Raymond Chandler meets Astounding in this pulpy, hard-boiled detective pastiche, the first of a trilogy by the author of The Empire State and The Spider Wars series (The Machine Awakes, 2015, etc.).
In 1965, Raymond Electromatic is the world’s last remaining robot. He and a powerful artificial intelligence, Ada, used to run a private detective agency in Los Angeles. That was before Ada, who apparently was “programmed for profit,” figured out they’d make much more money using Raymond as a hit man. (Although the author explains that Ada and Raymond’s creator, the late Professor Thornton, intended his creations to be financially independent, we never learn what benefit they would actually gain from the money. What use would they even have for money—to pay the power bills, possibly?) Their latest client, film actress Eva McLuckie, hires Raymond to kill missing actor Charles David. Intending to kill both his target and his client, the robot follows their trail to find Russian spies conducting secret and highly radioactive research underneath an exclusive nightclub. His struggle to comprehend the plot is made more difficult by his memory limitations: every 24 hours, his magnetic tape runs out and he must replace it with a blank one. Christopher’s afterword explains that this novel is both a carefully researched homage to Chandler and a response to Chandler’s ridicule of science fiction. The result certainly borders on the ridiculous, and it’s more parody than homage. While it nods at noir, it lacks that genre’s bleakness, which may be intentional. None of the characters, biological or constructed, are all that sympathetic—we feel for Raymond, victim of technologically induced amnesia and Ada’s manipulations, but his programmed indifference to murder is…uncomfortable—and the villains are cartoonish.
A small idea stretched until it snaps.
Even though this book is an idea that is definitely being stretched until it breaks with cartoonish villains and a former killer robot turn would be detective it turns out that this story is actually really enjoyable is the perfect marriage of classic science fiction and hard-boiled detective noir, with plenty of twists and turns and backstabbing and everything else you would expect from a hard-nosed private eye. This book is definitely worth the space on your bookshelf or Kindle, particularly if you’re a science fiction fan looking for something. Just a little bit different than what has been wrong on offer on bookstore shelves lately. And if you’re detective fan then this book will definitely open up your eyes to some mail and exciting possibilities of what a great detective can be. This is one of those books that would be perfect, curled up in your favorite easy chair on a dark and stormy night with a cup of tea or hot chocolate is definitely worth the space on your bookshelf or Kindle, as you will most certainly not be disappointed.
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