9.16.2012

The Android's Dream, by John Scalzi

The Android's Dream
I picked up John Scalzi's The Android's Dream on a whim...and then I finished it within 24 hours because I just could not put the book down. This book is an amazing adventure, cunningly plotted, with sparks of humor that reminded me of Douglas Adams. Granted, it starts with the most uncouth murder I've ever read, but this book was a blast.

The story touches off with a diplomatic incident that brings Earth and their putative allies, the Nidu, to the brink of war. The only thing that can remedy it is a sheep, but not just any sheep. Earth must deliver an electric blue Android's Dream sheep for the Nidus' coronation ceremony. As the story rolls along, you quickly find out that there are a lot of players and what you thought was an act of private revenge is really a complex conspiracy. The Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Nidu, and the curious Church of the Evolved Lamb are all working at cross purposes, making an absurd situation even more absurd.

In the middle of all this is Harry Creek, a State Department employee who specializes in delivering bad news to aliens (of the E.T. variety), and Robin Baker, a pet store owner who though a bizarre set of circumstances has sheep DNA. Harry and Robin get chased from one corner of Washington, D.C. and escape multiple kidnapping and even murder attempts. It sounds demented, but I tell you that the story works amazingly well and that it frequently made me laugh.

Scalzi has a knack for writing his characters into seemingly impossible situations. First, there's only one creature in the universe that has enough sheep DNA to qualify for the Nidu coronation. Then there are warships parked just out of Earth's orbit and the threats of breaking treaties. Then there are the Evolved Lamb prophecies. And then there are all the characters' baggage and desires for revenge. All these conflicts collide repeatedly, but Scalzi manages to get his rather likable heroes out of situations you could have sworn were sheer suicide. I highly recommend this book, especially if you have a well developed appreciation for the silly.

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