Mark Reads ‘The Android’s Dream’: Chapter 13

In the fourteenth chapter of The Android’s Dream, Brian discovers who captured him and is provided a possible solution to Harry’s problem. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Android’s Dream.

Chapter Thirteen

WELL, HOLY SHIT, I DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING. Despite that I strongly suspected that not just anyone could take Brian down, Andrea Hayter-Ross was NOWHERE IN MY RADAR AT ALL. However, her re-introduction in the book makes this SO MUCH BETTER. Not that it was awful or anything, but holy shit, this is one of my favorite chapters in the book so far. I suppose I should have figured this out since Andrea was really the only woman commonly associated with the Church of the Evolved Lamb. Not only that, though:

“If you know anything about me you know that I am an observer of human condition.”

SHIT. I DIDN’T CATCH THAT. But it’s an important characteristic of Andrea that further explains why she does what she does in this chapter. She’s not just here to relay information to Brian. First of all, that wouldn’t be all that fulfilling or entertaining to me as a reader. It would feel too convenient, you know? She’s nearly a literal god in a machine, so the whole deus ex machina thing would have hit too close to home. Instead, she acts as a mechanism to help us understand how Harry and Robin might survive while providing a motivation for Brian’s character development. Seriously, character development for artificial intelligence. Think about that. THINK ABOUT THAT. IT’S AMAZING.

Anyway, this chapter isn’t without a whole lot of uncomfortable terrors. I can’t say I ever thought I needed to know more about the Battle of Pajmhi, but I came to understand that the past absolutely matters when it comes to the present. I know I’m skipping ahead here, but one particular part of Hayter-Ross’s advice was relevant to this theme:

“It’s the whole experience that matters.”

And I’d argue that this is the point of this book. This is a multi-layered tale told from various perspectives, and through that, Scalzi gives us the whole experience. By learning why these things happens, why the details of other cultures matter, why personal motivation has an effect on the outcomes of a million different situations, he shows us that a complete portrait is far more meaningful than one painted with a single brush. Even in this chapter, which he could have devoted just to Hayter-Ross and Brian, he switches over to Javna and Fixer to give us an idea of the mechanisms that may get Robin and Creek saved. There’s even a brief section with Bill Davison! Like I said, it makes the story feel so much more complete.

So it’s with this logic in hand that Andrea Hayter-Ross begins to show Brian Javna how he died. She uses a perfect word to describe this: It is unsettling. How could it not be? Plus, we never knew exactly how Brian died, nor why it mattered so much to current conditions. As Andrea continued to use film records to reconstruct the battle for Brian, we dread the inevitable. We know Brian dies, and the tension in this chapter comes from the horrible thought that Brian is going to have to see how that happens. And just because Andrea is a hyper-powerful artificial intelligence agent doesn’t mean she dealt with her own death perfectly. I can’t imagine how bizarre that must be! However, Andrea insists that it’s important that Brian watch this. But why? Why?

Pride. Ultimately, that’s the answer provided by Brian’s experience of running a simulation of the Battle of Pajmhi. No matter what techniques he comes up with, the military suffers horrific losses. Even if he manages to take out a large number of the rebel forces, the UNE’s Pyrrhic victory is still terrifying. Given that Brian is an AI agent, I imagine that there had to be an extra layer of frustration to this beyond the fact that he had to watch all of his friends die. And himself. OVER AND OVER AGAIN. Even after Andrea shows Brian how his miscalculations got himself killed, it doesn’t help him come up with a solution to the massacre on that plain.

Again, I understand why Brian is so frustrated with Andrew. It seems cruel to make someone watch their own death and then force them to re-enact it hundreds of times in a row, unable to escape it. But this goes right back to the point of Andrea’s exercise. This is an experience. And the experience proves to be so draining and disturbing that Brian does the one thing he never did all those years ago, that any member of a military would never consider:

He gives up.

Not exactly your usual battle tactic, Brian admitted to himself. On the other hand, the simulation ended with no deaths on either side.

No deaths.

“Holy shit,” Brian said.

I’ve mentioned before in my reviews on this site that my father was in the Army, so I distinctly recognize why Brian (or anyone else in the Battle of Pajmhi, for that matter) would never have thought to do this. You just don’t give up in war. You don’t! It’s a source of pride for soldiers, and I know it was a sore spot for my own father. Hell, that spilled over into his general sense of moral duty in his life long after he left Vietnam. He detested it when anyone in his family gave up on anything. We had to finish games of baseball. We weren’t allowed to change the channel if my dad had started watching a movie, even if he’d seen it before. But what I find most brilliant about this part of the story is how perfectly it fits with Brian’s characterization up to this point. Brian’s pride and lack of patience is what got him killed. His pride is what got him captured by Andrea Hayter-Ross! And I’d say that pride is a central quality of most of the characters in this book. Schroeder is motivated by it; Ben is motivated by it; Creek is definitely motivated by his own sense of pride, too.

So I’m interested in seeing what Andrea Hayter-Ross has come up with. If the best thing for Creek and Robin to do is give themselves up to the Nidu, how the hell is Brian going to convince him of this? Given that we know that the British Columbia is headed straight for the Neverland, how the hell can you stop the UNE forces before they intervene? I mean, it sounds like a clusterfuck, doesn’t it? However, given what we’ve already seen of Andrea in this book, it’s not like I doubt her abilities. If anyone could come up with a viable solution, it’s her.

That being said, with just three chapters left, I’m perfectly fine assuming that disaster is looming around the corner. Gods, I STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT THE SUCCESSION CEREMONY IS ALL ABOUT. If Robin gives herself up, she certainly isn’t going to survive the ceremony. Oh, damn it, I’m so unprepared for this book.

Please note that the original text and the videos below contain variations on “idiot” and “mad.”

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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