In the eighth chapter of The Android’s Dream, we learn just how complicated this disaster has become. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Android’s Dream.
I really do appreciate that this book is being told from so many points of view, the least of why is because it offers perspective on the motivations behind the fart joke heard ’round the solar system. These motivations are varied and complicated, too, and I liked viewing this chapter as if we were getting these tiny character vignettes about all the folks invested in this… well, international disaster. Because after what Soram’s done? This is a disaster.
Let’s talk about these characters.
Secretary of Defense Bob Pope
Can you be racist against aliens??? Because that’s pretty much what Pope’s issues boil down to. Well, wait, it’s not just that. It’s a predisposition towards believing that the Nidu are an inferior species and a desperate ambition that push Pope in the direction he goes here. His opening section is a much-needed explanation of why this is all happening in the first place as well! It’s not that I was confused, per se, but I was curious as to why there was a sense of urgency to the disruption of the trade negotiations. Besides upsetting the Nidu, how else did this benefit the American defense community?
By giving them a reason to get more funding. It’s a little hard for my brain not to go towards a few things my own government has done under both Obama and Bush over the last twelve years. How about lying to Congress and the American people about weapons of mass destruction to justify a war? What about Halliburton’s vested interests in perpetuating a conflict that gets them (and mercenary companies like Blackwater) more contracts? I don’t think it’s out of the question to compare the two because Pope acknowledges here that by exacerbating the conflict with the Nidu, the Defense Department can ask for more funding. Which will get them better weapons. Which can get them more respect in the CC. Which can get them a “better” ally. So yeah, this is rooted in both a gross devaluing of the Nidu and an attempt to improve the United States’ stake in interstellar affairs.
Secretary of Trade Ted Soram
It’s interesting to me that Soram and Pope are both viciously ambitious characters, but how Scalzi executes this shared characteristic shows how they’re absolutely not like one another at all. I suspect that Soram (and maybe Pope, too) are based on real-life politicians, because they’re something eerily familiar about the politician descended from a rich family being and feeling useless who then tries to be useful, only to FUCK EVERYTHING UP. I suppose that it’s hard not to draw parallels to the government in Washington because Soram reminds me that so many of the people running this country are deeply out of touch with themselves and the plight of most people. I bring this up because Soram is woefully inadequate as the Secretary of Trade, and it’s not just because of the colossal gaffe he commits in this chapter. He got the job because he had money. (Now I can’t get a West Wing/Android’s Dream crossover out of my head. WHAT IF DONNA WAS TASKED WITH FINDING ROBIN BAKER. I can’t even deal with that thought.)
It’s this precise kind of uselessness – born from a man who felt entitled to running part of the government because someone in his family invented the individually packaged moist towelette (WHICH IS A REALLY GREAT INVENTION, FYI) – that Pope and Phipps exploit. It’s kind of amusing how easily he falls for the deception. It’s also disturbing how vigorously he makes the worst mistake of his career. HE’S PROUD. HE IS SO PROUD OF WHAT HE’S DONE.
Oh, lord, this isn’t going to end well for him.
I don’t necessarily think Ben is portrayed as a hero or even a “good” guy. He’s more of an ambiguous, neutral character who reacts to the chaos around him. However, I’m happy that he so willingly defends Robin Baker’s right to choice, even if he’s threatened in response. He’s also careful enough to warn Creek so that Creek doesn’t walk into a nightmare at the State Department. (Could you fucking imagine if Creek hadn’t got the message and had walked Robin right into that meeting with Narf-win-Getag? Oh god.) Basically, his characterization hasn’t become astounding to me yet, and for the most part, he exists to push the plot along. Which is okay! Other characters outshine him, but that’s just how I perceive it, you know?
I’m so glad Archie is still around because he represents such an interesting position. He’s aware that his technical skill is being used to do some less-than-desirable things, but he’s doing this for the good of his religion. How much more abuse from Acuna can he take? (Given the information that Brian gives Creek about Acuna, I am terrified of the man.) And at what point is he going to intervene? Actually, I think that’s the wrong question to be asking. Will he intervene? Will there come a time when he places the interests of the Church of the Evolved Lamb above that of his job? I am not forgetting about this.
There’s not much time spent on these two, since so much of chapter eight details what everyone else behind-the-scenes is trying to accomplish. But Brian appears again, and lord, has he got some information. Robin and Creek have an APB out on them for the deaths of all those men at the mall, Acuna is a TERRIFYING HUMAN BEING, and there’s a suspicious link between people having crossed the AIC/Jean Schroeder and suddenly dying or disappearing. GREAT. Then Creek discovers the bug that Robin picked up at her shop, which unfortunately doesn’t prevent Archie from tracking their movements. (That weight displacement trick was neat!) So, they go to the one person who might be able to help them: Fixer. I’m simultaneously excited that he’s shown up in the story again and frightened that he’s going to be killed by Acuna or Schroeder. Damn it!
The second video and the text contains the word “whackjobs” if you’re triggered by this.
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