The Android's Dream - John Scalzi Android's Dream is a creative and solid mash-up of classic sci-fi tropes. The temptation to let the narrative spin out of control must have been quite overwhelming - with an intergalactic Confederation of weird alien races, a mutli-layered conspiracy that threatens to doom the earth to a colonial outpost, so called "n-space" travel beyond the speed of light, and sentient, tea-sipping computer intelligences - but Scalzi keeps his focus and pulls off a series of very satisfying plot surprises that complete the novel just about how the reader had hoped.

As for the mash-up aspect, I was reminded of Vonnegut, Adams, and Stephenson: Vonnegut, for a religion that bears significant resemblance to Bokonism; Adams, for the wacky alien races, whose sexual practices, nutritional needs, and perceptual capabilities are a constant source of humor; and Stephenson for the terrific descriptions of network hacking by self-aware entities. And let us not forget Philip K. Dick, whose "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" provides a central image/object without ever having a derivative feel or even relying on Dick's concerns in the least. If Dick's androids did dream, they would be well-praised for having a dream like this!

Harry Creek and Robin Baker trade some very funny, dry witticisms, and all the characters have a kind of cynicism shot through with self-effacing honor, so the book also turns out to be a kind of feel-good novel, with lots of opportunity for empathy and identification. I'm still up in the air about heading into Scalzi's Old Man's War series, though I am attracted by both the descriptions of it as "Heinlein-esque" and Scalzi's abilities in narrative construction, character, and inter-stellar imagination. Any suggestions on this one?