BOOKS: John Scalzi, The Android's Dream

I recently tried explaining John Scalzi's The Android's Dream (Tor Books, 2006) to a friend. Here's roughly how the conversation went:

Me: "Well the book is about a woman, Robin Baker, who owns a pet store and eventually becomes the center of this intergalactic diplomatic incident ..."
Them: "Okay ..."
Me: "She's also part sheep."
Them: "Right ... wait what?"
Me: "Yeah, like her DNA is 20 percent lamb, so she's technically human, but not really ... I mean it's a gray area, whatever. Anyway, there's this race of aliens, the Nidu, who are tracking her down for reasons related to their coronation rituals. Harry Creek, a no-name state department worker (who moonlights as a computer genius) is assigned to protect Robin and what plays out is a wham-bam intergalactic action story ..."
Them: "Okay, but is this lady a human or a sheep or what?"
Me: "Well that's where it gets interesting ..."

Needless to say, I think I sold them on the book. There's no denying it -- The Android's Dream is a quirky read, but it's also a side-splittingly hilarious one. What else would you expect when the entire plot is set into motion thanks to an ill-timed fart?
Ultimately, Scalzi's work is plot-centric, but the characters are contextualized with enough background that I found myself buying some of the book's tougher sells -- i.e. how Harry Creek maps the human consciousness on his off work hours without breaking a sweat.
Personal highlights included a heavily-detailed fight scene, where Creek and Robin use a pair of Flubberized shoes to bounce off walls and lunge at attacking foes. This scene worked so well for me, in part, because I kept picturing Harry as Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando as he fought off multiple attackers. Also, just like in the movie, mall security is hopelessly ineffective in Scalzi's world.
Hardened vets of Scalzi' well-known Old Man's War series will enjoy the book, but neophytes to his quirky brand of writing will also find The Android's Dream an effervescent romp through a hilarious, yet highly-engaging fictional universe.


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