Audiobook Review: The Android’s Dream

Android's Dream

A human diplomat kills his alien counterpart. Earth is on the verge of war with a vastly superior alien race. A lone man races against time and a host of enemies to find the one object that can save our planet and our people from alien enslavement…

A sheep.

That’s right, a sheep. And if you think that’s the most surprising thing about this book, wait until you read Chapter One. Welcome to The Android’s Dream.

For Harry Creek, it’s quickly becoming a nightmare. All he wants is to do his uncomplicated mid-level diplomatic job with Earth’s State Department. But his past training and skills get him tapped to save the planet–and to protect pet store owner Robin Baker, whose own past holds the key to the whereabouts of that lost sheep. Doing both will take him from lava-strewn battlefields to alien halls of power. All in a day’s work. Maybe it’s time for a raise.

Throw in two-timing freelance mercenaries, political lobbyists with megalomaniac tendencies, aliens on a religious quest, and an artificial intelligence with unusual backstory, and you’ve got more than just your usual science fiction adventure story. You’ve got The Android’s Dream.

The Android’s Dream absolutely lives up to expectations… except for the teeny little fact that there’s a sleeping robot on the cover, and this is assuredly not a book about robots.

Instead, it’s about intergalactic politics and brinksmanship, artificial intelligence, governmental hijinks, a man-made religion… and yes, sheep. Look, it’s silly and doesn’t necessarily make sense 100% of the time, but it’s always entertaining, even when it makes your head hurt.

The cast of characters is large, and features diplomats, hired thugs, alien warriors, war vets, pet store owners, and an overgrown young alien on his culture’s version of an Amish Rumspringa. In terms of setting, the book takes place in the halls of power on Earth, onboard an intergalactic cruiser, on an alien planet, and in one particularly action-packed scene, at a mall.

Robin Baker and Harry Creek are awesome good guys. They’re both genuinely good people sucked into a completely f*cked up and weird situation, and maintain a surprising amount of good cheer and plain old resourcefulness when it all hits the fan. The politicos aren’t entirely corrupt, and there’s even one at the State Department who has his head on straight, outthinks everyone around him, and is hell on wheels in the courtroom.

In terms of the audiobook, there are pros and cons.

On the negative side, the twists and turns of the plot and the complicated interconnections between the rather huge number of characters make the plot a bit hard to figure out and keep straight via audio. After listening to the first 2 or 3 chapters, I had to stop by the library to get a hard copy so I could go back and make sure I understood who the various characters were and what they wanted. There’s a lot of plotting and scheming in The Android’s Dream, and keeping the players sorted is essential

That’s really the only downside of the audiobook — other than than, I’d say that audio is definitely the way to go!

Narrator Wil Wheaton is superb at bringing characters to life, from the full-of-themselves ambassadors and high muckety-mucks to the secret church officials to the clueless cruiseliner passengers. His accents and inflections are spot-on, and man, it’s just all so darn funny.

Call me immature, but I found something immensely hilarious about hearing Wheaton pronounce names like Narf-win-Getag and Hubu-auf-Getag, or describe the Nagch people’s rite of Ftruu, or even analyze the landmark legal case Agnach Agnach-u v. Ar-Thaneg. This stuff might look funny on the page, but listen to it repeated over and over again, in scenes of blustering negotiations or high-octane action, and it’s… I don’t know… just laugh out loud riotous.

Once I got past my initial confusion, I really loved The Android’s Dream, and was especially glad that I stuck it out long enough to really get into the groove of the audiobook. John Scalzi’s writing plus Wil Wheaton’s narration is a dream combination. I wish this book had a sequel (as I understand, at one point, there was maybe-sorta a plan for one, but it never happened) — but barring that, I’ll be happy to listen to more Scalzi/Wheaton audiobooks any time one lands in my hands (or in my Audible app).


The details:

Title: The Android’s Dream
Author: John Scalzi
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication date: 2006
Audiobook length: 10 hours, 34 minutes
Printed book length: 396 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Purchased


Audiobook Review: Agent To The Stars

Agent to the Stars


The space-faring Yherajk have come to Earth to meet us and to begin humanity’s first interstellar friendship. There’s just one problem: They’re hideously ugly and they smell like rotting fish. So getting humanity’s trust is a challenge. The Yherajk need someone who can help them close the deal. Enter Thomas Stein, who knows something about closing deals. He’s one of Hollywood’s hottest young agents. But although Stein may have just concluded the biggest deal of his career, it’s quite another thing to negotiate for an entire alien race. To earn his percentage this time, he’s going to need all the smarts, skills, and wits he can muster.

Agent to the Stars is John Scalzi’s first novel, but you’d never know it. It’s hilarious. And wonderful. And just so perfectly entertaining.

A heavy-duty reflection on the nature of humanity… is not what this is. Instead, it’s a fast-paced, in-your-face, silly look at the world of Hollywood, the art of the deal… and aliens.

In this case, very smelly aliens. The Yherajk communicate via smell, so attending one of their senior officers meetings onboard their space ship is likely to make a human vomit or pass out. And yet, they’re a peaceful race with advanced intelligence and technology, and they just want to get to know us.

Agent 2Tom Stein is placed in the once-in-a-lifetime position of being the man chosen to introduce an entire race to humanity. As a Hollywood agent, Tom is an expert when it comes to making something attractive, garnering attention, and making people want more. But how to package and promote a species that looks like blobs of goo? With Yherajk representative Joshua designated as Tom’s personal liaison, things go from weird to unbelieavably weird in a flash, and meanwhile, Tom is still trying to place his of-the-moment hot actress into the dramatic role of a lifetime.

To say any more would be to ruin the fun. In case I haven’t made it perfectly clear, this is not at all a serious book. As an audiobook, it suited my needs to a T. Light and breezy, it’s a perfect listen for when you don’t need to engage a lot of brain cells. I can definitely attest to the fact that this audiobook made for a great couple of weeks of commuting.

Narrator Wil Wheaton takes the crazy imagination of John Scalzi and turns it into a wild and hilarious performance that’s silly and light, and yet with some surprisingly touching moments too. Such fun. If your sense of humor runs toward goofy and you enjoy wholly unusual sci-fi plots (with smelly aliens), don’t miss this book!


The details:

Title: Agent To The Stars
Author: John Scalzi
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Publisher: Subterranean Press
Publication date: 2004
Audiobook length: 8 hours, 49 minutes
Printed book length: 363 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Purchased