Red Planet Blues

by Robert J. Sawyer

Narrator Alex Lomax, the only private eye on Mars, tracks guilty among failed prospectors, corrupt cops, and rich transfers who upload their minds into immortal android bodies. Clues and a journal lead to murders of Simon Weingarten and Denny O'Reilly, founders of the Great Martian Fossil Rush, and their treasure. Expanded "Identity Theft".


I really, really wanted to like this book. The premise was intriguing and the idea of combining an old-school detective story with sci-fi sounded like fun. Sadly, I was reminded why it is I don't read much sci-fi. There were a few laughs, but not enough to keep my interest. By the end, I felt as if I had just wasted a week. A very disappointing effort from an award-winning novelist. I was expecting a lot more.

What I liked:
- The humour was terrific in places, helped by the laconic drawl of the narrator who captured the mood perfectly. I laughed out loud a couple of times.
- The premise intrigued me, which is why I bought the book.

What I didn't like:
- The writing was generally good, but the author almost exclusively resorted to swearing to depict emotion. Anger and frustration were shown by a swear or blaspheme. This started to annoy me after a while because this doesn't work. The author might as well have a character say: "I'm really upset right now. Feel empathy for me."
- There was almost no pacing at all. It was like being on a roller coaster that only goes downhill. The initial excitement was soon replaced by a sense of tedium.
- The characters were not drawn out enough. Too many names were thrown about and I soon lost track because there was no attention to detail. All the women were supermodel clones. While this stays true to the P.I. theme, it soon lost its humorous impact and became dull.
- There was no tension in the action scenes. It was like listening to a series of stage instructions. "He moved to the piano. She fell to the floor. The blonde reached for the gun and took aim...." I lost interest.
- A major problem for me was the handling of "transfers" which gives people a perfect body and virtual immortality. This is described as being little more than an advantage for fossil-hunting!! The author missed the mark here. This is a major plot point treated as an aside. If he wanted to incorporate something as desirable as immortality, he should have included some serious disadvantages, otherwise it just does not ring true.

I was very disappointed. Judging from the other reviews, most people really like this book. I just didn't enjoy it at all. Some of the jokes were great, but the book as whole did not work for me.