87 of 89 people found the following review helpful
Scalzi, in his Old Man's War, showed that he can write serious drama about important things, and that book was written very much in the mold of a Heinlein novel. With this book, he shows that it's going to be quite difficult to pigeon-hole him into any particular category, as this is a fun romp, with large satirical bites suffusing it, somewhat like those of Neal Stephenson, an overall plot that is reminiscent of another author who has tackled the space-opera of old, Bujold, and with kudos paid to Philip K. Dick. Anyone who can bring such disparate influences together in a coherent whole will never have to worry about being accused of a being a one-note writer.
The book opens with a rather extended joke, where a mid-level bureaucrat manages to do away with his opposite number at the diplomatic conference table via a rather ingenious device that can send messages via scent. Of course, this sparks an immediate diplomatic crisis. In determining how this event managed to transpire and what to do about it, new elements of computer hacking, DNA manipulation, the Church of the Evolved Lamb (shades of L. Ron Hubbard) and their blue sheep, impending all-out war, palace coups, James Bondian skullduggery, and a super-competent hero who nevertheless seems to be constantly getting whacked upside the head are introduced and folded into this whacky mixture.
The plot's the thing here, as none of the characters are super-deep, though they are all well enough presented to make them believable people. At some points, it seems as if the story line has gotten out of hand, gone in just too many directions at once, but the conclusion manages to bring each of the threads together in a surprisingly logical whole. All the while, the action is fast-paced and engrossing, with a humorous leavening to guarantee there will be no morning-after depression syndrome.
It's not a great book, but it wasn't heading that way in the first place. Rather, it's an entertaining book, a fun way to relax and be carried away from everyday cares.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
John Scalzi is quickly shaping up to be the next Big Name in modern SF. This book synthesizes the best elements of several of the best other SF writers -- it has plotting and action reminiscent of Heinlein, situational comedy that rivals Douglas Adams while still (somehow) retaining believability, something of Neal Stephenson's eye for future trendspotting and commentary, and even a taste here and there of Vernor Vinge.
This book is definitely for adults, or at least for readers old enough to handle topics like bestiality or the desire of an AI for sex without flinching. The best way to describe the book might be by stating the opening: A human diplomat creates an interstellar diplomatic incident when he uses a rectally-implanted gadget to fart out insulting messages in the scent-language of an alien race. Not that the book is overly crude -- it is, in fact, a testament to Scalzi's writing that all of the crudity is perfectly incoporated into and dictated by the needs of the plot -- but still, be aware. (If this paragraph has made you more interested in the book, good!)
It will be very interesting to track Scalzi's growth as a writer. As good as this book is, there are parts of it that are slightly derivative. But then, as (either T.S. Eliot or Mark Twain, I can't remember) said, "Mediocre writers borrow, great writers steal." There's nothing at all wrong with a book this well-crafted, and with this much of the writer's personal style in evidence, lifting a little here and there from other the other greats of the genre. After all, as the title's allusion indicates, that's part of the fun. And very few SF titles within recent memory are anywhere near as much fun as this.
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2007
John Scalzi knows that the best way to get a reader interested in his work is to hook said reader from the opening sentence. Scalzi opens The Android's Dream with a fart joke. A really good and creative fart joke. Then he spins that fart joke into a brilliant opening chapter which sets the stage for everything that follows. Essentially, John Scalzi sells the entire novel on the premise of a fart joke and then he makes it work. Amazing. It is a work of art.
The Android's Dream is about two groups of men. One group is trying to prevent the intergalactic diplomatic incident that was begun by that opening fart joke. The other is trying to spread the floodgates open wider and really mess things up. The solution to the problems of both parties was to locate a particular sheep. Yes, a sheep. The solution to prevent an intergalactic war is to find a sheep. Obviously hijinks ensue and trouble abounds and things do not go smoothly, but from a fart joke to a sheep (and O what a sheep!), John Scalzi has put together a very funny, sharp, witty, clever, and creative novel. The Andoid's Dream is an outstanding piece of science fiction and serves as a good reminder of what the genre can do.
