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on 19 October 2015
The sub-title on the beautifully-designed cover says ‘The story of a murderer’, while the inner title page describes the tale as ‘A Golden Age Story’. The acknowledgements at the end go further and say that the Golden Age referred to is both that of science and detective fiction, with the book an ingenious and original combination of both genres. If these descriptions suggest a confusion of identities that is perhaps appropriate given that the book is formed of three interlinked novellas about the titular criminal, assuming he is a criminal and not a revolutionary. It all depends on point of view, initiated if not clarified by a narrator who offers to ‘doctorwatson’ the story for us. Even this narrator’s identity is not made clear until the last page and, as with much of the book, not what one expects at all.
For example, the genteel detective stories that inspired the book seem very far away from the opening instalment, in which a group of criminals work out their sentences excavating the guts of an otherwise uninhabited asteroid in order for it to become the habitation of the very rich. This section of the book is visceral, horrific and wholly unpredictable. The point of view character becomes ‘Jac’. Is he the titular Jack? He seems very passive, possibly because he has no legs and does not seem much of a threat to anyone. The convicts’ stories and personalities become clearer as they work, but it seems hopeless; the men are trapped for the duration of their eleven-year sentence with only the technology they have been left with to keep them alive. Despite this hopelessness, which is so well described you wonder what’s going to happen in the rest of the book, Jac appears to be working towards something… The denouement is as outrageous as it is unexpected but is pure SF.
SF is often about how the impossible might become possible but ‘Jack Glass’ weaves that idea into the fabric of the story itself, especially in the second segment, ‘The FTL Murders’. In this story, a servant is murdered and the ‘detective’ is one of two sisters in a family bred to process data. There is a vein of dark humour running through the stories like black ice in the first tale’s asteroid; in ‘The FTL Murders’ this manifests as the girl’s delight at having a ‘real life’ murder to solve. If the servants are dosed up with loyalty drugs and everyone is too weak from living off-world to wield the murder weapon, how on Earth (literally) did it happen?
Gravity is an important image in the stories; its absence or presence used in a variety of inventive ways; one chapter is even called ‘Gravity or Guilt?’ while one of the cults worships black holes. Religion plays a big part in the various conspiracies, based as it is on what is believed, which of course brings us back to what is possible and what isn’t. It also takes the ‘locked room’ murder mystery scenario and enlarges it into a universal model; that if faster-than-light travel was discovered and with it the means to escape the limitations of our galaxy, so too would the capacity for destruction. That this theory is expounded in relativistic terms as if it too were the final scene of a whodunit somehow makes it even more mind-expanding. The investigation unwraps a deeper conspiracy, involving rebellion against the ruling clan, played out against evidence of the wreck of alien civilisations, which let’s be honest you don’t get with Miss Marple.
The last section is called ‘The Impossible Gun’ and investigates the death of a famous policeman. This death was recorded on a robot, thus objectively verifying the facts of the case. However, as with the previous murder the death appears to make no sense. Now it is time as well as gravity that is called into question, again phrased in weird religious terms via a chase through various habitats such as 'Red Rum 2010'. That ‘Red Rum’ is ‘murder’ spelled backwards hints that even the text itself is chronologically unreliable, despite its presence on the page and our by now intense association with it. ‘Serendipity favours the angels’ says Jack Glass but who does he mean, really? The novel suggests that laws, of belief, science, politics or whatever are determined by how they can be broken rather than enforced. The hero’s motivation, when we learn it, is a great example of this duality and a satisfying end, although perhaps not for him…
Adam Roberts has written a masterful blend of genres that for all its joyful cleverness is also hugely enjoyable. Recommended.
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on 2 February 2014
Jack Glass, notorious criminal and murderer of millions is imprisoned on a asteroid with seven other criminals. The people who have sent him there for eleven years don't know he is there, but when they find out they will be back to get him. It is a cruel, sharp and brutish place, and he must use all his guile to escape from the un escapable place.

On a small planet elsewhere, two sisters are experiencing a spell in gravity in a sealed orbital habitat owned by their hyper rich family. There are themselves, and few personal staff, and 20 or so servants. Normal life is interrupted following the murder of one of the servants, and one of the sisters, Diana, takes over the investigation from the police allocated to the investigation. as she progresses thing are not what they seem, and the murder is a prompt to discover some of the greater questions and threats to the family.

