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WesternSFA
Red Planet Blues: Murder on the Mean Streets of Mars
by Robert J. Sawyer
Ace, $25.95, 353pp
Release Date: March 26, 2013
This is the latest offering from Canada ’s most celebrated SF writer. This is a fun hard-boiled crime drama but set on Mars. Alex Lomax is the only private-eye on Mars but jobs are still far and few inbetween. So, when a beautiful woman walks in his office and wants him to find her missing husband, he’s more than willing to take the job. The catch here is that both the woman and her missing husband are ‘transfers.’ Transfers are people who have had their consciousness copied into an android-like body. The technology is still new enough that only wealthy people can afford the process.

The Martian frontier town, New Klondike, where Alex lives was born when a couple of guys flew their own spaceship to Mars to prospect, forty years earlier. On Earth, where just about everything is available to everyone, there is little that is truly unique and valuable; and rich people have to have the unique and valuable to show off their wealth and power. So when the two intrepid prospectors find proof of life on Mars, the fossils become the new status symbol. But word soon spreads, as it always tends to do, and Mars drew droves of wannabe prospectors, few of whom actually found enough to make their fortune. The mother lode that O’Reilly and Weingarten found forty years earlier eludes all who look for it. And everyone knows it’s still out there; both O’Reilly and Weingarten perished on their third trip back to the red planet.

Lomax gets drawn into the fossil hunt when his sleuthing turns up a scientist who may know where the site is, along with his illegal transfer copy, another beautiful woman who’s writing a book about the two famous men drawn from a diary given to her by O’Reilly’s granddaughter, and just to make it more interesting, there seems to be some question of whether O’Reilly and Weingarten actually died on reentry in the atmosphere. Particularly when Lomax finds the descent vehicle and there’s a body in it. So there’s a lot of typical crime drama plot twists as the reader tries to figure out who’s a good guy and who’re the bad guys…or girls. It’s a lot of fun if you like that sort of genre, along with some really cool new ideas on the age-old theme of living forever.

The plot and pace were good, the characters were well done, and the climax full of surprise. There’s little doubt that you get your money’s worth out of a Sawyer book and this one is proof. ~~ Catherine Book

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