Mysteries, intrigue and coy humor abound (5/5)
From July 18, 2009
The rear cover of the book reads:
"Who wanted the aliens-dead? The crisis broke on a morning when bureaucrat Roald Vincent received a piece of fanatic hate mail - and uncovered a pattern of interstellar terrorism and attempted murder. Who were the lunatics who would kill humans to destroy Earth's friendly visitors? What were the shadowy spy plans of the delegation from Earth's totalitarian colony, Starhome? Why did Vincent's government superiors do nothing to stop the conspiracy? And where did Anovel, the enigmatic Regulan, fit into the complex and deadly plot? Vincent had to put the pieces together - for the long result could change human destiny... and the short result could kill him."
While the synopsis may be 1980s-quality reader-mongering, the actual story is, indeed, complex. One mystery leads to another successive mystery and all the clues pile onto one another until some conclusions can be drawn, not only by the characters investigating these mysteries, but by the reader, too! It may be a tad predictable or perhaps I was just so keen to figure it all out before Brunner got to the point of revealing his conclusions. All the solved mysteries were satisfactory and all the reserved humor was refreshing. For example, my favorite paraphrased paragraph in the book reads "She launched into an interesting survey of my immediate ancestry and I learned the technical names for several kinds of congenital mental deficiency and twenty symptoms for pigheaded obtuseness."
Compared with Brunner's other works, the plot is shaped around one man, his genius and his intuitions, akin to Bedlam Planet and Polymath. Yet the politics is an aspect of a Brunner novel I haven't encountered before and I must say that Brunner tackled it artfully, where as I usually find bureaucratic plots lackluster. Brunner's keen eye for plot detail, in alien and human relationships and a thoughtfulness to keep the writing refreshing allows me to enjoy reading his older novels, which are new to me.