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The Gentle Art of Cracking Heads

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United States Diplomat Danielle Lowen was there when one of her fellow diplomats committed an unthinkable act, which had consequences for the entire planet. Now shes trying to figure out how it happened before it can happen again. Putting the puzzle pieces together could solve the mystery or it could threaten her own life.


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United States Diplomat Danielle Lowen was there when one of her fellow diplomats committed an unthinkable act, which had consequences for the entire planet. Now shes trying to figure out how it happened before it can happen again. Putting the puzzle pieces together could solve the mystery or it could threaten her own life.

30 review for The Gentle Art of Cracking Heads

  1. 5 out of 5

    Joel

    Dude, the last chapter is going to have to be pretty epic to actually wrap up the plot, such as it is, after the last few semi-wasted installments. I can't imagine this reading coherently as a novel at all, and yet all spread out it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. BUT EVERYONE STILL LOVES IT SO WHAT DO I KNOW Dude, the last chapter is going to have to be pretty epic to actually wrap up the plot, such as it is, after the last few semi-wasted installments. I can't imagine this reading coherently as a novel at all, and yet all spread out it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. BUT EVERYONE STILL LOVES IT SO WHAT DO I KNOW

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kaethe Douglas

    I am both very eager to read next week's final installment, and somewhat saddened, because then it will be over. I bought it. I am both very eager to read next week's final installment, and somewhat saddened, because then it will be over. I bought it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    Oh, yeah. This is why we read Scalzi. All the classic tropes arranged in a new and engaging way. A very good read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Erin (PT)

    I can't even imagine how this is going to be resolved in one final chapter. This was another great chapter; we got some important/terrifying information/resolution on the events of a previous chapter, but I still don't feel any closer to understanding what the big picture is all about. Which is both delightful and agonizing. Having read Stephen King 's Green Mile (in paper book form) and his later online experiment, The Plant, it occurs to me, in reading The Human Division, that King was simply I can't even imagine how this is going to be resolved in one final chapter. This was another great chapter; we got some important/terrifying information/resolution on the events of a previous chapter, but I still don't feel any closer to understanding what the big picture is all about. Which is both delightful and agonizing. Having read Stephen King 's Green Mile (in paper book form) and his later online experiment, The Plant, it occurs to me, in reading The Human Division, that King was simply ahead of his time, serial fiction like this far more viable and enjoyable when it's delivered to my Kindle every Tuesday. Reading these brief snips over the last several weeks has been a real highlight of the week and I wonder if this experiment will encourage other writers to dabble in and bring back serial fiction in a meaningful way.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Danielle Lowen, doctor and diplomat reappears in this episode as she returns to earth and tries to negotiate with the Ambassador from Brazil. Unfortunately, before the can meet with them the Brazilian consulate in New York is bombed, just minutes after she left. This international incident distracts the media and the government from what Lowen's mission and negotiations were really about - finding out why fellow diplomat Luiza Carvalho (of Brazil) killed another member of their diplomatic team w Danielle Lowen, doctor and diplomat reappears in this episode as she returns to earth and tries to negotiate with the Ambassador from Brazil. Unfortunately, before the can meet with them the Brazilian consulate in New York is bombed, just minutes after she left. This international incident distracts the media and the government from what Lowen's mission and negotiations were really about - finding out why fellow diplomat Luiza Carvalho (of Brazil) killed another member of their diplomatic team while in outer space observing a routine mission of the spaceship The Clarke (from a few episodes ago, in The Observers). Then, back in D.C. Danielle happens to stop into a bar and is approached by a seemingly random pharmacutical rep who just so happens to have some theories on how a nice normal person could be tuned into a programmed assassin without their knowledge.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    This was an odd one. A little creepy, too short to really tell too much, is there a conspiracy? I don't know even after reading this episode. I'm kind of neutral on this - didn't like it, didn't not like it - just put in my time in order to get to the last episode. One more episode left in Scalzi's 13 episode story called The Human Division. It's a long one so I'm really looking forward to it. This was an odd one. A little creepy, too short to really tell too much, is there a conspiracy? I don't know even after reading this episode. I'm kind of neutral on this - didn't like it, didn't not like it - just put in my time in order to get to the last episode. One more episode left in Scalzi's 13 episode story called The Human Division. It's a long one so I'm really looking forward to it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Neil

    Dear John, Did you really need to mention the "Cuba Libré" 4 times? If the clue-hammer audience is who you're writing for, then I'm out. I'm happy for you that you've found a way to increase your income bracket with the $0.99/"story" model, but the quality is simply not there (e.g. handwaving everything with nanobots). Dear John, Did you really need to mention the "Cuba Libré" 4 times? If the clue-hammer audience is who you're writing for, then I'm out. I'm happy for you that you've found a way to increase your income bracket with the $0.99/"story" model, but the quality is simply not there (e.g. handwaving everything with nanobots).

