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A Voice in the Wilderness

(The Human Division #4)

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  2,486 ratings  ·  80 reviews

Albert Birnbaum was once one of the biggest political talk show hosts around, but these days he’s watching his career enter a death spiral. A stranger offers a solution to his woes, promising to put him back on top. It’s everything Birnbaum wants, but is there a catch? And does Birnbaum actually care if there is?

Kindle Edition, 36 pages
Published February 5th 2013 by Tor Books
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3.99  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,486 ratings  ·  80 reviews

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Three and a half stars maybe.

This is a cute short story with many classic Scalzi tropes, but not up to the standard of wit and wisdom long-time Scalzi readers expect. Undoubtedly necessary in the greater scheme of the series but, of itself, forgettable.

Still, a good read.
Hmm. Not such an interesting chapter. It furthers the plot, in the same way as the second episode, but it doesn't include characters to hold on to, to stay interested in. It's a clever enough chapter, but I wasn't emotionally engaged at all. There weren't even references back to the crew of the Clarke, which might've helped.
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the series more as I went through each episode. At first I struggled because it seemed like random stories set in this universe. But as it continued and I realized it was interwoven story lines I enjoyed them more. The main characters were enjoyable. It's pretty traditional sci fi fare but still worth the read.
Feb 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
The fourth entry in Scalzi's The Human Division provides a vision of what is happening on Earth now that they are aware of the the Colonial Union and the forces arrayed against them spread across the galaxy. The dialogue is tight and quick, the wit is well written and the secret and mysterious deal that talk show host (and main character) Birnbaum accepts is intriguing and enticing all at the same time.

Of special note is the back and forth between Birnbaum and his assistant. The rapid fire barb
Jun 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Brilliant! This is why Scalzi is world famous and I work 9-5 everyday.
So in this episode we're back on earth still with the question of "Should Earth be with the Colonial Union? Or separate from it?" and obviously people don't learn from history - whoever controls the media, controls everything.
All new characters in this short episode but all wonderful characters that were beautifully written.

Can't wait for the next episode/issue/part...
Here we see a bit of what's happening back on Earth through the story of a fading audio talk show host who is promised fame and notoriety if he will espouse the cause of The Colonial Union. What he doesn't know, however, is who is really backing him, or why.
Oh ha ha, I get it. He's like Rush Limbaugh. How funny that political discourse will be the same 200 years after we've expanded into space. What an imagination.*

*is not in evidence.
Luiz Fabricio
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fun. As the previous two stories were a bit disappointing, this one is unpretentious and fun. The story of a jerk, losing money, credibility and fame due his abuse of jerkness, when he has an opportunity to capitalize and focus this jerkitute towards an overall jerky quest. Barely sci-fi.
Jul 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While it was a bit darker due to the ending, it fit an important role in the narrative. As always it well written with Scalzi's good ear for making the future sound much like the present, enough to easily see it!
Jul 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review is for the entirety of The Human Division, comprised of The B-Team; Walk the Plank; We Only Need the Heads; A Voice in the Wilderness; Tales From the Clarke; The Back Channel; The Dog King; The Sound of Rebellion; The Observers; This Must Be the Place; A Problem of Proportion; The Gentle Art of Cracking Heads; Earth Below, Sky Above.

My first thought about this, the latest story in the Old Man's War universe from John Scalzi, was annoyance that I hadn't read it whilst it was being rel
Annabeth Leong
A clear pattern has emerged -- I am happy on the "main story" weeks, and disappointed when the serial goes off main story. The story seems to be settling into a rhythm of one on and one off, which so far means I'm a bit disappointed every other week.

Scalzi's writing remains lively and competent. He has said on his blog that this format has been exciting to him, and listed the alternation as something he particularly likes. Because of this, I've searched myself to understand why it puts me off s
Feb 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the fourth in John Scalzi's serializations of The Human Division, a story taking place within the same world as Old Man's War. There will be thirteen in total.

This installment takes us to Earth, to radio personality Al Birnbaum. As the story opens, his ratings are on a downward spiral, and he's planning a tryst with a "groupie," when he's approached by a man who calls himself Michael Washington. Washington offers increased ratings in exchange for Birnbaum's slanting his show into pro-CU
Jul 10, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Should have been titled "In the weeds" because that's where Scalzi went with this one. Besides that it is off the main line of the story and kills off the character as well (so he won't be back?), there are problems. No character to like or really relate to. An Earth in the future that sounds (boringly) like today. The only SF nod at all is referencing the Colonial Union, and auto-drive cars that weren't used - huh? And then there is the writing - I expect better. These characters were just more ...more
Peter Anargirou
Jan 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, google-books
A Voice in the Wilderness is another side-story to the overall arc of The Human Division (and a great one at that). For the first time, Scalzi shows us what everyday life is like on Earth. Episode 4 follows a political commentator on Earth and shows us some of the conversations surrounding Earth's relationships with the Colonial Union and the Conclave. It's extremely fascinating and something we haven't seen in the Old Man's War universe previously.

This episode provides great content for the cur
Nov 07, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a review for the series of the Human Division. I have read all the 13 books in a row, this was my first time reading John Scalzi.
I was at first disturbed by the series: more than 400 different races, some with very unfriendly intents toward each other, but all at about the same technological development level and strength which makes it none really prevails? It just does not fit with my idea of technological advancement and species competition.
Anyway, I decided to forget about the imposs
Lis Carey
Mar 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, f-sf, fiction
Al Birnbaum is a fading political talk host, watching his career death-spiral and dreaming of the great days. Then he meets a stranger who offers him the key to returning to the top of the ratings and more influence than he had even at his previous highest success.

The problem here, which Al doesn't sufficiently appreciate, is that he has no idea who the stranger works for, or what his ultimate goal is.

