Top positive review
41 people found this helpful
on 30 November 2006
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)