Eric Brown: Penumbra

An interesting combination of space-romp and detective story set all across the galaxy.

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JPOC Rating

Five out of ten.

Here's hoping that the author's next novel will display more of his obvious strengths and fix the weak points.

My review

This story is constructed in three quite distinct but interwoven parts.

The first, which is an SF plot in the classic style, has a space ship captain pulled out of a dead end job and given a mission to pilot a ship to an uncharted part of the galaxy. His passenger is a rich eccentric with a strange reason for the journey. This then develops into an entertaining space-romp.

The second part, is a more down to earth scenario and sees a female cop on the trail of a serial killer. If the first part was classic space-romp, this is classic pulp detective stuff. However, while the first thread was an entertaining read, this section is pretty lifeless being devoid of suspense and it seems, ultimately existing more to tie of loose ends in the rest off the book than to add anything of its own.

The final part is the ending which attempts to draw everything together, answer all of the outstanding questions and provide a conclusion in about one fifth of the pages that are needed to do so. The result is that the conclusion of the book is unconvincing and unsatisfying.

Eric Brown is a master of the SF short story but the problem here is that, towards the end, he has forgotten that he is writing a novel and switched back into the wrong mode of writing.

I also got the feeling that, before writing this book, the author had just read the first part of Peter Hamiltons "Night's Dawn" trilogy and though "I could do that." This is of course reinforced by the title of the book which used a word which is a) liberally scatteed through Hamilton's monster trilogy and b) uncommon in English fiction.

With a more carefully constructed ending and a strengthened detective thread, this could have been a much better book. It is a shame that nobody in the publishing house pointed that out to the author.