In 1988 Infocom put out a book called “Planetfall.” It was based on the interactive fiction game of the same name. The game was a huge success for infocom. The book, not so much. But what does this have to do with modern day and John Scalzi? Well, I remember reading “Planetfall” and really enjoying some parts. At the same time I felt like there was a lot of potential that was missed. It wasn’t as funny or as exciting as it could have been. Going for just funny – say something like what Douglas Adams could do with such genius would have been cool. But “Planetfall” was shooting for some action and adventure along with the laughs. (Unfortunately there were not enough of either.) Well with “The Android’s Dream”, Scalzi has show that it can be done. An incredible action/adventure sci-fi book with an incredible sense of humor. Sometimes crass, other times dark and twisted, but never boring or disappointing.
Earth is on the verge of war with a technically superior alien race. The outcome would be the subjugation of all human kind, at best. I’d tell you how such dire circumstances have come to be, but it is such an incredibly funny and ingenious thing, I don’t want to spoil it for you. It is important to note though, that this is why the book is so great. The circumstances that propel our hero through the novel could be cut and dry. But the great humor is full on right from the get go. This is a story lovingly crafted.
The mission to save the earth must be taken on by someone with Earth’s ambassador core who is capable yet can keep a low profile. The job falls on Harry Creek. A veteran war hero and computer genius, Harry now has a more simple career. He is payed to give bad news to aliens. But Harry has to set that job aside for a while and focus on saving mankind.
If you are familiar with Scalzi through his excellent “Old Man’s War” novels, you may be pleasantly surprised at his wit. (Though if you read his blog, Whatever, I doubt you will be surprised too much.) This is not a hard hitting, deep thinker like “Old Man’s War” or “The Ghost Brigades”. This is unbridled fun, though there is some good clean violence, death and mayhem mixed in with all that fun. It’s just that while at times this book has some dark humor it is still humor – not soul searching type stuff.
Scalzi puts his protagonists into quite a pickle. His resolution is elegant and satisfying. If one word could sum up the entire book, that word would have to be fun. If you would like to check out Scalzi’s humor without laying down any cash – well there is always the library, but there is also another Scalzi novel on-line where you can read it for no more than what it costs you to surf the interwebs. Read “Agent to the Stars” here.
Title: The Android’s Dream
Author: John Scalzi
Publisher: Tor Science Fiction
Book ISBN: 0765348284