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October 10, 2006

The Android's Dream Review at SFRevu

Lest I forget to mention the novel I actually have coming out this month, there's another review of The Android's Dream, over at SFRevu. I'll note to you prior to linking that the review has spoilers in it, in the fourth paragraph, so I recommend sort of letting your eye slide past that particular graph. I have a suspicion that these two spoilers are going to crop up in a lot of reviews (one or both have already in the majority of the reviews I've seen), which is a little frustrating since I like pointing to reviews but don't want to give away these plot points, which, you know, I kinda want people to find out on their own. Ah, well. Anyway: Spoilers. Here's the link.

Aside from this, it's a fine review. Here's a quote I like:

What I liked about The Android's Dream, apart from the engaging characters and action that are a hallmark of the author's work, was the way it all built up to its punchline... I'm convinced that this book was written from the punch line backwards to the beginning, which is the only way all the disparate elements could have tied together so well at the end.

I'm delighted that the reviewer (Ernest Lilly) thinks that book is well-designed, since I happen to be of the opinion that structurally it's probably the tightest book I've written; the "Old Man" trilogy of books have deeper themes than this one, but this one is calibrated like a sports car, to go fast and handle the curves. Having said that, in fact I wrote it pretty much like I write all my books, which is that I have some idea of the opening, some idea of the ending, and a couple of neat scenes in the middle, and no idea how I'm going to get from one to the other. One of the nice things about writing this way is that you can retrofit as you go, and at the end it looks fairly seamless. During the production, however: what a mess. But you only have my word for that. If I'm doing my job, it looks like I know what the Hell I was doing from the start.

Posted by john at October 10, 2006 11:29 AM

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Michael Puttre | October 10, 2006 12:51 PM

RE: Punchlines.


Did you ever read "Lord of Light" by Roger Zelazny? It has one of my favorite punchline setups of all time.

In brief, the book projects a colony forward hundreds or even thousands of years to where the "crew" have styles themselves as Hindu gods and the colonists are living in a feudal, caste-based society with no advanced tech. People can, though, be reencarnated (if they mind their Ps and Qs) by having their minds transferred to new bodies. This is a form of social control by the gods.

Anyway, the main character Sam is a former crew member opposed to the gods and he makes trouble. So one of his enemies conspires to have Sam's next body be that of an epileptic. The gods use a noble, a Shan, as their foil to engineer the placement of Sam's mind into the new faulty body. To make a long story short, Sam pulls a switcheroo and substitutes his intended body for one that had been earmarked for the Shan, who was also due for a refit. So the Shan gets the body that will be afflicted with epilepsy.

During a standoff in a later scene...(wait for it)..."Then the fit hit the Shan."

Best of luck with "Androids." I really like your work, and how you have reenergized the space opera genre (although I understand "Androids" is a different sort of animal.)



Steve Buchheit | October 10, 2006 01:22 PM

John, you need to learn more from your cats. After amazing feats of daring do, which could just as likely have been accidental or at least fortuitous, just sit back and get that look on your face saying, "yeah, I meant to do that. Worked like a charm." Then you need to wait until your haunches stop thobbing and you can walk off with a normal gait.

John Scalzi | October 10, 2006 01:26 PM

Well, to be clear, I write the way I do because it works for me, and it has the desired result of making the end result fit together well. So, you know, I did mean to do that.

Steve Buchheit | October 10, 2006 01:41 PM

ah, that's more like it. Now, stop licking you hand to wash your face. :)

S'alright. That's the way I write as well. Although, I'm trying my first novel at the moment. After seeing three posts on different blogs about writers using spreadsheets to help keep things on track, I've bowed to the Universe and am using such to organize all the character names, places, and jokes (mostly organizing all the small slips of paper).

It's like going to a dance and halfway through joyously shimmying around you notice numbered footprints on the floor and get that strange feeling like they're describing what you're doing spontaneously.

And naturally, that's when I begin to stumble. Sigh.

It's great encouragement to know an author whose Published and Everything(tm) also writes that way.

Steve Buchheit | October 10, 2006 01:55 PM

You know, except you're much better at it.

Cassie | October 10, 2006 04:41 PM

Azimov and his punchline puns. Now I must go find a book in the darkest, deepest reaches of my basement to fill this craving.

It's all your fault, Scalzi.

John Scalzi | October 10, 2006 04:51 PM

I know, I know.

Jacob | October 10, 2006 10:10 PM

Amazon.ca is selling it for $22.41 Canadian. Their sister site, Amazon.com, is selling it for $16.47, or $18.65 Canadian.

Gee, I wonder where I'll be buying it.

Danielle | October 10, 2006 10:56 PM

Loyally skipped spoilers and am only more convinced of my need to get my hands on a copy.

I actually have *gasp* never read any Scalzi (unless Whatever counts...) and am debating about what to start with. Android's Dream or OMW? What would you recommend?

John Scalzi | October 11, 2006 08:12 AM


I think either is fine. I think OMW is more classically SF, while Android's Dream is a bit atypical. But either I think will work just fine for you.

Steve Buchheit | October 11, 2006 08:50 AM

What's this "The Shadow Brigade" that the reviewer refers to in the last paragraphs? A misprint of "Ghost Brigades" or a long lost Scalzi novel?

And I think she could have worked one or two more sheep related metaphors or references in if she tried.

John Scalzi | October 11, 2006 10:05 AM

Ernest is a he.

Yeah, I let him know about the mis-titling of the book. Not a big deal; most people know.

Steve Buchheit | October 11, 2006 10:58 AM



"Pardon me, I have a cold"

Sorry about that, Ernest, no offense.

Smurf | October 11, 2006 10:42 PM

Ok... pay attention.

My Smurfday is this Friday. I'll be 29 again, but that isn't important.

My sister hasn't gotten me a present yet. She's still in college, and I don't want her spending more than like, say $50.

I just now figured "Why not a Scalzi book?"

I just can't figure out which one.

There are several factors at work here, insofar as making up my mind:

- Which one would you say is your best work? Also, which one would others here say is the best?

- Which book would be the best for your career to have me score?

- I don't really (ever) read Sci-Fi. Which book would sort of come with training wheels?

- Which one has the most stuff blowing up in it?

- Which one is she most likely to find at the Cape Cod Factory Outlet Mall?

Also... don't be disappointed if I log on here Saturday and say "She bought me a dress instead."

Smurf | October 11, 2006 10:44 PM

High-fives Danielle...

John Scalzi | October 11, 2006 11:25 PM


Get Old Man's War. It's in paperback, so it's both cheaper and easier to find, and it's probably the best one to get started with.

Danielle | October 12, 2006 02:11 AM

*high fives Smurf* Not really a sci-fi reader? I think you'll do just fine...

Thanks for the recommendation, Mr. Scalzi, I think I'll go with Android's Dream...comic writing is my guilty pleasure.

Anon | October 14, 2006 04:45 PM

FWIW, I believe it's Ernest Lilley, not Lilly.

Smurf | October 15, 2006 10:36 PM

LL... she got me a dress after all.

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