I had been meaning to read more from John Scalzi ever since picking up Redshirts and Human Division a couple of years ago and thoroughly enjoying them. He’s also a fellow (albeit significantly more popular) WordPress blogger whose updates on things like new books, politics, and pictures of his cats make slow mornings at work all the more bearable. Imagine then my surprise that while scrolling through my library’s listing of ebooks on the heels (hoofs?) of finishing Wild Sheep Chase I came across a book he wrote involving sheep. It seemed too good a coincidence to pass up.
Set at an unspecified point in Earth’s future, humanity has joined an interstellar alliance known as the Common Confederation. As relative newcomers, Earth is still in a probationary period and nominally under the protection of another lesser power, the Nidu. Not everyone within the Earth government is happy with the terms of this arrangement, however, and when an elaborate prank meant to sabotage a trade meeting leaves both target and perpetrator dead, a crisis erupts. On the verge of a war it cannot win, the Earth’s only hope for peace is to provide the Nidu ruling family with a living sheep from a rare and endangered genetically modified strain called Android’s Dream. Tasked with this mission is State Department employee Harry Creek; former child prodigy, disillusioned war veteran, and, most recently, professional bearer of bad news. What follows is his wild, humorous, and occasionally violent race through a convoluted web of interdepartmental warfare and alien politics to find the sheep that will save humanity.
Despite the homage to Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and my own tie-ins to Haruki Murakami’s Wild Sheep Chase, this novel was decidedly different than either of these other works. Fast paced, light-hearted, and full of humor, I found the story incredibly fun and a nice change of pace after the more serious books I’ve been reading lately. From the zany antics of the first chapter to a steady stream of more nuanced wit and cynicism about politics and religion, I had a smile on my face the entire time I was reading this. My favorite part of the story was easily the Church of the Evolved Lamb. Premised as the only organized religion officially recognized as originating from outright fraud, the church got its start when a con artist tried to dupe an affluent elderly woman out of her fortune. Not fooled by his plan and deciding to have a little fun, she agreed to donate money provided he complete a progressively arduous series of tasks, ranging from the creation of large volumes of prophecy and scripture to complex building projects. With practitioners split between those who believe it inadvertently stumbled across something truly holy and those who take joy in the prospect of delivering upon its promises entirely through human agency, the organization certainly made quite an impression.
I would recommend this book to any readers with a healthy sense of humor. It definitely reinforced my desire to read more from this author.