Writer: John Scalzi
Genre: Science Fiction
If John Scalzi writes it, it stands to reason I'll read it. So of course I picked up The Android's Dream once it was available in paperback. I really wasn't sure what to expect from this book, because all the blurbs I read about it were, well, odd. And now that I've read the book, I know why: it's hard to be specific without spoiling some of the really funny surprises and revelations in the book. And after thinking about it for a while, I've decided I'm not going to bother discussing the actual plot elements of this book, simply because of the book's nature. But I'll tell you enough to make you decide if it's a book for you or not.
The premise: Earth is in negotiations with the alien race Nidu, only something goes very, very (and hysterically) wrong during negotiations, and in order to avoid war with the Nidu, Earth has to help them find a specific, particular breed of sheep called The Android's Dream to serve as a sacrifice in an important Nidu ceremony. Shouldn't be too hard, only someone is making a point to kill every single Android's Dream sheep in the universe, and it's up to Harry Creek to find and protect one that'll serve in the sacrifice, and to also find out who's sabotaging negotiations to begin with. Only, appearances are VERY DECEIVING, and what ensues is a story of quadruple-crossings, fun action, imaginative gadgets, and pure zany hilarity.
Let's make one thing clear: if you like reading Scalzi's blog, you'll like reading this book. If you DON'T like reading Scalzi's blog, you won't like reading this book, so don't bother. The Android's Dream is ripe with Scalzi voice and humor, and it's never more evident than in the first chapter, the first sentence of which is, "Dirk Moeller didn't know if he could fart his way into a major diplomatic incident. But he was ready to find out."
At first, I was puzzled, but by the end of that chapter, I was laughing my ass off. It's FUNNY. There's quite a lot in this book that's just FUNNY. Some it might be potty-humor, especially in regards to that first chapter, but if you actually sit back and enjoy the book for what it is, which is FUNNY, then you'll be just fine.
I can't tell you how often this book made me laugh. Or how often I was shaking my head at the pure inventiveness of Scalzi's world. This book is zany, crazy, and fun, and that's all there is to it. And it also is a nice tribute to the SF greats that've come before: clearly, Scalzi's giving an obvious nod or two to Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and more subtle nods too in regards to the nature of a sentient species. There's nods to William Gibson's Neuromancer, and I suspect he's making fun of L. Ron Hubbard too.
You don't have to have read the Dick novel to appreciate this one, no matter what the title suggests. However, reading them back to back made me keenly aware of Scalzi's tribute, and that made me enjoy Scalzi's book even more. But there's just so much fun to have with this book. Characters, voice, world-building. I keep saying it's zany and fun, but really, there's no other way to describe it.
Must Have: IF AND ONLY IF you know you enjoy Scalzi's voice (serious, just read his blog and you know what you're getting into) and you like humorous SF that doesn't take itself too seriously. The first chapter might make you cringe a bit, but keep reading, and you'll have fun. That's what this book is all about, and frankly, I'm THISCLOSE to selling my paperback copy and getting the hardcover while I still can. The added perk to that being when the sequel The High Castle (now you know what my next Dick/Scalzi combo's going to be) is released next year, I can buy the hardcover.