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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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Scalzi, in his Old Man's War, showed that he can write serious drama about important things, and that book 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.

--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
0Comment| 41 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
One of my major gripes with most sci-fi and fantasy novels is the sheer volume of backstory and exposition they tend to contain. Having spent months or possibly years creating their future or alternative universes in extraordinary detail many authors feel it necessary to demonstrate all their hard work by providing so much detail that they end up drowning out critical elements such as plot or character or slowing down the narrative to the point that their book becomes a turgid trawl through the minutae of their imaginations. I love a bit of sci-fi or fantasy, but I don't need to have everything explained to me in mind numbing detail if doing so gets in the way of telling a well paced, exciting story.

Fortunately John Scalzi is one of those rare sci-fi authors who understands that when it comes to exposition less can often be more, and Androids Dream is a perfect example of that. Set in a future where an Earth that is recognisably similar to our own contemporary one (they still have shopping malls, politics is still a dirty business and no-one seems to wear one-piece jump suits) has made contact with other intelligent extra-terrestrial races and has joined a wider galactic confederation, it is an action packed, twisting and turning tale of political skulduggery (both human and alien), diplomatic manoeuvring, scientific and theological experimentation and above all, sheep. It is also by turns philosophical, satirical, exciting and deliberately funny, is packed full of real humanity and moves at a pace that keeps you well and truly hooked.

It manages the latter partly due to Scalzi's warm, amusing and fluid writing style and partly because the author never feels the need to show off about the possible future he has created. He provides just enough information, always imparted in an entertaining fashion, to explain or support events and to keep the reader informed, but does not deluge you with facts and detail. He assumes that readers are smart and imaginative enough to fill in the gaps for themselves where necessary. So for example, you never discover what year the book is set in because it doesn't matter. It's the future, there are aliens and they are a readily accepted fact of life; that all you need to know.

The same applies when it comes to technology. In the book we have interstellar travel via what are known as n-drives or n-jumps, but Scalzi doesn't feel it jejune to explain precisely how this works. Just as you accept that `hyper-space' in Star Wars works without details of the actual science Scalzi trusts his readers to accept n-jumps, n-drives and all the rest without further explanation. At one point he even explains that most scientists in his future universe don't really understand how it works, just that it does. Only when it pertinent to the actual plot will he provide some added depth to technical advancements, such as explaining how you blow out a window on an interstellar cruise ship, or to other fruits of his imagination such as the caste system of the alien race called the Nidu. When Scalzi does feel it necessary to fill in the blanks however, he always does so with wit and verve rather than simply offering large tracts of leaden exposition.

It's that wit that provides the extra icing to Androids Dream. This is a book where, due to a series of strange and never fully explained events, Quakers Oats has become the largest provider of IT systems on earth and insecti-scoidal alien judges at an interstellar court can be as cantankerous and sarcastic as any human member of the bar who had a really bad hangover. It's these little humorous details that round off what is a hugely entertaining book. If I had to draw comparisons I would say that Androids Dream is what a sci-fi novel would be like if written by Carl Hiassen, mixing as it does satire, humour, action and precision plotting into a potent whole. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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on 9 March 2009
A much better book than the title and rather daft cover would indicate.

I've read most of his other books and this one is funny, fast-moving and interspersed with satirically violent set-pieces.

A pleasant surprise.
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on 14 June 2013
Spent a while trying to write this review as the book was not bad and i think if it was not written by Scalzi i would have just given it a 4 star and moved on but it was written by Scalzi and i kind of expected a bit more. Do not get me wrong the story is good lots of twists and turns but i never once felt myself caring about the characters so there was no sense of suspense. So overall not a bad read but author has done much better.
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on 5 April 2010
I almost gave up on this book in the middle, but I'm glad I didn't. It generally seems more of a political thriller than anything else, as it's primarily about two government departments trying to outdo each other and an alien government causing problems too. The sci-fi elements are more of an enhancement to the story than the central core of it. The action sequences, when they occur work well, but there is a lot of political exposition between them. Having said all this, I'm glad I read it for the ending, I'm a sucker for an ending that neatly wraps up some disparate plots and gets one over on the bad guys, and this one does it in spades.
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on 1 December 2012
There are some really great ideas and scenes in Android's Dream. I particularly liked how the futuristic bouncy castle worked and the whole sequence around it.
Scalzi does a very good job of setting up red herrings, so the plot does not come out where you expect it. He does also set up some laugh out loud punch lines.
But I found some of the characters were easily confused with some of the other characters. There are two sets of "henchmen" as it were, looking for the sheep. Which was which, and who they reported to was a bit hard to track. I just decided to go with the flow and not worry about it - but it would be a superb book if those were straightened out, rather than being what it is at the moment - a good book with flaws.
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on 30 October 2009
After reading Old man's war I've just about read everything I could get my hands on by John Scalzi. His books contain a perfect combination of humor, action, good dialog and imaginative setting and ideas. It's pure and simpel fun to read and well... it just doesn't get much better than this!
I think "The Android's Dream" contains one of the best opening scenes I've ever come across, involving something as ordinary as a meeting in the inter-stellar Trade Negotiations Committee, a communicator and a scent plug-in. It's absolutely hillarious.
Highly reccomended.
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on 16 September 2011
More. Please Mr Scalzi. All the usual stuff. Laughed aloud, read in one sitting. Would certainly recommend as a great example of it's, albeit compellingly fresh, genre. Enjoy!
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on 27 March 2016
From the first scatological pages to the ending ceremonies, this book is a wonderful and clever delight. It's great to see science fiction this way!
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on 16 August 2010
I did not find this as good as previous books. Slow start almost put me to sleep never mind dreams. The close improves. Will not read again.
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