Discovering Scalzi (or not)

I’m not about to start doing book reviews here on a regular basis–especially because I’m back to reading a book a week (most weeks), but they’re a somewhat random lot and mostly not all that recent. (“Somewhat random”: I usually borrow one mainstream fiction book that looks interesting, one book that alternates between mystery and science fiction–that is, either a mystery or a science fiction book–and one nonfiction book that looks interesting.)


I know of John Scalzi. I’ve been reading his blog, Whatever, for a while now (it’s been around for a long time, but I only discovered it in 2006). I know he’s a science fiction writer.

But I’m so far behind on novel-length science fiction that I’ll never catch up. I read the “big three” science fiction magazines (in scare quotes because none of them has enough circulation any more to be considered big in any traditional sense), usually 2-3 months behind. That means I’m aware of many, maybe most, recent short-fiction writers–but less aware of those who focus on novels.

In Scalzi’s case, it’s a little different: He writes short fiction, but he doesn’t submit his work to the big three, apparently, because they won’t accept electronic submissions. (He’s written about this, and the whole thing is somewhat hilarious. Let’s just say that the big three don’t exactly pay so well that they can dictate terms–and, this year, they don’t even dominate the major award nominations.)

So I’ve been aware of his voice as a nonfiction writer, but not really as a fiction writer.

The third book I picked up last time I was at Livermore Public was Scalzi’s The Android’s Dream.

I will definitely be reading more Scalzi, and assume that most of the novels will be more serious than this one. (If they’re funnier, I’m in trouble–I was laughing out loud fairly frequently, something I rarely do when reading a book.)

I won’t even attempt to summarize the book, or tout its merits. You might or might not find it to your liking. If you love Scalzi’s serious military SF…well, this book does involve military issues, and it is science fiction, but serious? Not so much.

I pick up two lessons here, actually, and they’re both for me:

  • Sometimes a good blog can lead to good books. I don’t know that I would have picked this up if I hadn’t been reading Whatever.
  • I don’t read Amazon reviews until after I’ve read the book–just as I don’t read IMDB reviews until after I’ve seen the movie. This book renews my conviction that, for me at least, this is the right course of action. (Not because it got generally negative reviews; the reverse is true, actually.)

I’m pretty nearly certain that this book isn’t the start of a series. That’s probably a good thing. While humorous science fiction/fantasy series can work (see Discworld), they can also turn into rote exercises fairly quickly. My sense is that Scalzi isn’t interested in churning it out or being pigeonholed–also a good thing.

3 Responses to “Discovering Scalzi (or not)”

  1. Ruth Ellen says:

    The High Castle, which has not yet been published, is a follow up to Android’s Dream.

  2. Angel says:

    _Old Man’s War_ was the novel that introduced me to Scalzi. I enjoyed it, and I agreed with reviewers who said it was like reading Heinlein at his best. I read the _Ghost Brigades_, the follow up to OMW, liked it ok mostly because it expanded on the GB idea from OMW, but not as good as the first one. I have not followed the two novels that came after. I was sort of blah with GB to risk another disappointment. I do follow his blog though, and once in a while find some good reading ideas there (and he is a pretty good blogger overall).

    Best, and keep on blogging.

  3. walt says:

    I deliberately avoided OMW as a first encounter with Scalzi, but might try it later. “Heinlein at his best” is one of those statements that can be taken any number of ways, not all of them terribly encouraging…