The Android’s Dream – 3/5
This is an early Scalzi, and it’s one of his, sigh, funny books. Sometimes I really like John Scalzi and sometimes I think he’s so annoying. This book is a pretty funny science fiction in general but he still Scalzis all over it. We begin with a secretive meeting between someone who is mentioned as some kind of diplomat getting a piece of experimental technology grafted onto (into) his body. He says he is going to try to fart his way into an intergalactic incident. In the following scene, during a trade negotiation with a non-human species of lizard-like creatures, the technology comes on. It turns on it’s a fart machine that can send specific messages to those who can read messages through scent, like this sentient lizard race. It seems the diplomat’s father was put out of business and subsequently died in poverty by the actions of the particular lizard in question. So throughout the meeting, he farts out insults, which leads to the lizard creatures losing his cool, and having a literal rage-stroke. Our farter laughs himself to death.
This all leads to an intergalactic issue between two fragile allies. A compromise is reached where the lizard-creatures will overlook the death if the Earth government can help locate a very specific species of sheep that is key to a specific power-transition ritual. They have a week. So we meet a few actors whose job it is to find the sheep or find and kill the sheep, forcing a war for undisclosed reasons.
So yeah, that’s the novel. Really feeeeeeels like a Scalzi novel, doesn’t it?
Kaiju Preservation Society – 3/5
An enjoyable and fun book to be sure. We begin as our protagonist is about to get his yearly performance review at a food delivery app company right on the cusp of Covid. Instead of being thanked for his plan to expand coverage and customers, he’s fired, and told he can apply for job as a delivery person.
He does for a bit, and right as his money starts to run out, he delivers to a person he knew briefly in the past who is living in a very nice apartment. This person tells him that maybe he should talk to his company, an NGO called “KPS” — you can guess what that stands for and so he does. He’s told that his interest in sci fi and his abandoned PhD in literature that focused on dystopian fiction is actually a real selling point. He’s told the job is not without risk, although still mostly safe, it’s wild, and most importantly it pays a lot.
You can guess the NGO works with controlling and studying kaiju — that is, Godzilla like creatures in another dimension. It turns out the nuclear energy that humans use and the nuclear energy kaiju output/input brought our two dimensions close together and weakened the portal between them. So now, humans have to be involved in helping maintain that portal. That’s the world and the set up. The plot, which is still mostly world-building, comes a lot later.
So this book is a lot of exposition, and that’s fine because it’s mostly fun. It feels weirdly short, and it’s way too self-referential at times. There’s a long part (that is “justified” in the plot) that talks about Neal Stephenson a lot, but it’s more annoying than anything how pop culture-laded this whole thing is.
Travel by Bullet – 3/5
Aha, serious Scalzi!
Well, to be fair, I’ve enjoyed this series that’s been published and produced on Audible with Zachary Quinto narrating. The setup again is that something has shifted in the universe and people don’t die like they used to. If someone causes someone’s death, 999/1000 that person reappears in their most safe-feeling place, in whatever condition they were before their death. This has led to death rights, such as the right to have a “dispatcher” (why would they have a pun, I dunno) take out someone about to die in order to reset things for them. This is great is you happen to get into a terrible but not fatal carwreck or a surgery is going wrong or you’ve been actually murdered, but not so great if your condition itself is bad, and dying and reappearing won’t be much help. So it goes.
Anyway, in this particular novella, another dispatcher shows up in the hospital where our narrator works in very bad shape, asks by name for him, and then when dispatched, shows up back at our narrator’s apartment, setting off a whole mystery.
This one also brings in some questions and elements from the Pandemic, so that’s always fun, right?