Every month we bring you book recommendations from the Otherland Bookshop Berlin. And this month we have a premiere: recommendations in English. Since the English book market is so much bigger than the German, not every book can be translated. This article is for those of you who although read in English.
The Spare Man| Mary Robinette Kowal
Young, attractive, billionaire celebrity Tesla Crane is attempting a honeymoon with her hunky ex-cop husband Shal aboard the ISS Lindgren, cruising between the Moon and Mars. She has hacked enough software that she is anonymous, and is enjoying successfully escaping her many fans. Then a woman is found stabbed to death with a knife and the security detail throws her husband in a cell as their chief suspect.
Armed only with her wits, personality, and a very cute emotional support dog called Gimlet, Tesla sets out to find the real killer so she and Shal can get back to canoodling. And there is a lot of canoodling. As far as I can tell the couple spend about a third of all their interactions running their hands up each other's thighs.
I am a big fan of classic murder mysteries, and Mary Robinette Kowal's latest outing has a number of boxes ticked for me. It has a floorplan at the front of the book (in 3D, as it is a murder on a space station), the science is neat and plays an integral part in the plot, the mystery is a good one, with a large cast of dubious characters, and the protagonist herself has some nifty tech skills (although they are never really explained in detail). It is a little bit of a side-step from The Calculating Stars, but I am sure there will be plenty who will enjoy it.
That said, there were a few things which annoyed me too. I found the protagonist really hard to get on board with. She is privileged with a capital P, contemptuous of most of those of a lower rank than her (which is everyone), and believes the worst thing about the murder is that it is holding up her vacation. Fine. I am also a big fan of rich, entitled heiresses gatecrashing crime scenes (hello, Phryne Fisher). The problem is they normally have something else apart from their money. Tesla has few detective skills which don't derive from the fact that she is ridiculously rich. Even her spunky personality comes from the fact that her family is so wealthy that she has an interplanetary lawyer on speed-dial, feeds her dog steak, and can quite literally afford to buy the entire space liner. A genuine character arc for Tesla is that at one point she complains to a manager politely. If anyone has ever had misgivings about Batman because it glorifies the rich solving problems instead of the state by throwing money at them, Bruce Wayne is practically Miss Marple in comparison to Tesla Crane.
Don't get me wrong: I had fun with this one. It is a great Sci-Fi/Murder-mystery with a good deal of intrigue and some dislikable NPCs, and Mrs Crane does get her tech skills out there in the end, but it's a long ride.
Love & Other Human Errors | Bethany Clift
Hoder & Stoughton: €19,50
Love and Other Human Errors is a stand alone by Film School Graduate Bethany Clift, set in the near future and the topic is ... what else, love. However, the tightrope walk storytelling manages to skirt right past kitsch and gives the reader a roller coaster ride of emotions. The basic plot is that Indiana, an ingenious but socially difficult person, creates an algorithm - TRU - that enables people to find their soulmates.
There seems to be a boom for that idea in the last years, but in this special case the hook is that Indiana does not believe in love at all! I don't want to reveal too much about the plot, but concentrate on the fact that the characters are all believable and lovingly described and the novel will make you laugh out loud on one side and cry on the other, that's how much you will grow attached to the characters, dear Reader. Personally, I wouldn't touch romantic comedies (except the ones with Jude Law) but - and this remains between us - for this I make an exception and must say: it's worth it!
The Genesis of Misery | Neon Yang
Rebecca Roanhorse puts it like this: „This is Joan of Arc meets Gideon the Ninth with a touch of Pacific Rim thrown in as a treat.“
Well, hello?! YES?! We follow Misery Nomaki (she/they) with rare powers on their way down from a mining planet and right into a political conflict. But throw in some mad catholic religion in form of Space Angels (yes!), Saints and Prophecies and welcome in this dazzling space opera of The Genesis of Misery. The New Book by Neon Yang doesn’t just look great, it also has Robots and the prominent role of Gender Identity. Go get that book and stay tuned, because it seems like there is more to come ;)