Friday, 18 October 2013

Book Review : Red Planet Blues / Robert J. Sawyer

(Read from April 29-30, 2013)

There was a period in my life where I spent a lot of time enjoying Humphrey Bogart movies—The Sierra Madre, The Maltese Falcon and Casa Blanca. Those were my salad days and I have fond memories of those years. Perhaps that’s why this book by Rob Sawyer appealed to me so much—it revived some of those old feelings. I loved this mash-up of the hardboiled detective and the science fiction genres (The Maltese Falcon meets Ray Bradbury). Plus I have always been a palaeontology fan, so it was enjoyable to have that science thrown into the mix.

I haven’t read many of Sawyer’s books (only four) and so far, this is the one which I have enjoyed the most. I was delighted that I recognized many of the references to other works of science fiction (of which there are many)—and particularly loved the name of one of the Martian fossils, Bradburia.

I’ve heard Sawyer speak—the man has an awesome grasp of many scientific subjects and must have a phenomenal memory. I’m willing to bet that when he was a child, many of the adults around him probably shook their heads and muttered phrases like “Too smart for his own good.” By which they generally mean that the child’s social development is lagging behind its intellectual development. I’ve found his characters in other books to be a bit hollow—their emotions not really ringing true (rather like Arthur C. Clarke in that regard). This is not to say that Sawyer isn’t a fabulous writer—just that intellect, rather than emotion, runs his stories. In the hardboiled genre, stereotypes work exceptionally well and as a result, this tendency towards intellectualism works. To my way of thinking, there are also flavours of Heinlein, especially regarding sexual matters.

So the shade of Humphrey Bogart stirred my emotions during the reading of this novel and the plot appealed to my intellect—resulting in an extremely enjoyable read. A tip of my invisible hat to Mr. Sawyer.