Mark Reads ‘The Android’s Dream’: Chapter 3

In the third chapter of The Android’s Dream, Javna seeks out an old friend for help with the possible diplomatic disaster he might face, and a geek makes a disturbing discovery. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Android’s Dream.

Chapter Three

More information! New characters! Possibly the main character! Who knows! Worldbuilding! Gas! Yes, that kind of gas! And WHAT THE FUCK.

Oh, this is gonna be a ridiculous book, isn’t it? I admit that my experience with John Scalzi is limited to three of the more bizarre/ridiculous things I’ve read, so I’m just assuming that I am wildly unprepared forever. Which is a fair way to approach everything y’all ask me to read, but right from the start, The Android’s Dream feels so much different than Old Man’s War and Redshirts. Yeah, it’s science fiction, it deals with issues of colonization and war, and it’s got a distinct sense of humor about the genre. But this is already so fucking weird and unexpected that I’m just going to give up on trying to know what this book is going to give me.

I will guess, however, that Harris Creek is the main character, or at least the lens through which we’ll experience most of this novel. It’s hard to make that sort of statement because Scalzi has already shown a willingness to change point-of-view to tell the story. Twice here, the narrative moves from Harris to focus on Phipps and then Archie McClellan. I’ll get to them in a bit, but I wanted to talk about what I did learn about Harris in chapter three. Through him, we get another chance to learn more about the world that Scalzi has created, particularly the bureaucratic absurdity that comes with what Harris does as a Xenosapient Facilitator. It’s a fancy term for someone who simply delivers bad news to aliens, and Harris is damn good at this. Of course, once Scalzi said this, my next question was: Why? Why was Harris so good at being patient or at ignoring the frightening things that some aliens do when they receive bad news?

That’s answered, in part, through Harris himself, though a lot more comes from Phipps’ conversation with Pope. When we first meet Harris, he’s the bearer of horrific news to a Kathungi Cultural AttachΓ©, who learns that his wife can’t come to earth because she began her fertility cycle. Without her spouse. With another male Kathungi. Cue a rather graphic (and slightly hilarious) bit of exposition, which is one of those things that Scalzi is just so good at. It’s also one of signatures, and I can think of quite a few examples in Old Man’s War where I marveled at his ability to find a fascinating way of combining somewhat familiar biological processes into nightmare fuel. Like, there’s something equally funny and mortifying about the Kathungi larval feast, and Scalzi just knows how to toe the line between the two without it being just funny or just terrifying.

Also, Mr. Tudena was going to take his wife to Disneyland. πŸ™ πŸ™ πŸ™ THIS IS GENUINELY REALLY SAD TO ME. πŸ™ πŸ™ πŸ™

But let’s get back to my question: Why? Why is Harris doing this job if he’s never been trained in diplomacy? It’s not that I doubt his ability to do his job well. On the contrary, his scene with Tudena demonstrated that he was able to convey information succinctly, with tact, and without offending another culture. But he’s certainly not excited by his job, and when he meets up with Javna after he leaves his meeting with Mr. Tudena, it was clear that there was much more in Harris’s past. Javna referenced a “skill set” that Harry possessed, and my interest was piqued. A-ha! A secret! I LOVE SECRETS. And obviously, “Brian’s place” wasn’t a bar.

Yeah, I didn’t expect it to be BEN’S BROTHER’S GRAVE. What the fuck? What the fuck, you can’t get this sad so early in the book! It’s not fair. (Wait, Old Man’s War has a pretty depressing first chapter, so nevermind.) But then Scalzi just casually reveals that THERE IS SO MUCH MORE TO HARRIS THAN I COULD HAVE EVER KNOWN. What the hell, Harris was friends with Brian? Like, best friends? And they once launched a rocket at Ben’s car?

But it was Harris’ near encyclopedic knowledge of things like a 3D printer (OH MY GOD, THOSE EXIST NOW, OH MY GOD) that made me suspicious. Okay, how is an untrained diplomat that smart about unrelated fields? Initially, I was worried that this would be an appearance of a secret genius that was unexplained but oh no. Nope. NOPE. Because as Harris agrees to help Javna with his search for the Android’s Dream, Scalzi switches over to a scene between Pope and Phipps where we get exposition about the main character from a third party. WHICH IS AWESOME AND SURPRISING. And can we TALK ABOUT THESE THINGS WE LEARN:

  • Brian and Harris went into the military together!
  • Where Brian died in the “Battle of Pajhmi,” which was some horrifically traumatizing battle? IDEK WHAT IT IS but I’m scared to find out.
  • Then Harris refused awards because sadness? I don’t know. But he quietly left the military without fanfare, even though his superiors wanted to shower him with it.
  • Then he worked for the D.C. police in electronic crimes! Which explains why he had knowledge about the fabricators.
  • But then he quit and just did nothing?
  • What did Harris do in those years???
  • It was because of an incident where he and Brian broke into a lab at George Washington University (and were caught) that they were offered the chance to expunge their records if they joined the military.
  • Where Brian’s life was expunged. πŸ™
  • SORRY, I HAD TO, IT WAS BASICALLY SET UP FOR ME TO DO THAT don’t blame me, blame Scalzi. It’s definitely all his fault.

Then there’s Archie McClellan. I’ll repeat what I said in the video commission for this chapter, but the subtle ways in which Scalzi wrote the narration for him made me hear the condescension and geeky rage dripping from Archie’s voice. IT’S SO WONDERFUL. I could hear ever snarky aside in Archie’s voice. Bless.

Of course, Archie’s part in this book is to provide one hell of a hint that Harris is getting into something that he doesn’t understand. Goddamn it, why did Archie freak out after finding out the origin of the DNA? I assumed he’d see something related to the Android’s Dream sheep, but what the fuck just happened?

GREAT. I have no idea what’s in store for me.

Please note that the word “idiot” appears in the text and the first video if that triggers you.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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