Sunday, June 12, 2011

Kiss Me Twice

Novella by Mary Robinette Kowal

A science fiction mystery/thriller, but so much better written than I've unfortunately come to expect from that genre combination. The science fiction is important. Not just vaguely justified enough to be a Kristine Kathryn Rusch mystery, but actually integral to the plot. Two separate crimes rely on the science fictional technology of this world, and it's also key to the action climax. These events simply could not play out without AIs and a central computer coordinating surveillance cameras and databases for the police.

And actual SF social/political issues are addressed! Is it dangerous how much the police have come to rely on technology to do so much of their work for them? How might AI civil rights play out, given the types of jobs we'd invent AIs to handle? What are the dangers of big, centralized police databases? These aren't all heavy themes of the novella, but they are all addressed, and one of them is a rather big deal.

And Kowal writes a much more enthralling mystery/thriller than I've become used to. Her novella is filled with big, perspective altering plot twists. The whole case changes direction a few times, and the feel of this structure reminds me much more of the noir detective stories it invokes, rather than the standard mystery novel. I also get the feeling I associate with Philip K. Dick novels, like the floor just dropped out from under me. Kowal isn't weird enough to truly remind me of Dick's writing, but the plot twists hit me almost as hard. This twistiness is impressive, I'd love to see more SF mysteries from Kowal, rather than the fantasy she seems to be focussing on (not that it isn't good fantasy).

The Mae West references flow fast and furious, but actually tie into the plot, rather than just being flavor, as I worried at first. Although they are mostly flavor. I also like that one minor character is referred to only as "the thin man" a few times. Anyway, this is well worth the large number of pages it takes up, and I hope to see more novellas like this, rather than the usual long, boring murder mysteries where the SF is incidental and the author doesn't play fair with the reader. Throughout, we know as much as Huang does, and can sometimes beat him to a conclusion. This is fun. Read it.

4 Mae West quotes out of 5.

No comments: