have an ending or not. I can accept either, but I want to know what to expect before I get in there. This is probably true of any serial now — with a book, I can read reviews when it comes out to know if it’s a cliffhanger or not, but with a serial, I’m most of the way in until I get that info. I really dislike the current trend of writing one superlong book and publishing it in three parts where none of them tell their own story, just 1/3 of a bigger one, and serial format makes it no better. Worse, possibly: I know when the next book in a trilogy will come out, but not when the next series comes out here.
I think that William Dufris was an excellent narrator, and I hope he covers THD vol 2.
I have no particular opinion about the extra story in the hardcover.
And also, I found the “hey, let’s remind you what a BrainPal/smartblood/nanobots are” every episode unnecessary, but I sure would have liked a “here’s what you’ve forgotten has happened in the OMW universe so far” recap.
I enjoyed reading it in serial form but I suspect it’s going to make a weird book. In some cases the was so little continuity between episodes that it was easy to get a bit lost.
My bigger complaint is the lack of an ending. Or anything remotely resembling an ending. This is half a book. Probably a good book but still.
(say what you will about the major arc being the B-team levelling up, the digressions were all about the Big Bad, not about Wilson/Abumwe/Schmidt)
I think ts more where we end up is not so far from where we started. Being dealt a decisive defeat is probably bad enough (though necessary in e larger scheme of things), but it wasn’t enough of a change of a status quo to seem like a resolution.
I enjoy the serial format, but for me the enjoyment comes from speculation and trying to figure out what happens next. The way the episodes jumped from character to character, from mission to mission, there was almost no chance of figuring out what happens next.
The great serials I’ve read are kind of like a snowball, building and building as it rolls down a hill until it crashes into a lodge and sends snow flying everywhere. I didn’t get that feeling here, it felt more like a rock tumbling down a road bouncing around chaotically until it crashed into a car. Yeah it was pretty entertaining watching that rock tumble and cause all that damage, but it was not nearly as satisfying as watching that snowball shatter.
I did appreciate the character building – I do love spending time with these characters, and when you explain that the arc for this book was transition from the B-Team to the A-Team it makes sense. But we never really got to spend a prolonged amount of time with any character before the perspective shifted,and by the time we came back the character had moved on to something else. Just too many characters spread too thin, but, it probably makes it easier to structure Season 2 so, you know, pro’s and cons…
My thoughts on Season 2, I would prefer to buy 4 episodes at a time at $3.99, or 3 episodes at $2.99 with a couple of weeks between bundles. You could then have a mini-arc for each bundle of episodes, and each bundle contributes to the overarching plot. I think people would be happy to wait two weeks if they knew they were going to get 3 or 4 episodes in the bundle.
ok, I guess I’m the voice in the widerness here. I’m not a gushing fan. I did NOT enjoy the serialzed format. Maybe if the chapters were a little more fully developed. They were well written but very, very short. I don’t think any one took me more than 30, 35 minutes to finish.
I did buy all 13 even though I was disconted with the how short the stories were, i was already hooked and I wanted to see it through to the end. But there was no end. Ch13 was just a huge disapointment with no closure, explanation or tiying loose ends together.
Also, about halfway through the series, the dialogue started to get a little choppy and and a little too cutesy. The banter between Harry and Hart started out funny, then it regressed to amusing and eventually ended up as sophomoric. And then the cutesy banter between other cast members followed the same pattern. I dont know how to describe it but all characters kinda morphed into telling same jokes and quips in the same voice the same way. I had to look back to see who made the crack or the joke becasue the personality and mannerisms became almost indistinguishable.
So I’m sorry, John. To follow your line of thinking, I am a fan but I am also a consumer. at this moment, I’m not sure Im interested in investing into this format again becasue I dont want to start another 13 week journey just to end up cheated in the end again.
I enjoy your work and have purchased all of your books, and I purchased this series, but I will never purchase another book in serial format. I tried it as an experiment and found that it doesn’t work for me. I felt manipulated and tricked as the first chapter was a reasonable length and the rest were far too short.
The stories were too short, a week is too long. If your story telling wasn’t so good I would have quit after the third episode.
