In the fifth chapter of The Android’s Dream, this is not the book we thought it was. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Android’s Dream.
We have become Archie McClellan. We put down this book and say, “What the fuck have we gotten into?”
Because, generally speaking, this is the exact point in this story where I felt like I really had been tricked into reading one book and Scalzi just revealed that this is something completely different. Right from the start, the plot that opens chapter five feels familiar, since it’s addressing Rod Acuna’s efforts to wipe out all the possible breeds of sheep that might give way to the Android’s Dream. Initially, I thought that Vernon Ames might be the breeder that Harris and Rod were both looking for, but the plot instead becomes a bit of a horror story once Vernon realizes the coyotes that he thought triggered his alarm system are coming from behind him. Yeah, no thank you. NOPE. But y’all, this part was not okay in any universe:
“Takk,” he said, or something like it, and from the corner of his eye Ames saw something huge move toward his general direction. This was the thing that had knocked him out. Ames slumped; in the shape he was in he couldn’t take two guys at the same time, and he absolutely couldn’t take on that, whatever the hell it was.
Monsters??? There are monsters in this fucking book? (Yeah, somehow, it had escaped my mind that there are aliens in this world. Oh, well.) Not just monsters, but the government was willing to murder people in order to kill off the Android’s Dream breed?
Before things get truly weird, though, Scalzi picks up the thread from the end of chapter four, which is bizarre in its own way. Having Brian Javna appear in the narrative, but as his 18-year-old self, is certainly a surprising thing. It’s a fascinating way to get to know his character firsthand. Well, I should say a version of his character, since this Brian is the one scanned into that machine at George Washington University back when Brian and Harris got caught. (Okay, that isn’t confirmed at all, BUT I’M STICKING TO THIS THEORY.) Plus, this is ACTUAL HUMAN INTELLIGENCE but in a computer! It’s a refreshing chance for Scalzi to use (and subvert) AI tropes that you find in science fiction, and I’m for it. Brian isn’t like HAL. As far as his identity and personification goes, he’s a human. In a computer. Or… oh gosh, this is pretty complicated. Again, I love it! It’s so different.
However, then this book takes an expositional sharp turn into pseudo-Scientologist absurdity, AND IT IS THE VERY BEST THING. When I was reading about The Church of the Evolved Lamb and Archie’s role in the religion, I was just as confused as to why Scalzi was giving me all this new information a quarter of the way through his novel. But I didn’t care. He was poking fun at Scientology and being ironic while finding a way to be sincere. And I think that’s what I came to love about this apparent tangent. (I say “apparent” only because at the time I was reading it, I thought it wasn’t that connected to the main narrative aside from the sheep thing.) The Church was formed because Hayter-Ross essentially trolled Dwellin for years, but then something genuine and kind of loving came out of it? I guess I like the idea that this community formed that became one of acceptance and good intentions. As I mentioned before, Scalzi finds a way to make comedic irony sincere instead of writing it for irony’s sake, which is what Hayter-Ross does with Dwellian’s misguided (and, frankly, bigoted) attempt to siphon her of money.
Plus, CANON CHARACTERS WHO ARE QUEER, WHOSE QUEERNESS MAKES UP THEIR CHARACTER BUT DOESN’T DEFINE IT, AND Y’ALL KNOW I LIVE FOR THIS SHIT. Yes, I love a good story that examines what it means to be gay or queer, but sometimes, I just want a book that normalizes relationships that our society doesn’t exactly accept as normal, and Sam and Archie’s relationship feels like it is just as valuable as everyone else’s in the novel.
But this is not just a clever, entertaining aside. No, the reason that Scalzi brings all of this up is that Dwellin’s fictitious, bullshit prophecies are starting to come true. This re-contextualizes Archie’s freak-out at the end of chapter three, as well as explains why he is continuing to work with Schroeder. How can a made-up religion like this come true, given that everyone knows it was conceived as bullshit??? Archie, then, has a new role to play: He’ll be spying for the Church (WITH NANOBOT RECORDERS IN HIS EYES THAT IS SO COOL) in order to find out if this really is the Lamb that Dwellin predicted. Which is so fucking weird to say, y’all! It’s not real, and yet the coincidence is there. So what the fuck?
Also: nanobot spies that use vending machines to upload content! Ugh, science fiction is so spectacular, I swear.
After this, The Android’s Dream takes yet another strange turn. I suppose that’s both an understatement and an exaggeration. It’s an exaggeration because, after Harris and Brian realize that someone is infecting sheep before they can get to them, Brian sends Harris to a pet shop that clearly doesn’t house genmod sheep. To put it plainly, Brian fucked up! Not just that, but the people tracking Harris are closer (and more blatant) than ever. What if Harris had been attacked or, worse, killed? After Vernon’s death, I wouldn’t be surprised if Schroeder got desperate enough to harm Harris.
I also appreciated the introduction of Robin Baker, who seemed like a fascinating character stuck in a world she’d learn to adapt to. It made me wonder how much of this future world was genetically modified, you know? Food, too? If pets had been made genmod to withstand bratty children, how else had science stepped in to accommodate for the worst of human behavior? It was nice, then, that Robin deliberately raised unmodified animals, and gave me insight into who she was, despite that it didn’t seem like she’d appear again.
Oh god, how wrong I was:
“Oh,” Brian said. “Oh. Okay. I guess I wasn’t being clear about it.”
“What?” Creek said.
“When I told you to find Robin Baker, I didn’t mean to ask her about sheep,” Brian said. “I mean that she was the one you wanted.”
Which made absolutely no sense to me at all. Leave it to John Scalzi to do this to his story:
“Your pet shop owner is a human-sheep hybrid. The kind of sheep she was hybridized from was either in part or in whole of the Android’s Dream variety. She’s sheep, Harry.”
You…. you can’t. You aren’t being fair. This is not the book I signed up for. But in a way, it is. I mean, Robin’s appearance made me wonder how else the world had changed since genmod had become so widely accepted, and there was my answer: We had genetically modified humans already.
So now Brian and Harris are one step ahead of the competition, and I’m left asking myself the same question again: What the fuck have I gotten myself into?
Please note that in the third video, the words “crazy” and “insane” appear in the text.
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