In the first chapter of The Android’s Dream, any possible summary of this would spoil the thing for you, so I’m not gonna do it. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to start The Android’s Dream.
HELLO, MY LOVELY READING FRIENDS. It’s time for a surprise, more surprises, and then even more surprises. Though, I suppose if you read my Hugo/WorldCon post or watched that one Sarah Rees Brennan commission I did yesterday, this isn’t entirely new information. But there is a third thing. I swear!
So, I’ve been wanting to bring this feature over to Mark Reads for some time, but time was always a factor. This spring and summer has been ridiculous. I was on tour for the entire month of March; I’ve attended four cons, held five events, and generally kept myself endlessly busy. As my touring schedule winds down (I am in Las Vegas on Tuesday!!!), I will have a lot more free time on my hands. Therefore, it’s time to bring Double Features to Mark Reads!
This means that there will be a SECOND post going up every day, wherein I will cover other books. Maybe a series if it isn’t long? But I’m mostly thinking of tackling a lot of one-offs that I’ve wanted to do for the site or are on my Confirmed List. Here’s how these will work:
- Posts will go up at 11am PDT. Or PST once we switch over to that.
- They’ll be posted every weekday.
- I will announce in advance what books I’ll be covering so folks can commission them if they want.
- Double Features are contingent on me having extra time. That means if I am going on tour or attending a con, Double Features will take a break so that I’m not writing a ton of posts in advance. You will always be notified of any breaks that Double Features will take, and I’ll put them on the Master Schedule, including when posts resume.
- For the most part, reviews will follow the list/bullet format. This is strictly an issue of saving time. I generally write outlines before writing reviews so that I know what I’m going to cover, but if I’m going to be adding five new reviews to my workload, I’d like to do so and be able to write without it being too taxing on myself.
- You can commission any chapter of this book for $25. If your chapter goes over the allotted time (one half hour per commission), please consider buying a second commission or Extra Time in $10 increments.
I would also like to reveal the next two books (given that you’ve probably figured out that The Android’s Dream is the first one) I will be tackling in Double Features and provide some reasoning behind why:
- Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan. I’ve posted about the many commissions her lovely fans have requested from me, and I even made quite a few posts with my thoughts about Unspoken and the Demon’s Lexicon trilogy. (Read that trilogy READ THAT FUCKING TRILOGY). Since Untold comes out on September 24th, I thought it would be fun to do a book that just came out. I’ll start that book in mid-October, so folks who want to read it on their own can. Otherwise, WE CAN ALL SUFFER TOGETHER.
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. I’ve loved writing about Gaiman’s work, but I hadn’t planned on doing anything of his for a while. However, the man asked me to do this book for Mark Reads when I met him at Comic-Con. Like… I CAN’T TELL HIM NO??? I don’t get authors asking me to write about their books, so I MUST OBLIGE. It’s quite short, too!
- I haven’t decided what will come after that. ~*M Y S T E R Y*~
And with that said, let’s start The Android’s Dream:
I was told that the first sentence of this book alone would polarize me. I was subject to countless cackles and wicked laughs whenever I said that I was reading this book for Mark Reads. John Scalzi himself laughed himself silly. I live a brutally unfair life, I swear.
Dirk Moeller didn’t know if he could fart his way into a major diplomatic incident. But he was ready to find out.
And so was I. Here’s what’s so great about this first chapter: It’s not merely a gimmick. While it is a big fart joke at heart, there’s so much more here:
- First and foremost, we’ve got a lot of worldbuilding, though I must admit I still don’t understand everything. I’ve read Redshirts, obviously, but I also read Old Man’s War in two sittings back in April. This seems to share a similar world with that series, though I can tell it’s not the same one. There’s colonization of Earth, but Earth is also colonizing space, at least as far as I can tell.
- Scalzi also gives his characters in chapter one a past. Even if Lars-win-Getag and Dirk don’t survive this, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a story to tell. Dirk comes from a family of butchers, and that deliberately plays a part in the story. It doesn’t just build character! And honestly, it’s things like this that inspire me to write, that inspire me to devour books so readily.
- So, I do think I need to bring up Old Man’s War at this point, since it’ll help me explain why I enjoyed this chapter beyond the 20-page fart joke. Old Man’s War surprised me because of how Scalzi was able to navigate a genre with both a sense of humor and a dedication to worldbuilding. Just because Old Man’s War made me laugh a lot doesn’t mean it wasn’t a serious book. In The Android’s Dream, Scalzi is as much a scholar of Heinlein as he is a re-inventor. We’ve got the scientific detail that gives this world life, but then we have an entire alien race who can speak through smells, and it’s humorous and awe-inspiring.
- I’m a sucker for revenge stories, so let me just get that out of the way. Revenge narratives are just so satisfying to me, and I’m sure it’s because I grew up as an angry kid who held tons of grudges that he never got to act on. It’s wish fulfillment for me to read these type of stories. In this chapter, though, part of the fun is trying to figure out what the hell Dirk and Fixer had planned. Meat? Smells? Nidu diplomacy? I don’t get it. What was the point of farting in front of Lars-win-Getag? To irritate him? So? How would that avenge James Moeller?
- The set-up for this is properly detailed, which is something Scalzi’s damn good at. He did it in Redshirts and Old Man’s War, and it’s kind of a spectacle. Exposition is a hard thing to write. I FINALLY KNOW THIS NOW THAT I’M WRITING A BOOK. You don’t want it to be too obvious, but you also want to make sure your readers have the information they need to understand what’s coming next. Scazli does this through flashbacks, woven through the narrative in the proper place, as well as using dialogue for exposition.
- Still, I don’t quite get this world. How did Earth come to colonize space? Why are the Nidu being allowed to colonize our world if they’re such assholes to us? What is the benefit of having them around?
- I’m going to assume that I’ll get more information soon. For now, can we just appreciate the use of farts to anger a mildly incompetent alien so that he will erupt in anger and destroy negotiations? Yes? Because I surely appreciate it. The entire scene in that conference room is a work of art, meticulously planned and executed, and it’s just so fucking surreal. Surreal! That’s a good word. This book is firmly rooted in science fiction, and then I take a step back and realize it’s also starting off with a twenty-page fart joke. I am perfectly fine with this.
- Plus, there’s a dramatic (and hilarious) irony to the fact that after Lars-win-Getag drops dead of a stroke, Dirk largely dies of the same thing his father did. While also causing a diplomatic incident he didn’t intend to cause (Lars’s death).
- So if this is how the book starts, what the fuck is next? I assume we haven’t met the main character yet. Seriously, I know nothing about this book, so I don’t even know what it’s about. Except a Phillip K. Dick reference?
- RITUALLY UNPREPARED.
Mark Links Stuff
– I have redesigned MarkDoesStuff.com! Check out this post explaining the new changes, which includes the start of a permanent archive of all Mark Watches videos!
– The Mark Does Stuff Summer Tour is happening now! Check out the posted dates, suggest new ones, help bring me to YOUR TOWN.
– Mark Reads Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is now published and available for purchase! It’s available in ebook AND physical book format, and you can also get a discount for buying the ENTIRE SET of digital books: $25 for 7 BOOKS!!!
- Video commissions are open, and you can commission a Mark Reads/Watches video for just $25!