Really, this book deserves three or four pages of praise rather than three short paragraphs, but it is what it is. Fans of Scalzi, Science Fiction, or Good Writing: You must read this book. Period.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2008
"The Android's Dream" by John Scalzi
The distant future; Man isn't alone in the universe as we have now become aware of a great number of alien races spread throughout the cosmos. Coming with this knowledge is the knowledge that the human race is near the bottom where military power is concerned. Where before there was national and international political intrigue, now there is interstellar intrigue. An ambassador of the alien race the Nidu winds up dead and the Nidu suspect murder. The death is near sparking a war however the Nidu seem willing to let things slide if Earth can come up a special item they require for a ceremony, an item that has suddenly become very rare. Needing to get things done from outside of the government, Harry Creek is tagged with the charge of finding the item and delivering it to the Nidu...
This was a refreshing read and I will be eagerly pursuing more of Scalzi's work. "The Android's Dream" which is something of a misnomer is a great read. Scalzi combines just the right amount of plot, humor and action which are all carried nicely by his prose.
The Good: Great writing overall. Scalzi delivers great characters, a well thought out plot and the right blend of action, and humor.
The Bad: Nothing memorable
Overall: Great read. If you haven't read anything by John Scalzi this is a great place to start.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2008
Like many who were disappointed in Android's Dream, I am a fan of Scalzi's other work and believe he is capable of much better. Obviously I did not expect this novel to be in the SF militarism vein of Ghost Brigades, etc., and I believe I am judging it on the merits of what it actually attempts to do.
Android's Dream reads very much like an oddball 1960s-era SF novel full of goofy social commentary. Brand names are delivered occasionally with a TM, for example. In this sense the novel is very much an homage to Phillip K. Dick. Everyone remembers the paranoia and reality bending of Dick's work. Few people remember (for some reason) the humor and social commentary. So I believe I see what Scalzi is going for here, but the trouble is, what might have seemed like biting social commentary in 1966 is just trite and lame in 2008. Strange products. Weird advertising. Gee.
So funny this book is not.
However, it does have just a huge amount of very interesting alien culture, a very unique and intricate plot, conspiracies, secret organizations, and horrors galore. On that level the book is certainly worth a read. Scalzi's imagination is as vivid and fun as ever.
The biggest beef I have with this book are what I think of as outright errors. Scalzi begins with an acknowledgment tipping his hat to the famous friends (Cory Doctorow!) who read the MS before publication and gave him guidance. What I read really makes me question the intelligence of those good writers who helped him.
For example, an important plot point hinges on an artificial meat product (grown in vats without the aid of actual living animals) called Boar/Bison. The product is a genetic merging, somehow, of boar meat and bison meat. The logo features a friendly bison-ish boar wearing cowboy boots. At one point the question arises as to whether boar/bison is kosher. The two individuals discussing this issue state clearly that the question of kosher-ness depends on whether the combined boar/bison creature would have cloven hooves. Now, I'm not Jewish, but I happen to know that both pigs and bison have cloven hooves--in fact, all hoofed animals have cloven hooves except for the horse, donkey, zebra, and, I suppose, hippopotamus. Jews are not forbidden from eating cloven-hoofed mammals. They eat beef, sheep, goat, and so on. This discussion was just so profoundly ignorant that I nearly put the book down right there.
A similar bit of ignorance is manifested in a scene where our hero and the "sheep" are fighting some bad guys in a mall. Our hero hits a fire alarm which causes various fire doors to swing shut. Ok. But then the narration makes it clear that none of these doors can be opened until the fire marshal arrives, thereby preventing the bad guys (and everyone else) from escaping. Obviously I don't know what fire safety regulations will be like in the future but it would be a pretty pernicious system that purposefully traps people in burning buildings.
Maybe it's just me, but these two episodes really bothered me. I'm still willing to give the book a weak recommendation. But all these 5-star reviews? Come on, people. Have at least some level of discrimination.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
John Scalzi's "Old Man's War" and "Ghost Brigades" have serious stories to tell with a SciFi twist. "The Android's Dream", on the other hand, is very funny and almost pure SciFi in its way. It's a great story, especially for those like me whose interest in science fiction waned decades ago.
Some indeterminate time, thousands of years in the future, Planet Earth is a minor member of the Common Confederation of planets, its most significant trading partner being the Nidu who, although also a minor member, could crush Earth.
The leader of Nihu dies and the successor must be chosen. One wrinkle: all the sacred blue sheep, one of which is needed for the orderly coronation of a new leader are dead or dying. To reserve the interplanetary peace, a blue sheep must be found.
Relations betwen the Nihu and Earth are further strained when a minor trade diplomat assinates a Nihu diplomat in one of the most hilarious ways conceivable. Death as comedy - it works.