I have read a couple of his before, the last one read I thought was not great at all so I wasn't looking forward to this much. I thought that it was an original story line, a bit gruesome and brutal at the beginning. I liked the way that the story unwrapped in layers, so you were never sure just what to expect next.

The characters were interesting, Jack Glass in particular as he was innovative and single minded. I couldn't warm to the two sisters, they came across as arrogant, and self interested, but that may have been the idea. The worlds that he has created didn't come across as fully plausible, but the integrated tech did. Overall ok, not are I would read another by him just yet.
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on 2 January 2016
I suppose the word that comes to mind first when you think of Adam Roberts is "clever", as befits, after all, a Professor of English Literature. The trouble with Roberts is that in some of his books cleverness seems to become an objective in itself. This was especially the case with "Yellow Blue Tibia", where Roberts's fondness for pastiche eventually got out of control and resulted in a novel that was practically nothing else but pastiche.
So it's nice to be able to record that "Jack Glass", whilst an acknowledged pastiche of both Golden Age detective stories and Golden Age SF is actually a rattling good novel, with a highly ingenious plot and interesting characters. Indeed, "ingenious" isn't quite adequate as a word to describe the three interlinked novellas, especially the first, in which Jack somehow escapes from an isolated prison asteroid with no spacesuit and no means of propulsion. And the solution to the final murder mystery turns out to be based on that old SF warhorse, an FTL drive, but here used in an entirely unexpected way. A success therefore both as a pastiche and in its own terms as well.
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on 16 March 2016
First Impression of the Book: This book should really be called the legends of Jack Glass as though he is in this book throughout, he is not properly fleshed out as the story makes way for other characters. I really enjoyed the science fiction elements of this book, they were top notch but the detective aspects were very average for me, not bad just ok. AR is a talented SF writer and i really look forward to all his other books.

Summary of the Book (Spoilers/:D):

This is the (partial) story of Jack Glass or Iago (his name for most of this story). AR introduces this story as a three part story, a prison break, a 'whodunnit' and a locked room mystery. This is exactly what you get, three separate events intertwined by science story writing at its best.

The prison break part of this story sets a particular scene, for both the main character/story and for AR's writing style. The first 100 pages follows a prisoner named 'Jac' who is sent to an asteroid out in our solar system to serve his sentence with six fellow prisoners. Their job during this sentence is to mine the surface of the asteroid for a big merchant company, during the planning of this task a hierarchy forms of which 'Jac' and a fellow prisoner called 'Gordius' are at the bottom.

Though 'Jac' has to face the difficulties of being trapped with other hardened criminals he still manages to put together a plan and escape his prison and vanish. The events on this asteroid set a certain scene for this novel that dissipates quite quickly as AR quickly moves on to the second story in this novel.

The next chunk of the story is set on a future earth and focuses on a young lady in her mid teens. Diana is the daughter of the leaders of clan 'Argent' one of five royal clans that rule the solar system. Diana and her sister Eva are sent to earth and during this stay Diana is put to work to solve a murder mystery that had taken place in the servants quarters.

This part of the story is largely forgettable and really is used to set in place other story elements that will come into play later on in the 3rd part of this book. As Diana's theories come together on who had killed the servant and how; the sisters are chased from their home the Ulanov's the highest power in the solar system. The sisters are separated and Diana is sent on the run with Iago who by this point is revealed to be the infamous 'Jack Glass'.

Jack reveals that the Ulanovs are searching for FTL technology (Faster-than-light) that his friend had created but in a crisis of conscience hid from everyone as he believed it would bring about the end of their world. This is part of the story where the science fiction writing is superb and I really got stuck in to the story.

The final adventure in this story is a locked room mystery, and a great one too!!

The light version is that Jack, Diana and five others are in a room with one exit, no one is armed and no one intends to hurt each other due to an agreement to surrender, but the arresting officer ends up vaporised and no one in the room knows what happened. It is a great addition to the story and the only downside of it really is that it highlights a great relationship between Jack Glass and Bar Le Duc. I enjoyed this relationship and I wished there was more of it.

