Hyperpat\’s HyperDay

SF, science, and daily living

Sheepless in San Jose

Posted by hyperpat on November 8, 2006

While watching the election returns last night, I was reading what might be considered the perfect complement to all the talking heads, John Scalzi’s latest novel The Android’s Dream:

My Amazon Rating: 4 stars My scale: 7.0

Scalzi, in his Old Man’s War, showed that he can write serious drama about important things, and 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.


Amazon is being persnickety about posting this today (they apparently have a software bug that has frozen everything for the last few days), so it looks like it this review gets to appear here first.

2 Responses to “Sheepless in San Jose”

  1. fencer said

    After reading your reviews, I want to read a John Scalzi book… What is his best, the Old Man’s War you reviewed earlier?


  2. hyperpat said

    So far, I think Old Man’s War is his best. His very first novel, Agent to the Stars, which he actually originally ‘published’ on-line, is another fun-type romp, quite readable, but not spectacular. The Ghost Brigades is a semi-sequel to OMW, and while it’s not absolutely necessary, you should read OMW before this one. There will be a third book book in the OMW universe coming out somewhere around May next year called Lost Colony (he just finished writing this last month, so this will be a pretty quick turn to have it actually published by then). He’s also written a few non-fiction things, the most recent being The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies, which I haven’t read yet. There’s also The Rough Guide to Money Online, The Rough Guide to the Universe, The Book of the Dumb, and The Book of the Dumb 2. He also has contributed to the Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader series.

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