I love your work and hate the format. Next time I’ll wait for the book or do without.
Now that I’ve finished part 13 …
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the experiment. I thought the price point was good and I soon got into the habit of looking for my new chapter on a Tuesday morning – usually finishing it the same day.
It would have been good if there was some way to pre-order the whole run of the serial (I bought from Amazon) without having to search out all the individual episodes one by one. (I realise that their infrastructure is out of your control though!)
The story itself was a good read, not ‘hard’ sci-fi, but not too dumbed-down either. I think there is some risk of Harry Wilson becoming a bit of Wesley Crusher character though, if you know what I mean? Too many rabbits pulled out of the hat on account of him just being cleverer than everyone else.
You’ll likely get another slice of royalties when I pick up a print version of the book to store on my bookshelf, because (for the moment) that’s still the way I roll. Not ready to cut myself off from the dead tree book just yet.
I love, love, loved this. The episodes were the perfect length for me. I would look forward to them every week. It’s funny, I recently realized I prefer television shows to movies. I don’t often have time to sit down to a whole movie; watching an episode is perfect. Same with this. The episodes were separate enough that it was satisfying to take in just one, yet, they were linked enough to keep me interested and exciting to read more. I loved the ending, by the way. Epic.
Hah. It occurs to me that something that people should say is whether they read short stories to a great degree.
There may not be any correlation to anything (for example, I’ve stopped reading short stories a long time ago, yet I still enjoyed the length of the episodes), but we don’t know until people say.
I love short stories. I thought all 13 episodes were very good short stories. I don’t neccesarily think they come together to form a complete novel, but others and John feel differently, so it’s just a difference of opinion. I’ll be looking forward to season two.
Something I really appreciate about John’s writing is how he always seems to write his stories exactly as long as they need to be. He never pads them out. I felt like he hit that mark very well with all 13 of these stories.
I think that a much better job of expectation-setting could have been done with this work.
Taken as a whole, it really is half a book. It’s the narrative version of a weekly TV series, with a typical season-ending cliffhanger you’d expect in a TV series but definitely not in a book. I definitely enjoyed most of the episodes, but I’m calling them episodes instead of chapters because they resemble the one much more closely than the other.
So… if someone had told me that at the beginning, I might not have bought the episodes. Having done so though, I’m left disappointed because I didn’t buy a book. I spent $13 for Season 1, and I feel a little bit suckered. Then again, I might not have spent the $13 if I’d gone into it knowing what I know now. I’m left wondering what might’ve happened if the contract had fallen through! We’d be left with a failed experiment, the text version of Firefly. That’s pretty high praise for the content (imo), but ultimately unsatisfying and disappointing, especially if you know going into the series that there’s no ~end~.
I guess in the end the episodic format worked in that it sold copies. It didn’t work in that it turned out not to be a complete book in terms of narrative, and apparently wasn’t intended to be. If I’d have known that, I might not have bought at all, but not knowing also left me disappointed after finishing it.
Mr Scalzi, how did the whole experience work for you?
My wife gave me episode 1 as an audiobook, and it was the first audiobook I actually listened to. I enjoyed listening to each new episode over the course of a couple of commutes. It was nice that each episode had a clear “ending” instead of leaving me wanting to turn the page immediately. I’m not sure how I would have felt if I’d read them as episodes instead of listened to them, though.
As we got closer to the final episode, I wondered how the heck you could wrap up the bigger story. My wife and I agreed that you don’t seem to end your novels on a cliffhanger, so I felt confident that the question of “who is trying to mess things up for the humans?” would get answered. I was surprised and frustrated, then, when it actually did wind up as a cliffhanger. (Cliffhangers are not inherently bad, but it drives me crazy when I then have to wait a year or two in order to find out what happens next. It’s also annoying that I wasn’t expecting a cliffhanger from you, and then I got one anyway.)
For me personally, I like to go back and re-read favorite books in the future, so I don’t think I’ll continue to get other fiction books as audiobooks – I’m more likely to buy the dead tree versions. We’ll probably buy The Human Division (“season 1”) as a book, probably when it comes out in paperback.