  8. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    A good solid episode, but short. With only one story left though, I wonder what the last episode is going to be, and how Scalzi is going to tie everything up in two hours. Maybe it's just a big lead-up to a full novel. Still, if you've listened this long, you will enjoy this episode. A good solid episode, but short. With only one story left though, I wonder what the last episode is going to be, and how Scalzi is going to tie everything up in two hours. Maybe it's just a big lead-up to a full novel. Still, if you've listened this long, you will enjoy this episode.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Myers

    This episode is worth it for the Star Trek joke alone. (Scalzi claims he didn't notice it when he wrote it, but then did, and left it in. It's awfully fortuitous, if it was inadvertent.) This episode is worth it for the Star Trek joke alone. (Scalzi claims he didn't notice it when he wrote it, but then did, and left it in. It's awfully fortuitous, if it was inadvertent.)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Karlyn

    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. 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.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Darren Douglas

    Genius!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Yes, I think I get it......

  13. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Now I really want to find out how it all ends

  14. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Scary good

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jay Collins

    2.5 Stars

  16. 5 out of 5

    John

    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 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 released. The individual episodes each come to around 25 or 30 pages on my Nook (except for the first and last parts) and it would have been fun to read them and have the cliffhangers as it happened. In the end, though, being able to read the entire thing in one go was also pretty cool. At the end of The Last Colony, John Perry and the Conclave revealed the nature of interstellar warfare and diplomacy to the citizens of Earth. This story details some of the fallout from that decision, dovetailing neatly with the B-team mentioned in the first episode and their attempts to remedy the diplomatic events that occur as a result. It's a welcome return to the universe from Scalzi, who has mostly stayed away from writing more tales here for the last five years (since the the publication of Zoe's Tale). I really enjoyed catching up with the universe, and the episodic nature of the story was handled extremely well. Looking forward to reading Scalzi's next works in this direction, both from the perspective of this universe and the perspective of episodic storytelling.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alice

    This is the twelfth of thirteen episodes in The Human Division, a serial novel and something of an experiment. I'm looking forward to the last installment, but saddened to think that will be all. I suppose I still have several other books to hunt down from this world and this author. The Gentle Art of Cracking Heads, as is the pattern with even-numbered episodes, deviates from the main cast. This time, we see what Danielle Lowen, the doctor from the Earth ambassadors in episode 9 is up to on Eart This is the twelfth of thirteen episodes in The Human Division, a serial novel and something of an experiment. I'm looking forward to the last installment, but saddened to think that will be all. I suppose I still have several other books to hunt down from this world and this author. The Gentle Art of Cracking Heads, as is the pattern with even-numbered episodes, deviates from the main cast. This time, we see what Danielle Lowen, the doctor from the Earth ambassadors in episode 9 is up to on Earth. She was supposed to find the CU guilty of an ambassador's murder, but instead unearthed a deeper conspiracy. She isn't safe once she gets back to Earth, even with the top authorities reluctant to see the happenings on the Clarke as part of a deeper plot. The embassy she was supposed to have a meeting in blows up while she's getting a bagel across the street, and then meets a mysterious individual claiming to be a pharmaceuticals rep. "John Berger" warns her not to go home after telling her exactly how Luiza Carvalho might have been manipulated into killing someone, and she, smart woman that she is, listens. I couldn't help but wonder, as this installment came to a close, if John Berger was the same mysterious informant who spoke to Birnbaum in A Voice in the Wilderness. I suppose there's no way of knowing, though his attitude would have had to alter significantly. One would have to know just how much time has passed between these episodes, and I don't. For a "B story" episode, this seemed to hint a lot more at the larger picture than some of the stories involving the diplomatic crew on the Clarke. It was also full of action and intrigue, and I'm quite interested to see how the story wraps up, in the end. Once more, I listened to this on audio, narrated by William Dufris. I have no complaints about his narration, though this installment's taking place entirely on Earth might've made his job a little easier, this time around. He did pronounce Brazilian names and places well, though there were times when the Brazilian politician sent to stall Lowen sounded Transylvanian. I can't wait for Tuesday.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lis Carey

