Monday, March 05, 2007

Just Read: The Android's Dream by John Scalzi

Yes, the books I read last week were Martin Amis's House of Meetings and a SF adventure that opens with a chapter-length fart joke. I am large, I contain multitudes.

This one is a much quicker read than House of Meetings -- but, then, it had better be. This is a standalone Scalzi (for the moment; he's writing a sequel), not related to the Old Man universe. It's old-fashioned in the good way, reminiscent of Keith Laumer and the less-goofy side of Ron Goulart, though it's more violent than I remember those guys usually being.

The book has a mostly linear plot, once it gets started, but the first few chapters see a bit too much gear-grinding and scene-setting (or maybe that was just me, trying to remember who each bunch of new characters were and hoping one of them would turn out to be the hero). But once it does get up into gear, the plot cruises along very nicely.

We're in, as I said, the old-fashioned default skiffy universe: near-future Earth has joined a vast galactic polity near the bottom of the heap, and we're both scheming to better our position and the target of other races' schemes. Star travel is simple and not terribly expensive, and the mechanics of it don't enter into the story. (The mechanics of anything don't enter the story; this book, thankfully, has no pretensions about how "hard" it is.) Our main allies, as the novel opens, are a status-obsessed lizard race who are about to have a succession crisis that will deeply affect humanity...and a couple of humans in particular. (Oh, and our hero's big mission at the beginning of the book is to find One Special Sheep, the lack of which would cause the aforementioned succession crisis.)

Throw that, and several more complications to taste, into a bowl, heat up increasingly for about four hundred pages, and serve. I think the Old Man books are bit more ambitious and interesting, but this is a very entertaining SF novel, accessible to any reader, set in an non-dismal near-future world and featuring characters who neither mope nor whine, and I very much appreciated it. I'd like more like this, please.

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