Enter Harry Creek, an unassuming one-time war hero who is perfectly happy in his little job of bringing bad news to alien diplomats. Harry is the one man who can be trusted to find the blue sheeep.
Now Scalzi unleases it all: an interplanetary power struggle with treason, double-dealing, a very large (and accurate) dose of computer hacking of the largest order, a religion that knows it is fake but seeks to find out if its prophecies might be true (try that one on for size - Scalzi makes it work) and an appealing young woman, Robin Baker, with some very special qualities.
Harry Creek turns out to be quite a hero and the bad guys - well, sentient beings - chasing him aren't at all talentless, which makes for an exciting earthly and interplanetary chase.
There's a lot here. Good science. Good fiction. Surprisingly well developed characters. And a complex plot that never misses a beat. Even if science fiction isn't your metier, Scalzi's science fiction has more than enough fiction to keep anyone interested in a good story happy.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2011
This book by John Scalzi literally starts off with a lot of gas. During trade negotiations between the planets Earth and Nidu, Dirk Moeller of Earth, fitted with a special device from a man known as the Fixer, farts Lars-Win-Getag of Nidu to death! Dirk Moeller, laughing uncontrollably, collapses with a massive heart attack. It seems that the sentient lizard-like creatures of Nidu are smell sensitive and can interpret the meaning of each fart.
The Nidu Ambassador to Earth, Narf-Win-Getag, arrives at the office of the Secretary of State Jim Heffer. The ambassador threatens war with The United Nations of Earth, believing his trade negotiator was smell insulted on purpose. Of the 617 Nations in the Common Confederation, Nidu was only ranked 488th in military power, but unfortunately Earth was ranked 530th, and the Nidu had the Glar Destroyers and the Planet Cracker bombs! Narf-Win-Getag explains that their leader (The Fehen) has died, and his son will be coronated in two weeks. The Nidu need a special breed of sheep for the Coronation, and the breed has been mysteriously wiped out. The demand is simple: Find the electric blue sheep, known as the Android's Dream, for the Coronation, and there will be no war.
This is where our hero, Harry Creek, and heroine, Robin Baker enter the story. Harry, a war hero from the Battle of Pajmhi 12 years ago, is assigned the task of finding the blue sheep. He later enlists the aid of pet shop owner Robin Baker. He also has the help of a dead war veteran, his friend Brian Javna, now a semi-alive computer program in a IBM machine.
The ensuing pages are wrought with many twists and turns along with many questions: Does the Nidu Ambassador really want the sheep found? Is the Secretary of Defense, Bob Pope, on Harry's side? Does Robin Baker have the Android's Dream DNA in her body? Can Harry solve this mystery with so much opposition? You will have to read all 394 delightful pages to find out.
What's unusual about this book is all the interesting side characters. They include the human-eating Takk, the computer geek Archie McClellan and the thug Rod Acuna. If you are a sci-fi fan, this is a must read. Congratulations to John Scalzi for another exciting novel.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
You know The Android's Dream isn't meant to be taken seriously long before genetically altered electric blue sheep make their appearance. The sheep and the title combine to form a not-so-subtle reference to Philip K. Dick's classic novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the inspiration for the film Blade Runner). For reasons too convoluted to explain here, the electric blue sheep are important not just to the ruling family of a race of aliens from the planet Nidu but to an Earth-based religion called the Church of the Evolved Lamb, a religion that was founded as a scam by a hack science fiction author. That not-so-subtle reference to L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology seals the impression that John Scalzi's tongue was firmly embedded in his cheek as he wrote this novel. Of course, the opening scene, in which a human farts an alien to death, suffices to establish Scalzi's comic intent. Taken in that spirit, the action-filled story is a fun romp, although not nearly as memorable as Scalzi's serious fiction, particularly Old Man's War and its progeny.
Harry Creek, a veteran who lost his best friend in a disastrous military conflict, is happily employed in a dead-end government job when he's unexpectedly tasked with tracking down a rare sheep of the Android's Dream breed. His search causes him to revive his dead friend as an Artificial Intelligence, then leads him to a woman named Robin Baker, who (for reasons that are best described as twisted) happens to share some DNA with the Android's Dream. For most of the novel, Harry and Robin are fleeing and fighting to avoid capture by a variety of humans and aliens who think the ruling family on Nidu should or should not get hold of Robin. Either eventuality seems destined to trigger an interstellar war that would not end well for Earth.