    Danielle Lowen is back on Earth after her entirely too exciting adventure on board the Colonial Union's diplomatic ship, the Clarke. Unfortunately, she's not done with events on the Clarke; she's still looking for an answer to the question of why an apparently ordinary Brazilian diplomat decided to kill a colleague and attempt to frame the Colonial Union. Her investigation on Earth is supposed to start with the very routine step of talking to the Brazilian Ambassador and getting background inform Danielle Lowen is back on Earth after her entirely too exciting adventure on board the Colonial Union's diplomatic ship, the Clarke. Unfortunately, she's not done with events on the Clarke; she's still looking for an answer to the question of why an apparently ordinary Brazilian diplomat decided to kill a colleague and attempt to frame the Colonial Union. Her investigation on Earth is supposed to start with the very routine step of talking to the Brazilian Ambassador and getting background information on the now-dead killer, Luiza Carvalho. Instead, it starts with a real blast as the Brazilian consulate where she is supposed to meet the Ambassador blows up while she's across the street getting a bagel. This is a short, the twelfth of thirteen episodes in John Scalzi's serial novel, The Human Division. Lowen learns some creepy but possibly essential information, delivered by an apparent turncoat from whoever, or whatever, might be behind the conspiracy that seems to be plaguing diplomatic relations among Earth, the Colonial Union, and the Conclave. Plotting, characterization, and a clever sense of humor even in grim moments, all Scalzi trademarks, are all here. And it would be a disservice to say anything more. Recommended. I bought this one.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Peter Anargirou

    I was expecting the twelfth episode of John Scalzi's The Human Division to finally reveal who has been behind the acts of war described so far. While The Gentle Art of Cracking Heads provides some great new information, we still don't know who the antagonists really are. Danielle Lowen, who you might remember from episode nine, The Observers, is back in the United States. She witnesses a terrorist attack and while trying to puzzle together who could be behind it, receives some interesting inform I was expecting the twelfth episode of John Scalzi's The Human Division to finally reveal who has been behind the acts of war described so far. While The Gentle Art of Cracking Heads provides some great new information, we still don't know who the antagonists really are. Danielle Lowen, who you might remember from episode nine, The Observers, is back in the United States. She witnesses a terrorist attack and while trying to puzzle together who could be behind it, receives some interesting information. I'm happy to hear that the final episode next week will be double-length. This was an exciting episode, but it didn't have much of a cliff hanger. We get a nice reveal at the end, but it's only about one aspect of what's been happening and still doesn't show us who did it. I expected a big reveal in this episode so that we could be left salivating at the resolution in the final episode. Scalzi hasn't let me down yet; I'm still excited to read the finale, but The Human Division's structure has been building oddly to the climax.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Marcelo

    This chapter of The Human Division picks after the events of The Observers. I'm finding incredibly amusing how John Scalzi is managing to tell a story with so many characters, yet maintaining each chapter interesting, compelling, and full of vivid characters. Scalzi's writing style masks a narrative that could very easily become convoluted at the hands of other writers. Fortunately, it is the author of Fuzzy Nation and Redshirts who's conduction this one-man orchestra, and a reader couldn't ask This chapter of The Human Division picks after the events of The Observers. I'm finding incredibly amusing how John Scalzi is managing to tell a story with so many characters, yet maintaining each chapter interesting, compelling, and full of vivid characters. Scalzi's writing style masks a narrative that could very easily become convoluted at the hands of other writers. Fortunately, it is the author of Fuzzy Nation and Redshirts who's conduction this one-man orchestra, and a reader couldn't ask for more.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Pierre

    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 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 impossibility of this situation and focus on the story, which I must admit is quite good and interesting. The concept of releasing several stories, which at first sounds independent from one another is also quite attractive. This book will not be among my most favourite books, but still a good read which makes me want to discover more the work of John Scalzi.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    I fear we are dovetailing into a hastily thrown together finale. The problem with the amount of characters we are focusing on, there are too many stories to follow and that's why Scalzi can write 15 more chapters and we as readers still wouldn't be close to resolution. This chapter is another detour on our road to the end. I didn't need to follow up with this character anymore, nor do I think as readers we needed to hear more about the mysterious forces at work in regards to the Earth and CU dipl I fear we are dovetailing into a hastily thrown together finale. The problem with the amount of characters we are focusing on, there are too many stories to follow and that's why Scalzi can write 15 more chapters and we as readers still wouldn't be close to resolution. This chapter is another detour on our road to the end. I didn't need to follow up with this character anymore, nor do I think as readers we needed to hear more about the mysterious forces at work in regards to the Earth and CU diplomatic status. We need legitimate plot movement at this point and this chapter didn't provide it. What a radical shift in my reviews for this book. I'm just worried, it's what I do. Sorry Mr. Scalzi, I still think you're the bees knees.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Lawler

