You know what a John Scalzi fan I am. I grab everything he writes. So I was pretty excited when I found something new in the S section of the book store. Last week I finished reading "The Human Division", the latest book in the Old Man's War series.
The interesting thing about this book is that it was written both as a book and a collection of short stories. Any story in the book can be read on its own. Taken together, they tell a larger story.
If you haven't read anything else in the series let me give you a quick "Previously On..."
In "Old Man's War" we find two basic groups of humans. One remains on Earth until they're 70, at which point they're offered specially engineered young versions of their bodies when they turn 80 if they agree to serve for 10 years in the Colonial Defense Forces. The other is the Colonial Defense Forces, who protect the Earth and all it's colonies from the thousands of alien races who want all the same planets for colonization.
The second boo,k "The Ghost Brigades", doesn't really factor into "The Human Division" much.
The third and forth books, "The Last Colony" and "Zoe's Tale", both tell the same story from different points of view. The hero from "Old Man's War" and the heroine from "The Ghost Bridages" end up as the leaders of a new colony. Many of the alien races have finally joined together to form a federation of planets called the Conclave that the CDF refuses the join. But the Conclave won't allow further colonization by non-member worlds. This new colony is supposed to be hiding from the Conclave. When it's attacked by a massive fleet of ships representing all the worlds of the Conclave the whole fleet is blown up and fractures the still new alliance between the Conclave world. John Sagan, hero of book one and leader of the colony, figures out the CDFs plan, joins the colony to Conclave, and takes a fleet to Earth to tell the people of Earth all the stuff that the CDF has been keeping secret for a few hundred years.
In this fifth book, "The Human Division", Earth has broken away from the CDF. This cuts off their supply of soldiers and the overwhelming majority of their colonists. So Earth is in talks with both the Conclave and the CDF to see if they want to join either. The stories mostly focus on one third tier CDF diplomatic team, their unusual tactics, and their discovery of a mysterious third party who has been sabotaging talks, assassinating diplomats, and stealing ships from both the CDF and the Conclave.
If you've been reading the previous books in the series you'll want to get this book. Even if you haven't, this book can stand on it's own pretty well. You'll be missing some background, but the book mostly tells you what you need to know. I recommend the whole series.
At the end of the book you also get the story "After the Coup" which takes place between books 4 and 5 and you can read here. Most characters from this story continue to be main characters through "The Human Division".