Monty Python

Android's Dream by John Scalzi

Amazon / Audible

The Android’s Dream, a novel by John Scalzi, is a science fiction tale that takes place in the not too proximate future. This was my first experience with Mr. Scalzi, and I came away impressed enough to want to read other titles by him that have garnered more acclaim. There are a variety of different tones and elements in the present novel, in use of which Scalzi demonstrates talent. He can be funny, clever, action-oriented, and even, on occasion and to a small degree, poignant. I was not always convinced by the way he mixed these different tones together, but overall the novel was a fun read. Scalzi exhibits the flair of a true storyteller with his well-refined and polished plot and cast of diverse characters.

The title refers to a line of specially bred sheep, named in honor of Philip K. Dick one supposes, which become the object of a hunt to prevent an intergalactic war. When a group of men of varying interests conspire to insult an alien diplomat during trade negotiations, the blowback leaves Earth on the brink of war. As things get increasingly out of hand — to the point where even the original conspirators begin to doubt the course they have plotted — an agent of the American government must find an Android’s Dream sheep to offer to the aliens, as appeasement, so they can sacrifice it in an important ceremony.

I do not know whether or not Scalzi has written sequels or other novels in this world, or if he plans to, but he has a knack for world creation that would seem to leave a lot of room for future work in this universe. There are different alien species with odd customs and cultures, eccentric politics, a variety of characters, and a number of odd social developments (including a religion devoted to Evolved Sheep whose adherents belong to one of two categories: true believers, and those with a sense of humor who want to make the Church’s prophesies come true for the fun of it). The message is not profound and the characters are not explored in the kind of depth that makes them stick with you long after you have closed the book for the last time, but the story is coherent, moves well, and provides a few interesting twists that give it a little kick at the right time.

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A few notable things I ran across recently:

  1. Will Thomas of The Atlas Society (formerly known as The Objectivist Center) argues that transhumanism is compatible with Objectivism.
  2. Kylie Sturgess, in her Curiouser and Curiouser column for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, interviewed Scott Sigler. I hadn’t heard of him before, but apparently he’s known as a podcaster and now also as an author of techno-thrillers.

    Sigler describes skeptics as people
     

    who were spreading the other side of the information instead of misinformation. They are out actively encouraging people to think for themselves, and what’s been interesting is that they’re not necessarily telling people “this is bunk.” They are encouraging people to think critically about things and learn how to address things when you run into them.

    He goes on to mention how, among other things, evolution is being challenged in America. But there’s a flipside to long-accepted, fairly well-established science being attacked in knee-jerk fashion by those faith-based types leery of science in general and of science that challenges their religious beliefs in particular. Sometimes science can become corrupted in politically-charged fields, and scientists lose their objectivity. I’m reminded of an old post I wrote about scientific skepticism in relation to global warming alarmism. I riffed off of Clarke’s First Law of Prediction and Asimov’s Corollary.

    But to get back to Scott Sigler, has anyone read any of his work? If so, what do you think? Do you recommend it?

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