AR is honest in the 'Acknowledgements' section of this book, where he says its more of a detective novel than a science fiction piece. This is a shame because AR is such an enjoyable SF writer and I was left wanting more, but that is just me and other people may find it was just enough.

An enjoyable science fiction/detective story which skimps out on the former but maybe that is me being greedy, I haven't gone into the SF elements that are apparent in this story to much as they are best explained in the context of the story.

Please check this out!!

I can't wait to check out AR's other material :D


If you read this and enjoyed the review, there are many more reviews on my blog and in the days to come so please check out my Blog, [...] and im on TWITTER!! @AlwTrustInBooks
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on 19 December 2013
Interesting: yes.

Well written: very.

Thought provoking: somewhat.

Inventive: exceptionally.

I only felt let down by the ending of the first story of three (althougth, really, the three tales do follow a linear narrative), which was ridiculously unbelieveable, but very creative.

My only other criticism: why did Diana not question Jack Glass on his escape method from prison? Wholly out of character, Adam.

Buy it. Read it.
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on 24 September 2012
The book cover looks amazing and apart from the rocket ships, could be mistaken for non-genre literature. The three quotes on the back all mention the word "literary". So it makes me smile to think of a reader picking up this book expecting Ian McEwan (mentioned on the reverse), and discovering (and hopefully falling in love with) this political, techno, 100% pure science fiction novel. The inside jacket gets it right "From a tiny asteroid in the far reaches of space, 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." Get in! The book is split into three stories. The first is a very melancholic and dark prison tale, full of despair and horror. This acts as an introduction to the main story and longer middle section. This second story uses a common cyberpunk theme of warring multinational corporations and heirs amongst numerous others. The third and final section deals with the war aftermath and revolutionary activity against these vicious capitalist "clans". Funny, serious, exciting and thought provoking. The prose throughout is a joy to read.
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on 29 September 2015
Wasn't sure what to expect, i think i half anticipated something like an existentialist set of stories akin along vaguely similar lines to Paul auster's new York trilogy.
It's not.
It's a fine space romp with some novel ideas and some genuinely fantastic prose.
It ends a little abruptly, feeling like a couple of twists were thrown in there just to force the ending but I've read worse.
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on 25 September 2015
This is a wonderfully frolicking tale. The story starts with the end - Jack Glass has escaped from an impossible prison but we don't know how or why it was necessary. Then it jumps to the beginning and tracks his story. This is interspersed with tales of the escape - but his preparations seem odd and pointless. But it all works out in a lovely surprising way in the end. You'll enjoy this.
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on 15 June 2013
After two lacklustre near future novels this far future novel, which plays with the toys of the murder mystery genre, is a cracking return to form for this author.

A few centuries hence, the solar system has become a large slum, in which trillions live in bubble homes floating in space, subsisting on basic food grown from hydroponics and recycled water. Above the masses are the police/gangsters and above them are the Clan Families. And pre-emminent among the Clan Families are the Ulanovs, the source of all power. Not surprisingly, there are those in the 'Sump', the bubble-dwellers, who want to change this despotic system.

The story focuses on the two scions of the Argent Family, Diana and Eva, the former gene-engineered for intuition, the latter for logical reasoning. Eva is working on her seventh PhD, which is on "champagne supernovas", a very rare type of supernova which appear for no discernable reason. And there is a rumuour that someone has invented an FTL drive. If this is true it then it could either free mankind to roam the stars or give the stars to the Ulanovs, or another of the Families...

I think I have said enough as I do not want to give away anything that might ruin the impact of the three crime/whodununit-puzzles herein. I have not said anything about the title character but he is declared a murderer right at start so this snippet is giving nothing away. I found this novel hard to put down, as it fires on all cylinders in its rich blend of genre fictions. If you have not read anything yet by this author yet, try this novel.
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on 31 March 2014
The book is clever with three stories with very different plot lines and 'feel' to them. Only in the final section are the three brought together.

Also included are some genuinely thoughtful concepts reminiscent of the SF greats of the 50s & 60s.
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