THE SPARE MAN by Mary Robinette Kowal

THE SPARE MAN by Mary Robinette Kowal

Thursday, Aug 10, 2023

Review by Abe Ziesing

Cornball version of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, in space.

An uber-rich and over-sentimental newlywed couple take a honeymoon cruise to Mars and get caught up in a series of 'mysterious' murders. Fortunately for them, their little West Highland White Terrier is onboard to keep them safe. Highlights include knitting, conversations with their annoying lawyer, as well as interactions with the dull security crew and other super wealthy passengers. Weak and obvious misdirects do little to keep this story a mystery for long. That said, it's got more going for it as a mystery than it does as a work of science fiction.

Annoying redundancy is a theme throughout, whether it be the sickeningly sweet displays of newlywed mush, the cutesy baby-talk that the characters use with the dog, or the unoriginal SF gimmicks. Kowal reminds us over and over that people can have an implant that deadens pain, to the point that I felt that I needed one just to finish reading her book. I found the afterword, titled "About the Science" laughable, as "the science" in THE SPARE MAN is pillow soft.

DNF was not an option for me, as this is - due to author popularity, not quality of work - a Hugo Award nominee for best novel, and I intend to vote. Easily the worst of this year's nominees.