Saturday, January 04, 2014

Jack Glass

Well, finally something that didn't wander all over unnecessarily.  The one-star reviews at Amazon say there's no action in Adam Robert's Jack Glass and it gets boring, but I disagree.  Some very clever ideas some involved and convoluted political ruminations on a solar system ruled by a combination bureaucracy and royal family, and not all scifi is headlong action and running around.  Space is a big place - when you think about it, it should take longer for things to develop than in Lord of the Rings, and it was definitely faster than most Tolkien.  And the idea that faster than light travel enabled by modifying the value of c (e=mc^2 and all) could be used to destroy a sun by idiots...particularly believable.

Despite the pretty, stained-glass cover, Jack Glass is about a murderer.  The book is written in three parts.  The first a straight up "how to escape a locked cell" story that surprised me in a Use of Weapons sort of way.  The second a sort of play/who-dunnit on the order of Agatha Christie, complete with list of characters at the start of the section.  The third a locked-room mystery made tricky by the idea of faster than light capabilities.  The third part did start to wander a bit and I wasn't as happy with the ending as I'd hoped.  I'm not sure if he's planning a sequel, or if he's just capturing the idea that not all stories have nice tidy endings and the point isn't the space opera, but the character interactions and the nature of the mystery stories.

I liked the quote, "they believed that economics preserved the special place for humankind at the universe's heart," after a discussion about how humankind had incrementally lost their ability to believe they were the center of the universe, how they'd sought to repeatedly recapture it, and how, in the end, it came down to a matter of us being the opposite of particularly important.  Humans, or flesh, is the cheapest commoedity in the universe.  I also liked, "Because pulling the trigger is the end of the process of firing an FTL pistol, not the beginning."  That's a confusing idea, and played with to good effect in the locked-room mystery of the last section when Iago and Diana (and Sapho) try to determine how a policeman blew up without an obvious shooter.

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