It says something about Scalzi's writing ability that a plot this silly actually holds together. Given Scalzi's proficiency with military science fiction, it should come as no surprise that the most powerful scenes in The Android's Dream occur on a battlefield, as humans join Nidu in a botched effort to suppress a native rebellion on a Nidu colony world. Yet the novel's strength lies in its acerbic look at politics and its practitioners. Scalzi also has fun lambasting pseudo-religious doctrine. For additional comic relief, Scalzi serves up an alien who eats people whole, a practice that his native religion not only permits but encourages, although only during that short period during which he must take a religious journey to discover himself by exploring decadence. Naturally enough, the religious alien finds himself drawn to the nonsensical writings that underlie the Church of the Evolved Lamb.
Scalzi puts more imagination into throw-away sentences than some sf writers can muster for an entire novel. Silly as it is, The Android's Dream is tightly plotted; the many plot threads all tie together in a nifty package by the novel's end. I wouldn't call this laugh-out-loud science fiction of the sort often produced by Connie Willis, but it is nonetheless a fun, amusing read. I would give The Android's Dream 4 1/2 stars if that option were available.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Take one part Piers Anthony and one part Terry Pratchett, add two parts of Christopher Moore, and mix in a sci-fi bowl. What you end up with is The Android's Dream, by John Scalzi.
Oh, did I mention that there were no androids included? However, you will get acquainted with a race called the Nagch, who you never want to invite to dinner. And always check your date for his or her real hair color. Any hint of blue?
In The Android's Dream, ex-soldier Harry Creek is asked to complete a simple mission, to search for a specific breed of livestock for the coronation ceremony of the Nidu, a race that won't eat you, but try to avoid gassy foods. Creek's search turns up a bit of a surprise, and Creek and the surprise spend the rest of the novel just ahead of, well, everyone and everything else.
Although I don't know how far in the future this adventure takes place (although there is a great deal of advanced technology, our culture doesn't seem to have changed very much), it was fun to note all the little hints at how things have either changed or stayed the same:
"Nugentians" run a large captive deer herd for hunting and meat in Michigan (that's a play on hunting poster boy Ted Nugent).
"Dr. Atkinson" warns of the dangers of a fatty meat diet (remember Dr. Atkins' recommendations and eventual demise?).
Quaker Oats seems to have supplanted Google as the largest information source in the world.
Smith College (an all women college) is still around.
USDI was still trying to establish wolves in various locations, and farmers were still making these attempts fail.
Mr. Robbin Dwellin, an "early 21st-century science fiction writer of admittedly modest talents", ended up at least as successful as L. Ron Hubbard in establishing a new religion.
Petsmart is still around, as are shopping malls.
"... the Fru had recently lost their flagship Yannwenn when its navigational crew, used to working in native Fru measurements, inputted incorrect coordinates into the Yannwenn's new navigational computers, which used CC measurements." Remember the lost $125 million Mars orbiter?
The Walton family is still rich, all 200 of them.
And people would still rather not have pork sphincters in their hot dogs.
Don't get me wrong... this tale has some great characters and action. There's a significant AI here, new weapons, weird alien rites, and even a new religion, evolving as I write this, the Church of the Evolved Lamb.
Highly recommended! Be prepared to not take life so seriously, but still require a great story!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2014
John Scalzi has a dark sense of humour and a sarcastic bent that comes out in his wise cracking characters. Inside his characters have grit and poise but the outside version we see in his stories is anything but sarcastic, cocky, irreverent and side splitting funny.
Humanity and the alien Nidu are at peace. At least on the outside. Inside humanity has major problems with the Nidu. Half the world wants to kick them back to their home world while the other half wants to exploit any advantage they have with the Nidu as reluctant partners.
While the Nidu only control a small fleet of war ships, those ships far outclass anything Earth has in its fleet.
Our story starts with a high level meeting between human and Nidu diplomats to hammer out an agreement. Unknown to the Nidu the Earth's head diplomat hates their guts and is just dragging on negotiations to aggravate them. However he does have an ace up his sleeve, or rather in his shorts, as he has had installed a special technology that manipulates farts to send messages to the Nidu who converse with smells.
Moving on from that we then have two opposing groups trying to find a special breed of sheep called Android's Dream. The Nidu need one for a special ceremony. So one group desperately tries to find the sheep while the other group methodically works to kill them all.
In a saga that travels from Earth to the home world of the Nidu we have a nonstop roller coaster of a story. Twist and turns are everywhere and the plot twists are well thought out, developed and highly entertaining.
HIGHLY recommended book and Author