Monday 30 September 2013

Red Planet Blues - Robert J. Sawyer

Title: Red Planet Blues
Author: Robert J. Sawyer
Genre: Mystery/Sci-Fi
Published: 2013
Formats: Hardback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

“Red Planet Blues” by Robert Sawyer is slightly different from the more Space Opera styled Science Fiction novels I normally read. The book is an interesting take of the 1940’s era pulp noir detective novel set that has been expanded from his earlier short story entitled “Identify Theft”. It tells the story of a PI named Alex Lomax working on a frontier gold rush styled town on Mars. When Lomax gets involved in a missing android case he can’t anticipate the adventure he is going to embark upon which leads him to unravel a decades old mystery surrounding the location of a mother lode of valuable Martian fossils.

In terms of the story, it was a fun read and the world that Lomax has created was particularly interesting with its gritty, dark feeling and a subtle sense of desperation. It is very soft on the Science Fiction side of things which I think works well alongside the novel’s pulpy feel. Despite this softness, Sawyer does still try and tackle some interesting issues such as souls and how they are affected by the transfer of people’s consciousness into android bodies was nice to see although it isn’t really an original concept.

There are a couple of weak points in the novel, the first of which is linked to the structuring of the plot. The novel feels like a collection of three individual short stories the author has tried to shoehorn together rather than being a well-structured overall story. In addition these three elements all felt very similar, Lomax would investigate a little before initiating some form of action packed chase and stand-off. I would have appreciated seeing a little bit more thought and development being evoked which may have helped avoid the repetitive feeling.

The biggest let down though is in regards to the characters, Sawyer has created an interesting range and he tried to show them in shades of grey rather than being black and white but I just felt that the development was lacking. Too many of them came across as being two-dimensional meaning the chance to really capture them in an interesting and entertaining manner was lost. This just meant that in the end the only character I found myself caring about was an android named Rory-who was endearing despite being somewhat of a stereotype.

Overall, despite the hackneyed plot, repetitive structure and two-dimensional characters I did actually enjoy the story. It was easy to read, fun and I appreciated the pulpy noir style which is something I am not used to reading. Perhaps, if I had read multiple noir detective novels it wouldn’t have had held the same interest but if you are looking for something a bit softer on the Science Fiction front alongside seeing this noir detective style for yourself then you may as well give it a go.


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