Scan 3So, I asked and was pleased to receive Jack Glass as a Christmas present and it was always going to be my first proper read for 2013. I will admit that there were two big attractions for me: (1) the astonishingly lovely cover which you can see alongside and really caught my eye and (2) and the subtitle “the story of a murderer” which is intriguing for a sic-fi novel. It was also the first time I had read anything by Adam Roberts and it’s no spoiler to say that I’m going to be looking for more of his stuff.

The novel starts with a bit of scene setting by someone who is identifying themselves as a Doctor Watson figure and tells us what we need to know about what we are going to read, which includes the following:

A quantity of blood is spilled in this story, I’m sorry to say; and a good many people die; and there is some politics too. There is danger and fear. Accordingly I have told his tale in the form of a murder mystery; or to be more precise (and at all costs we must be precise) three, connected murder mysteries.

And so we are presented with a prison story, a regular murder whodunit and a classic locked-room mystery. In a properly sci-fi setting with lots of technical stuff which I always love. So this looked like it was going to be a real treat and I am very pleased to say that I wasn’t at all disappointed and read it in two sittings. All of the stories are equally fascinating but its worth noting that the first one, set on a prison asteroid where seven men have been sentenced for eleven years to mine the thing so that it can be turned into a luxury dwelling of the mini-planet style at the end of that period, so they have to cooperate to survive, is fairly brutal and grim and quite astonishing in its ending and the effects ripple into the rest of the book. That’s not to say that the other two stories are not as good, as they most certainly are, but they are more traditional and less gorily violent (well I thought so at least).

As always I don’t want to say too much about the plot because the fun is in discovering whats seems to be going on as things unfold, but Jack is a compelling character, much more complex than the set up might lead you to believe. And I developed a bit of a girly crush on Diana, one of the other key characters who is a rather privileged fifteen-about-to-turn-sixteen year old faced with some significant events. The world-building is also excellent but never force-fed so you begin to understand the political and other structures as the story unfolds rather than huge chunks of exposition.

13sfexp2001I really recommend this one, loved it, and it proved an excellent read for the 2013 Sci-fi Experience.

Couple of small things:

  • the opening section identifies the murderer(s) but I totally forgot by the time I got to the last story particularly, so it was a bit of a revelation and I felt like a total idiot when I realised I should have known;
  • the author’s drive for writing this was to bring together some of the conventions of Golden Age sci-fi and detective fiction (which I think he has achieved admirably); and
  • a Champagne Supernova is a real thing that astrophysicists are pondering, named after the Oasis song (which is a favourite) and made me giggle