#SciFiMonth Book Review: Red Noise by John P. Murphy
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Angry Robot (June 9, 2020)
Length: 440 pages
Author Information: Website
I have a weakness for space westerns, especially space westerns with revenge plots. Hence, I was immediately drawn to Red Noise by John P. Murphy, a sci-fi adventure teasing the intriguing combination of Japanese Samurai tradition meets Old West.
The story follows a nameless heroine, known only as the Miner, who arrives at Station 35 with the intent of trading her ore and hopefully pick up some supplies. However, what was supposed to be a quick stopover inevitably turns into a longer stay when the lawless residents of the space station try to mess with her, and of course, the Miner will have none of that. Using her past connections, she devises an intricate plan to take down the whole rotten system, pitting the various factions of crooked corporations, corrupt authorities, and merciless gangs against each other.
But Station 35 isn’t all bad, if you know where to look and who to ask for. Even in the darkest, grittiest underbelly of space there are still those willing to help the Miner clean house, doing what needs to be done. And apparently, what that means is a lot of violent killing and bloodshed.
I had a very difficult time unpacking all my thoughts for this review, for Red Noise ended up being a rather mixed bag of unrealized potential. That always leaves me in a tough place, because in truth, this novel had amazing strengths but also its fair share of disappointments.
As usual, I’ll begin with the positives, the main one (for me personally) being the fact Red Noise delivered exactly what was promised in its setting and premise. This book definitely has the space western vibe going for it, complete with a wild frontier feel and rough and tough-talking characters. And while I would not go so far as to call it light or humorous, there is an element of dry wit to the story that keeps things from getting too brutal and dark.
But now comes the not-so-great. The main problem for me, I think, was the writing. While technically sound, there’s simply not much life or charisma to the Murphy’s style, which I felt was a gross mismatch to the narrative’s tone and contents. The prose came across as clunky and somewhat stiff, not conducive at all when trying to tell an action-adventure story. That also goes for the character of the Miner, who was as relatable and flat as a cardboard cutout. I get how the author might have wanted to create an aura of mystique and enigma around the protagonist, but rather than a genuine person with genuine thoughts, motivations and feelings, she came across like a checklist of must-have stereotypical traits for the wandering ronin.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, this one lacked feeling. Overall, it’s still a decent read which moved quickly enough, but what it’s missing is that bit of magic dust to bring the world and the characters to life. As a result, I found it hard to feel excited when even the more action-y parts felt dry and uninspired.
At the end of the day, I felt Red Nose was mix of high points and low points. Personally, I loved the concept, though the execution was a bit weak. As always though, your mileage may vary.