Red Noise (Book Review)
by John P. Murphy
4 / 5 Stars - Sci Fi Western
I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.
Something struck me as familiar about this novel when I was reading but I didn’t pick up on it until almost the end: it’s definitely paying homage to Japanese samurai films (like Kurosawa) and American Westerns. I’m not a buff of the genre, but I’m definitely a fan of the aesthetic and the style.
I really wish dumbass me hadn’t been so sleep-deprived from having a newborn (and a toddler) or I definitely would have picked up on it sooner! I kind of want to go back and re-read it to look for things I missed. I’m deadass flummoxed at how I didn't pick up on it right away. Hell, even the cover looks like a minimalist Seven Samurai poster.
Enough of my excuses. Like those films, the novel starts off with the mysterious stranger entering a corrupt town; in this case, the town is a near-abandoned and sparsely-populated space station. There are three leaders vying for control (including the cops, with a moustachioed "sheriff"), though none are ideal rulers. The Miner decides to lend her particular brand of assistance. With a sword.
Unfortunately, what I didn’t really get was why. In Western movies, the character is a trope, but this novel (while I was completely addicted to it), suffers a bit with regards to the miner’s motivation. We don’t learn enough about her to understand why she wouldn’t just leave. It never felt to me like she was trapped (by money or other reasons), as she always seemed to have an answer or the ability to escape whatever situation she found herself in. There were attempts to have her wrestle with leaving, but there wasn’t enough of that or it didn’t go deep enough. I get that in the movies the character doesn’t need such a rationale, but from a book I expected a bit more.
At the same time, I really liked how we don’t learn that much about her - just little tidbits here and there - it keeps her mysterious.
I loved the dialogue, the diversity, the general degraded ambience of the station, and how no one was sacred in terms of violence bestowed upon them. Yet the three leaders, and Mary and Raj, needed more background; I found I didn’t care much about them as people, though they were fun to read about.
The book is an absolute blast. I loved the amount of women in the novel and the dark humour (I laughed out loud quite a few times). The dynamic between the bartender and his regular (another Western trope - the saloon!) was so much fun, as were the action scenes.
You don’t need to know/like Westerns (or can be sleep-deprived like me), and this is still a fun, gritty, action-packed adventure that just so happens to be set in space.