The Android's Dream
by John Scalzi
Tor, 2006, ISBN 978-0-765-30941-9
(Edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden)
A book review by Elisabeth Carey
John Scalzi does silly extremely well. It may be a little off-putting to realize that this story begins with an extended fart joke—one which is, literally, a killer—but that’s just the set-up to the real story. Harry Creek, coasting peacefully in an uncomplicated and, for him, unstressful job in the State Department, is called out of this semi-retirement to use his more unusual skills sorting out the diplomatic crisis created by the fart joke. And quite a crisis it is: Earth is now on the verge of war with a minor galactic power that’s more than powerful enough to wipe the floor with even more minor power Earth, and the only way to avert the war is to find a sheep. A particular sheep, a sheep of the variety called the Android’s Dream (its wool is electric blue.) A simple enough task, it would seem, except that not everyone wants to avert the crisis. The Defense Department thinks the conflict will be a good thing for Earth, and has been tracking down and eliminating all of the Android’s Dream sheep. They’re not overly fussy about non-sheep getting killed in the process, either. Harry’s life gets really interesting when he meets Robin Baker, a pet store owner who has, well, let’s just say a close connection to last sheep, and complications multiply when the Church of the Evolved Lamb, a combo post-modern religion and genetic engineering powerhouse that actually created the Android’s Dream sheep, gets involved. In short order, Harry and Robin are fleeing from both the Defense Department and ambitious elements among the Nidu. Defense is willing to kill both of them; the Nidu need Robin alive, at least for a while. And the Church of the Evolved Lamb is busy pursuing its own agenda, while someone deep inside the Church is pursuing her (or its?) own agenda.
None of this captures the antic, madcap tone and pace of the story. Scalzi’s having fun, and he’s going to make sure everyone else does, too, and he’s not going to slow down long enough for anyone to get off the ride before it’s done.