November 23, 2011

The Android's Dream and Rummikub: Book & Board Game Match-Up

The Book (by John Scalzi): A human diplomat creates an interstellar incident when he kills an alien diplomat in a most…unusual…way. To avoid war, Earth's government must find an equally unusual object: A type of sheep ("The Android's Dream"), used in the alien race's coronation ceremony.

To find the sheep, the government turns to Harry Creek, ex-cop, war hero and hacker extraordinaire, who with the help of Brian Javna, a childhood friend turned artificial intelligence, scours the earth looking for the rare creature. And they find it, in the unknowing form of Robin Baker, pet store owner, whose genes contain traces of the sheep DNA.

But there are others with plans for the sheep as well: Mercenaries employed by the military. Adherents of a secret religion based on the writings of a 21st century science fiction author. And alien races, eager to start a revolution on their home world and a war on Earth.

To keep our planet from being enslaved, Harry will have to pull off the greatest diplomatic coup in history, a grand gambit that will take him from the halls of power to the lava-strewn battlefields of alien worlds. There's only one chance to get it right, to save the life of Robin Baker -- and to protect the future of humanity. --Amazon Book Description

The Game (published by numerous companies): Rummikub is played with a set of 106 elegant tiles that are as durable as they are easy to handle. Like Rummy, players build melds of run of the same colors - Red 7, Red 8 and Red 9 - or sets of the same numbers - Blue 8, Red 8 and Black 8. If you're looking for a fast action game where the outcome is undecided until the last play and has a never-ending variety of strategies and play situations, you'll love Rummikub! --Amazon Product Description 

The book starts with the line: "Dirk Moeller didn’t know if he could fart his way into a major diplomatic incident. But he was ready to find out."

Anyone who's not laughing has probably already clicked away.  We'll continue.  The book reads like a spy thriller, with delightfully wry prose pulling us through twists in politics and gunshots.  Of course, there's also abundant science fiction -- both innovative tidbits and imaginative play with the genre's history.  Along with fascinating alien cultures.  What I loved about this book was the reversals.  At one moment, the good guys were impossibly stuck, then a lawyer or an AI does something clever.  The bad guys retaliate by turning their sucess into a trap, and so on.  The novel reads like a gigantic, ever-changing puzzle.

And "ever-changing puzzle" fits Rummikub perfectly.  The rules are simple, but one tile can devastatingly change future moves.  The sets are held in common and can be reorganized in any way, so long as all sets are legal when a player's turn ends.  Usually playing a tile isn't as easy as adding it to the end of a run.  Today, I only won a game because I saw a move rearranging some twenty pieces.  I imagine most people reading this blog have played Rummikub, so I'll be short, but it's that brain-twisting puzzle-piecing that matches these two.  In The Android's Dream, the final play is a delightfully ingenious one I didn't see coming.

As a side note, the content in this book is a notch up from what I usually blog about -- a good fistful of swearing, plus some things that are mentioned in exposition, but not dramatized.  I don't want to give spoilers, but if you'd like more detail, feel free to contact me.


  1. Bah! Now I need to buy this book...

  2. Hey! I just read your story in Leading Edge--good stuff! And, "Canvas" was dark, in a great way. I hope to check back here and see new stories under the publication page, so I can read more of your work in the future. :)

  3. Thanks, Devin! I'm hoping I have more under the publication page soon, too.