Saturday, February 10, 2007

Review: The Android's Dream

Every year at Christmas I get gift cards from various family members who A) either remember my great love of reading or B) are heavily prompted by yours truly as soon as the temperature starts to drop that damn it, I've run out of books again! So, armed with about $100 in Barnes & Noble gift cards I stormed the bookstore down the street from work the day after Christmas, ready to fill up my reading calender for the next six months.

I left with no money and only three books.

I could blame the fact that there's almost nothing of value being written in science fiction these days (somewhat true), but it's really because the three books I found were kind of expensive, but I couldn't think of one I didn't desperately want to read. I got Mathematicians in Love by Rudy Rucker, The Android's Dream, by John Scalzi and Game Writing: Narrative for Video Games, by a few members of the IGDA Writers' Special Interest Group. But it's Android's Dream I want to talk about now.

This was a very entertaining book. My tastes of late have been kind of dark and angsty, so it was nice to delve into what Scalzi calls on his site his "popcorn book." It most definitely is that. I came away from the novel not dissatisfied, but not full, either. Let me put it this way: Android's Dream is no classic. But I had a lot of fun reading it, and I would encourage anyone who likes words to check it out.

Basically, Harry Creek works for the government, telling people (and aliens) bad news. Why? Mainly because his Army training leave him unfazed in the face of distraught extraterrestrials, but also because he's got a buddy higher up in the government, Ben Javna, who at the beginning of this book very desperately has need of Creek's unique skill set. Creek has to find a particular sheep so that he can save the world from a mass alien invasion.

What I found really ironic was how much this book smacked of Battlefield Earth. Ironic, because featured prominently in the novel is the Church of the Evolved Lamb, a religious sect based on the rambling prophecies of a bad science fiction writer (of course the Church in Android knows the prophecies are crap. They just want to see if they can make the prophecies come true.) It's nowhere the length or scope of Battlefield, and is considerably better written, but I can't shake the feeling of similarity, especially as the book starts to wind down.

Anyway, to sum up, this was a good, if mildly fluffy, read. Better than Mathematicians in Love, for sure. The characters seem human, and so do the aliens, which is always a nice touch in a funny book. The only thing better than laughing at our own foibles is laughing at those same foibles in things different from us. I'll give this one a "Sure, you should read it."

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