The Nemesis List
By R J Frith
|Value for money||5/10|
|Did it do what it said on the box?||4/10|
Covers light years, but goes nowhere
I used to read a lot of what was known as “hard” science fiction, but gave up around the time that Asimov and Heinlein died, as a lot of what was on offer was getting too clever for it’s own good, with science and adventure both taking a back seat.
When this book came up on the Amazon Vine review system, I had hopes that it might offer something akin to the Foundation stories, or even Star Trek DS9. Sadly although there might be superficial resemblances to both, this book is just not well enough structured to engage my imagination the way they do.
The background is very Foundation-like: a stagnant galactic empire with rebellion brewing at its edges; human domination (although there are other sentient species); and technology which, faster than light interstellar travel and communications aside, looks remarkably like ours. The ships even “jump” between locations.
The major characters are well drawn, and the core idea, of a mutant seeking revenge on those who created him by illegal scientific experimentation is sound enough (although arguably done better by Mary Shelley in 1815). The problem is that the plot just doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s very difficult to tell who’s on which side, or even the state of play at the book’s end. In some ways it’s not unlike a very complicated “Spanish Prisoner” tale, but it doesn’t work. By halfway through I got very frustrated trying to understand the bigger picture, and I ended up unconvinced the author really has one himself.
One specific problem is that there’s no sense of scale: are the different locations adjacent solar systems, or galactic quadrants? Do the battles take place within the confines of planetary systems, or over a much wider range? It’s impossible to tell.
It doesn’t help that the jacket notes seem to have been written by someone other than the author, who in attempting to address the lack of a big picture introduces ideas not actually expressed in the book. The book could disappoint a reader who expects the story to match them.
I wanted to enjoy this book, but it frustrated me. The author writes the detailed stuff well, but next time needs to make sure his plot takes the reader somewhere.