Thursday, May 30, 2013

Book Review - Jack Glass (JS)

Jack Glass by Adam Roberts

Review by Jacqui Slaney

As I have mentioned in previous reviews, I do have a soft spot for Science Fiction, in fact I spent many a happy hour reading Philip, K Dick, James Blish, Asimov and Robert Heinlein over the years so when I saw this book while book browsing I could not resist. This is the description:

Jack Glass is the murderer. That, at least is quite transparent. He has sliced a lethal swathe through known space. He is without pity or scruple. He is a killer. Were the authorities ever to discover that it was Jack Glass that they had captured and detained on a remote prison asteroid they would return and kill him immediately. And they will discover it. The murderer will have to escape. And that is, of course, quite impossible. From a tiny asteroid in the far reaches of pace, to a comfortable country house, to a sealed orbital habitat, Adam Roberts takes us on a spellbinding journey through a future that challenges all our notions of crime, punishment, power and freedom.

We know whodunnit. Now we must learn how and why.

Now I have always liked whodunnit stories, but knowing who the murderer was always put me off things such as Columbo, as half the fun, is seeing if you could work out the solution before the end. So I was a little dubious about this book at the start, but I need not have been concerned, as knowing the murderers name in this book does not distract from your enjoyment.

There are three stories in the book with obviously the same protagonist, though part three is really just a continuation of part two, and the whole tale is told by a narrator who describes themselves as a self appointed Dr Watson who Glass has told his story too.

There is some great writing here and the characters are all quite unique, especially Jack Glass. Its strange to have a murderer as a sympathetic character, but you do end up liking him.

Obviously there is violence in this book, especially the first story set on a small asteroid.This is not crudely done, though I will admit some of it did make me wince a little. Strangely, though this was the most bloody tale, I think it is one of the best parts of the book, it is fast paced and engrossing, the characters involved are not attractive and their ends less so, but it really holds your attention.

Then you get to the second part which is more a whodunnit style tale. The main characters are two teenage girls Eva and Diana, being trained to take over the running of their powerful clan. Then the whole thing slows down and I can understand why some people struggled to finish the book.

The world in which they live is well described, and you get an idea of how the future society works as you learn that servants are dosed with drugs to ensure their complete love and loyalty to the ruling classes who jostle amongst themselves for power. The writing is slower but it is well done there is a good nasty character in that of Ms Joad, an agent for the top ruling class.

The third installment sees the same characters as this is a continuation from part two with Jack Glass here actually being the saviour of one of the girls. In this final part, you get some insight into Jacks character, but to be honest, I would have liked some more detail. Things were left vague and I thought the ending as a whole could have been stronger as in my opinon it was too abrupt. There is talk about a revolution to overthrow the tyranny of the ruling class system and to improve the lives of millions, but a mention is all there is, it feels like there could have been a sequel, but nothing it seems was done about it.

This is the first Adam Roberts book I have read, and despite a little disappointment in this one, I will definitely read more. Please dont let my slightly negative review put you off trying this book though, it’s worth a read just for the great main character.

7out of 10