The novel “The Android’s Dream” by John Scalzi was published for the first time in 2006.
The relationship between humans and the Nidu undergo a sharp deterioration when a human diplomat causes the death of a Nidu colleague. The aliens are militarily much more powerful than humans and, despite the existence of interstellar treaties involving many species, the situation could escalate into an armed conflict.
A hope for humanity lays in a very important ceremony that will soon mark the rise to power of a new Nidu leader. Providing a sheep for the ceremony would be seen as a strong sign of friendship but it’s an animal of a very special breed called Android’s Dream. A Nidu faction hostile to the new leader has succeeded in exterminating the sheep of that breed and Harry Creek, a really special employee of the State Department, must protect an a unique “speciman” that still contains the DNA of that breed of sheep.
John Scalzi is particularly famous for his “Old Man’s War” series, “The Android’s Dream” is set in a different fictional universe. Again, human beings have to deal with several alien species but the relationships among them are governed by interstellar treaties that keep them peaceful. At least generally.
“The Android’s Dream” is focused on the relationship between humans and Nidu, two species that are officially allies. The Nidu also communicate through odors and a human diplomat exploits this feature to provoke in a Nidu colleague a reaction so violent as to lead to his death. The fact that the human offender used a device to emit odors installed where the sun doesn’t shine makes it clear from the beginning that this novel contains large doses of humor.
A start like that can make people think that the humor in “The Android’s Dream” is gross, however in the course of the novel turns out to be quite sophisticated. The story contains several satirical elements in which moments of the Earth’s future politics are inspired by some of the recent past.
Even science fiction itself is included, with more or less humorous references. For example, the breed of sheep called Android’s Dream is a reference to Philip K. Dick’s novel. A future religion which plays an important role in the story was created by a writer recognized as a scammer. In the novel there are human-animal hybrids that seem to come from “The Island of Dr. Moreau” by H.G. Wells.
At the center of the story , however, there’s Harry Creek, a State Department employee whose work is generally pretty quiet who instead ends up involved in an interstellar intrigue. His adventure contains several elements that are very serious because he’s a veteran of a terrible battle in which his best friend died.
Harry Creek’s story alternates between moments of intense action in James Bond style and other of introspection. In both cases, he’s assisted by a software version of his best friend, whose mind had been recorded before his death and activated later on a computer system.
John Scalzi brings together all these elements in a story that is much more than just a sci-fi comedy. In “The Android’s Dream” there are several characters and not everyone has a great depth but at least the protagonists are well developed, with a past that is slowly revealed to better understand their present.
Initially, the pace of the story is slow, with a lot of information on characters and situations that help the reader to understand the basics of the novel and its fictional universe. Gradually, the novel takes off and the pace becomes generally much faster with several really intense moments of action.
In the end, “The Android’s Dream” is a novel that offers more than I expected. It’s really funny, though sometimes you’ll have some bitter grins, and often gives food for thought. Overall it’s excellent and I recommend reading it.