    Okay, so i'm definitely enjoying these episodes - humour, wit, intrigue, mystery, and the odd piece of action. This is a very good episode, well paced delivery, a good balance between coincidence and paranoia, and a character I really enjoyed reading about. The episode on its own is a four - five star episode, and while it does add to the overall story, i cant help but feel like there's something missing The problem for me is that these episodes are having trouble gelling together to tell the ove Okay, so i'm definitely enjoying these episodes - humour, wit, intrigue, mystery, and the odd piece of action. This is a very good episode, well paced delivery, a good balance between coincidence and paranoia, and a character I really enjoyed reading about. The episode on its own is a four - five star episode, and while it does add to the overall story, i cant help but feel like there's something missing The problem for me is that these episodes are having trouble gelling together to tell the overarching plot. These episodes are too complete, too self contained, i'm not excited about next week because i know its not going to answer my questions from this week. Maybe the connections would be more apparent if I read these episodes in quick succession rather than a week apart

  24. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    It took me a little while to remember who Lowen was, but the opening discussion made much more sense when I did. I think this may be the downside to reading episodes each week and then other fiction in between. Once I had my head back in the world, the story was very satisfying and answers some lingering questions while teasingly reminding us that some others remain cloaked. It certainly builds the tension for next week's finale. It took me a little while to remember who Lowen was, but the opening discussion made much more sense when I did. I think this may be the downside to reading episodes each week and then other fiction in between. Once I had my head back in the world, the story was very satisfying and answers some lingering questions while teasingly reminding us that some others remain cloaked. It certainly builds the tension for next week's finale.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Art

    John Scalzi has shown me that he could write any genre he so chooses. A Problem of Proportion is an action thriller with a who done it twist. What a geat page turn which has the reader on edge the whole time. The parts of the puzzle for the whole over arching story all that is left for the final episode is to tie a bow ribbon around the Human Division. A Problem of Proportion is another 5 star read!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    And again, Scalzi just makes my mind boggle with his combination of politics, intrigue, and blowing stuff up. Also science, as we learn about a very interesting idea that hypothetically could be just as asshole-ish as what happened in that last story. Seriously, who are these persons who are doing things? read more... And again, Scalzi just makes my mind boggle with his combination of politics, intrigue, and blowing stuff up. Also science, as we learn about a very interesting idea that hypothetically could be just as asshole-ish as what happened in that last story. Seriously, who are these persons who are doing things? read more...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    Ugh. And suddenly shifting into reverse gear to go back to another episode and connect some more dots from a few episodes ago. It is a reasonable follow-up in one sense, but ugh, I just want to know what's happening. I don't know how it's all going to get wrapped up in today's new episode. Best way to find out is to go ahead and read it, I guess! Ugh. And suddenly shifting into reverse gear to go back to another episode and connect some more dots from a few episodes ago. It is a reasonable follow-up in one sense, but ugh, I just want to know what's happening. I don't know how it's all going to get wrapped up in today's new episode. Best way to find out is to go ahead and read it, I guess!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sergio Poo

    The story was interesting but I was expecting more from the penultimate part of this story. I felt the previous part did more of tying loose ends in preparation for the finale than this one did. We get some glimpses into the overall picture but they are glimpses we already knew or had an idea about. Still waiting for the final part next week.

  29. 5 out of 5

    heidi

    I appreciated that the head-cracking in this story is both literal and metaphorical. We end up following a character who is back on Earth after some adventures on the Clarke, and we get another piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is this story. Read if: You are breathlessly awaiting the last installment. Skip if: You have mind-control nightmares.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kat Hooper

    Nice collection of stories set in the OLD MAN’S WAR universe. It continues the plot, so you don’t want to miss it. I listened to the audio version which was very good. You can each episode separately or all together. We've got a review of the full series here: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/fant... Nice collection of stories set in the OLD MAN’S WAR universe. It continues the plot, so you don’t want to miss it. I listened to the audio version which was very good. You can each episode separately or all together. We've got a review of the full series here: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/fant...

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