Red Planet Blues
Incorporating the Hugo & Nebula award–nominated novella “Identity Theft”
The name’s Lomax—Alex Lomax. I’m the one and only private eye working the mean streets of New Klondike, the Martian frontier town that sprang up forty years ago after Simon Weingarten and Denny O’Reilly discovered fossils on the Red Planet. Back on Earth, where anything can be synthesized, the remains of alien life are the most valuable of all collectibles, so shiploads of desperate treasure hunters stampeded here in the Great Martian Fossil Rush.
I’m trying to make an honest buck in a dishonest world, tracking down killers and kidnappers among the failed prospectors, the corrupt cops, and a growing population of transfers—lucky stiffs who, after striking paleontological gold, upload their minds into immortal android bodies. But when I uncover clues to solving the decades-old murders of Weingarten and O’Reilly, along with a journal that may lead to their legendary mother lode of Martian fossils, God only knows what I’ll dig up...
Science Fiction Mystery
This review was first published on Kurt's Frontier.
Alex Lomax is the only private eye on Mars. A fan of old private eye films, he tracks the guilty among Mars’s inhabitants: failed prospectors, corrupt cops, and rich transfers. People with enough money can transfer their conscious minds into an immortal, android bodies. This is an age where anything can be replicated. Much that was once valuable is now worthless. Then Simon Weingarten and Denny O’Reilly began the Great Mars Fossil Rush. Their site has been lost for decades.
Alex is a biological: someone who has not gone the android route. He fled Earth to escape justice. When a transfer client comes to his office looking for her husband, he finds for himself just how far some people will go to locate Weingarten and O’Reilly’s Alpha site or protect its secrets.
Robert J. Sawyer has written a science fiction detective novel in the same vein as The Maltese Falcon or The Big Sleep. The action is suspenseful, and some of the concepts are interesting. The background is based on some of the theories of Mars’s past. It once had liquid water and an atmosphere to support it. It may once have been home to primitive life. Evolution on Mars came to an end billions of years ago. What if fossils of that life remained? What would they be worth to researchers and collectors?
What if a mind could be copied onto computer chips? Would the android be the same person as the original? Then add in the fact that the body is destroyed afterward.
The background is interesting on the technical and scientific level. However, like many detective noir stories, the characters are formulaic and two-dimensional. This can either make the story boring or make it fun. There is suspense, where anything can be waiting around the corner. There is action. While it was hard to get into, the story proved to be a fun read.