I both loved and hated the serialised format – the chunks were just the right size to read during my working week (I normally read novels on weekends), but seemed far too short – I was always left hanging…
I found that purchasing pre-orders from the iBookstore was more difficult than I expected – there was a fortnight where the notification emails didn’t come, and some of my pre-orders were cancelled – it was a little messy (and in no way the fault of the author or publisher). A one-click option would have been appreciated, but then again, it may have made the iBookstore mess inscrutable, rather than merely irritating.
The change in style (and length) between the different stories was… interesting… I wouldn’t get that in a regular novel, and I’m still not sure exactly how I feel about the chunk that was all interview, for example. It seemed a little experimental, and perhaps a little more consistency would have made for smoother transitions between the different stories. Then again, reading them a week apart made the different styles a bit more manageable – there was no immediate, jarring transition from one to the next.
And at the risk of unearthing the issue of the extras in the full novel: yes, I was aware there would be extra bits from the start. I was actually quite looking forward to them… even though, as far as I could tell, I would need to buy the compiled (expensive) version to get them – which I was fully prepared to do…
So the recent announcement that the extras would be available separately made me quite happy – and mitigated the disappointment at the exclusivity period – but hey, I’ve waited 3 months for the full story, why object to waiting another unspecified period of time?
Then again, I also have the bonus early release of After the Coup from the mailing list (and I’d downloaded it before), so I won’t feel a huge need to pay for that one again…
And the cliffhanger – well, lets just say I’m glad there will be subsequent stories, but sad about the wait!
I’m sure this is captured above, but I’m not reading all of the other posts since there are about 10,000 pages of them. So.. this is just for you John (maybe it’s new, but probably not):
1. Liked the series/story. Loved the format. I got the whole thing through Audible and I plan to buy the hardcover for my OMW collection (collect them all!)
2. Audible nearly suckered me into spending a “credit” a few times. For a $0.69 story i’d have been royally pissed if I’d accidentally spent a credit (about $10) for a single ep. Suggest they change their system to default to cash for items under $2 please?
3. I was annoyed by the ending. No resolution after 13 weeks? I stopped watching LOST because of that. I’d hope that you have a season 2 ending that is satisfying and wraps the season while still allowing season 3. Think back to TLC. That was a satisfying ending with lots of future potential.
4. I listened to all of the rest of the Audible OMW series between episodes, and while funny and interesting I’d rate THD at the bottom (sorry). I still have hope for season 2… and a sequel to Agent to the Stars.
5. For the episodic format, I’d have preferred to have 10 episodes that were all at least 90mins instead of 13 that averaged just under 60. The shortest episodes didn’t even last for one round-trip commute. I’d also pay $1.49 for each ep if they were all at least 90 minutes.
6. I’d be happy to be part of the advanced readership for season 2. I’ll make that sacrifice for you. really I will.
Otherwise.. thanks. You keep writing and I’ll keep buying. Deal?
I have listened to all of your books through audible. I wish I could have had the option to purchase the whole serial at week one at a premium. I am a frugal person by nature but I would have been willing to pay 1.5-2x list price on audible to get the complete serial 2 months early. I think this is something you could discuss with tor….in essence charge extra for an earlier release. I believe that others would pay as well, especially if they enjoy your work as much as I do.
First of all: I like the stories and their format very much (and will definitely buy season 2 as soon as each episode is available). A series of stand-alone short stories that also tie into an overall story arc – this adds a very delectable variety to my reading diet.
I also liked that the episodes were disjointed – this allowed for an entirely different, multifacetted look at the OMW universe. This works for me because there was a solid foundation of “real” novels to build those stories on.
I do hope that this’ll continue to be so successful that other authors of interesting uni- or multiverse series may follow suit.
Looking at epiosdes #1-12 I’d say the format was perfectly executed. Highly enjoyable stories in themselves – and enough puzzle pieces to keep me happily in the game of the overall arc. To me it tasted quite similar to TV series “Life” (w. Damian Lewis).
— mild spoiler alert —
Anticipation for #13 ran high. I didn’t expect – or rather I even hoped – that the question of who are the conspirato