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Emissaries from the Dead (Andrea Cort, Book 1) Mass Market Paperback – February 26, 2008
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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“With its creepy background and complex plot, Emissaries from the Dead offers an intriguing combination of SF and detective story, spiced with moments of danger that raise the perils of cliff-hanging an exponential level.” (Locus)
“A brilliantly executed novel, fully successful as both science fiction and murder mystery. … Emissaries is a dark and moody novel, featuring a disturbed and misanthropic protagonist with a tragic past … Powerfully compelling … One of the best science fiction novels of the year so far.” (Science Fiction Weekly)
“Adam-Troy Castro has given us the ultimate high-wire thriller.” (Jack McDevitt)
“The most powerful science fiction novel of the year.” (Michael A. Burstein)
“SF at its best… A clever, thought-provoking page-turner. Bravo!” (Robert J. Sawyer)
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Andrea, former child-murderer, is indentured into the multispecies diplomatic corps, and in her role as judge advocate she's dispatched to an artificially constructed (by AIs) world that has a habitable area Andrea describes (the narrative is first person) as "an Uppergrowth of knotty vegetation clinging to the interior station axis." Only the upper atmosphere is "congenial to the life forms the AIsource had engineered." Chief among those were "brachiators," who are sentient beings that seem to be a primates with some slothlike elements. Also present are indentured humans, who've been invited there by the AIsource. A murder has been committed, and Andrea must solve the case, and not lay the blame on the AIsource.
The plot takes the usual noiristic turns, and follows the usual conventions--with one difference. The AIs know who the perpetrator is, but they have their own reasons for wanting Andrea to make the discovery herself. And they also inform her that her life (as she's already suspected) is in danger. Clever that: Mr. Castro has neatly sidestepped the problem of having that annoying kid who exposed the naked emperor from again piping up to remind us all that "if the AIs know everything, why do they need Andrea Cort?"
Andrea perseveres, of course--we know that because of the first-person narrative (to say nothing of the appearance of a second volume of the series), and in a most interesting manner. Acrophobic, nail-chewing Andrea overcomes some of her own demons along the way (not without the aid of the friends she makes--the friends she keeps insisting she doesn't want), and she wraps the whole thing up in the grand hardboiled tradition. (4.5 stars.)
The setting was interesting and I did keep reading because I wanted to know more but it focused a lot more on the murders. Of all the different sentient species, none were introduced except for the artificial intelligences which aren't even a species. A lot more could have been done with this futuristic setting but we just get a very narrow view. Half of the mysteries were obvious especially the one involving Gibb. Andrea was not a very likable main character.
With all that I would have given it three stars if not for the following. From the beginning I was wondering about the location of Hammocktown. It feels like it's located at the bottom of the growth. No actual description or explanation. I can make assumptions it's more open and easier access for transportation but isn't it more human to want to be higher up without the view of a plunging death below? There's also an assumption throughout that once you let go of a vine death is inevitable. What prevents someone from grabbing a new one? Sounded like the vegetation is dense. I hate when there are flaws in the logic so it loses one more star.
If you like military sf tales, mysteries or hard science sf, you will likely find the drama and tension in this book works for you.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants a solid work of science fiction and who doesn't mind if the story slows (and sometimes meanders) now and again.
My only complaint is that the title seems to imply a series, but the end of the novel wraps up too many loose ends (or at least foreshadows the resolution).
This is one of the strongest 'first' novels I've read in a while.