Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Red Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer

 I'm not sure exactly how to describe this story by Sawyer. It has its shady origins in a hard-boiled detective novel, but veers off into some uncharted territory towards the middle, and turns into a near French farce by the end. Private investigator on Mars, Alex Lomax, is hired to find a missing husband, and stumbles into something a bit more sinister - a murder dressed up as a suicide. That is, if you can call terminating an artificial brain and body onto which you have imprinted the consciousness of a formerly live human being murder.

It seems to me that the murder takes place when the original human body is terminated, and the transfer takes over its life. Being a transfer is very handy on Mars, where the climate is extremely inhospitable for normal biological humans, and where, for a decade or two, there has been a "gold rush" on Martian fossils. Just finding one can make you rich, finding a whole trove of them can make you wealthy beyond your wildest dreams. The whole issue of determining whether a transfer is legally the same person as the body they left behind has already been settled by case precedent at the time of Sawyer's story, but Lomax has his doubts upon occasion, as should we. When is a human being not a human being?

There's a little bit of a Mad Mad Mad Mad World flavor to this thing, when it seems as if everyone and his brother, from the topless waitress Alex has a thing with to the second in command at the local PD, as well as geologists, poets and heiresses, is trying to find the mother lode of all fossils, which has eluded prospectors for so long. There's really no honor among thieves, and Lomax has a devil of a time sorting it all out.

The novel was built around an earlier novella, and I think, honestly, that it was better in the short form. The keystone antics of the full length plot weren't really all that entertaining. He should have left well enough alone, but perhaps he felt he had more to say on the subject.

1 comment:

Bob Milne said...

Hmm, I have yet to come across anybody who loved the book, but I still want to read it. The whole "gold rush" on Martian fossils just intrigues me to no end. :)