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Bookends: The Fate of the World Hinges on a Sheepish Pet Shop Owner February 6, 2013

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: The Fate of the World Hinges on a Sheepish Pet Shop Owner
By Dan Davidson
October 3, 2012, Star, Oct.5/12
– 774 words –The Android's Dream

The Android’s Dream
by John Scalzi
400 pages
Tor Science Fiction
$9.99
read by Wil Wheaton
for Audible.com
10 hours, 43 minutes

John Scalzi seems to be puzzling quite a few reviewers. His “Old Man’s War” future history series is being written very much in the vein of Robert Heinlein’s style: a positive look at an expansive human future. The God Engines was a very depressing look at a very negative future, with a bad ending for everyone.
The Android’s Dream is an adventure comedy is the mould of Keith Laumer, who excelled at this sort of thing back in the 1970s and 80s. Chapter one is an extended fart joke in which a determinedly xenophobic diplomat manages to scuttle negotiations between Earth and some lizard-like aliens by using scent manipulation to enrage, and actually kill, the Nidu ambassador who, like most of the Nidu characters in the story has a rather funny sounding name.
The basic plot after that involves a complex scheme by the some Nidu to use events on Earth to stage a coup on their own planet and take over Earth at the same time.
This might not seem to be the stuff of comedy, but it is, partly because of the number of SF allusions that pepper the book.
Let’s begin with title. Fans of the movie Bladerunner may or may not know that it is based on a Philip K. Dick novel called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The connection here is that the Nidu have a governmental coronation ceremony that requires the use of a special brand of Earth sheep, one genetically bred to have electric blue wool. It is called the Android’s Dream breed.
The breed was created by geneticists working for a company controlled by a faux religion called The Church of the Evolved Lamb, itself the brainchild of a hack science fiction writer who wrote a Nostradamus -like series of cryptic verses which the church is dedicated to making come true, even though all the church members know that their religion is a scam. (Any resemblance to Scientology, created by SF writer L. Ron Hubbard, is entirely coincidental, I’m sure) A rogue member of the church used its technology to create human/animal hybrids, which he used to blackmail influential people with sex tapes.
An entirely accidental byproduct of this criminal activity was the birth of a young woman named Robin Baker, whose junk DNA contains some Android’s Dream genes. Since the Nidu who are trying to stage the coup have arranged the death of every Android’s Dream sheep on several planets, it eventually emerges that Robin, who owns a pet shop and has no idea who her actual mother was, contains the only Android’s Dream DNA still in existence –which makes her a target.
Harry Creek is a former soldier working for the American State Department. Originally assigned to find some sheep, he finds Robin instead. The sideline to his search is that he uses the quantum MRI brainscan of his dead best friend to create the first really intelligent computer search engine/assistant, a self-aware artificial intelligence called Brian. Brian’s parts of the novel, and his role in events, turn out to be pivotal.
Once Harry has found Robin the novel becomes an extended chase story, with Robin and Harry trying to escape the attentions of the Nidu and some very nasty humans in the employ of both another branch of the US government and the same xenophobic organization whose farting assassin began this story.
So this novel has genetic manipulation, advanced computer hacking, interplanetary intrigue, lots of action and more plot twists that you can shake a stick at. It alternates between scenes of serious adventure SF and clever funny stuff in a nicely balanced combination.
In the most recent issue of Locus magazine (the news magazine of the SF world) there is a full-length interview with the author is which he discusses his writing style and his major concerns as a writer. Not surprisingly, he rates entertaining the reader as high on his list of priorities.
As you can guess from the publishing information I listed, I “read” this book by listening to it. The reader was Wil Wheaton, who Star Trek: Next Generation fans may recall as young Wesley Crusher, and Eureka fans may recall as Dr. Isaac Parrish. He apparently also has a recurring role as himself on Big Bang Theory. Wheaton proved to be an excellent reader for this particular story and carried all the many voices and intonations quite effectively.

-30-

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