Episode Four of The Human Division is set on Earth, where conspiracy theories are thriving, the
Shawn Camp
Feb 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013, kindle
The fourth installment brings us to Albert Birnbaum, a radio talk show host spiraling downward in his career. He's offered a chance to resurect that and more but at what cost?

This brings the recent stories to light by showing the antagonist's role in things and how they can manipulate those to their needs. I really enjoyed this one despite it being another quick read (35 minutes).

I have yet to read anything in the Old Man's War despite these short chapters within the Human Division. I'm gettin
Andrew Yi
Feb 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Voice in the Wilderness is a showcase of the mastery of John Scalzi's Old Man's War universe. At first, OMW's books seem so disperate and different from each other, yet all books feel as if they are drawing from the same breath. The broad view of the OMW Universe gives us some glimpses here and there on what normal civilian life, but tends to focus more on the Colonial Union's militarized divisions. With The Human Division, we are now getting a distinct glimpse at some of the many granular liv ...more
Joe Martin
I've been looking forward to this for a couple of days, so I was pretty excited when it showed up on my Kindle this morning. I can report that it's a good entry in the overall story arc but not a great one.

It's biggest flaw is that the main character is a radio talk show host (or a slight parody of one, depending on what you think of talk show hosts) and the political situation in the story strongly resembles our own current political situation. That was both too cute and too unrealistic to make
Feb 11, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just feel this was a little too preachy about the current state of our political media. Are there any intelligent people out there who don't realize that ALL political talking heads are just doing it for the money? There's a reason we don't have a news channel called Just the Facts News of JFN. The facts aren't sexy, presenting both sides of an argument fairly and accurately doesn't sell. Hence your O'Reillys and Maddows. I'm sorry but if you listen to these wonks and actually believe that the ...more
Feb 05, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, reviewed, scifi
The problem with Faustian bargains for power and fame is that it doesn't work out so well for Faust. Or in this case, a talk show host named Birnbaum.

The action in this episode takes place entirely on Earth, and as readers we are left with many more questions than answers. I feel ok about that in this medium -- it's like the lovely damsel is tied to the railroad track, and MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE RANCH...

So this episode is rabble-rousing political-social assassination, tantilizing hints, and no a
Feb 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Light- to mid-core sic-fi fans.
Recommended to Marcelo by:
In a strange turn of events, John Scalzi takes us to Earth and a radio show that, at first, has nothing to do with the story. Then again, the book is called The Human Division, taking place in the aftermath of certain events of previous Old Man's War story lines (which I won't spoil).

This chapter leaves us with some very interesting questions: who's manipulating Earth's population's opinion of the CDF and the present state of human affairs in the galaxy? To what end? Yet another cliffhanger in a
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
felt like the hokey part of ender's game where a few "ideas" seeded to a talk show or chat room starts unraveling society. as if every possible stance on everything isn't already being constantly spewed in any technologically-connected society.

update: just noticed that scalzi has now attained every possible rating from me (5 for god engines, 4 for old man's war and last colony, 3 for ghost brigades, 2 for this one, and 1 for zoe's tale). congrads!?
Jan 22, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This installment of the serialized novel, The Human Condition, takes us to Earth to discover what's been happening there while the events of the previous parts are occurring. This chapter is yet another example of John Scalzi's virtuoso handling of character and dialogue; although I have to admit that the outcome was a bit predictable. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed this part and eagerly await the release of the new episode next week.
Feb 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
It's really hard to properly rate or comment on an episode like this, a generally stand-alone story involving a previously unseen, one off character. (and not an especially likable character, for that.) Only tangentially related to the primary plot of the Human Brigade series. It is, however, the first story I can recall in the Old Man's War series that actually takes place on Earth (which isn't a heck of a lot different than current Earth, come to think of it.)
Feb 06, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting episode. I was struck by how it seemed to show that in the Old Man's Ware universe, many of the tropes of our common world continue: dumb-ass talk radio hosts/listeners, tablet computers, and corruption. Really liked how Scalzi fleshed out and also made fun of stereotypes, and showed the consequences of poor life choices. Nice to see how different these episodes have been from each other.
Feb 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The latest chapter in John Scalzi's THE HUMAN DIVISION involves a talk show host with fading ratings, on the verge of being fired, given a chance to rebound to even greater heights. He doesn't worry about who's behind it, just goes with the flow, until he gets giant status.

Then the time comes to pay the price. One he didn't see coming.
Amanda Allen
This one felt more like a story in itself, but it was also meh-y in that I just didn't care what was happening. If that makes sense, since I carried on reading it and will start the next ep soon. I feel like each ep is a piece of the puzzle. This one in particular was like a border piece. Necessary to the whole but not really interesting.
Erin (PT)
This chapter feels the weakest so far: the most obvious telling, rather than showing; the least interesting for lack of action or a protagonist we actually cared about; and, cunningly, the most predictable of the 4 chapters.

Still, it's also (likely/obviously/probably) a necessary piece of the overall puzzle. So.
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John Scalzi, having declared his absolute boredom with biographies, disappeared in a puff of glitter and lilac scent.

(If you want to contact John, using the mail function here is a really bad way to do it. Go to his site and use the contact information you find there.)

Other books in the series

The Human Division (1 - 10 of 13 books)
  • The B-Team (The Human Division, #1)
  • Walk the Plank (The Human Division, #2)
  • We Only Need the Heads (The Human Division, #3)
  • Tales From the Clarke (The Human Division, #5)
  • The Back Channel (The Human Division, #6)
  • The Dog King (The Human Division, #7)
  • The Sound of Rebellion (The Human Division, #8)
  • The Observers (The Human Division, #9)
  • This Must Be the Place (The Human Division, #10)
  • A Problem of Proportion (The Human Division, #11)