Review: Jack Glass / Author: Adam Roberts / Publisher: Gollancz / Release Date: Out Now
Jack Glass is a bit of an odd book, as it is essentially three separate novellas joined together by a theme and common elements. A mix of classic-style science fiction and traditional locked-room murder mystery, each of the stories revolve around the notorious criminal and anarchist, Jack Glass.
Each tale is distinctly different from the next, the first is about men stuck in an asteroid prison, forced to work together in order to survive. It is quite gruesome, dark and also thoroughly engaging, containing enough strangeness and ideas to power the reader through some very dark moments. It’s a triumph of storytelling, however, this makes the shift of pace into the second story quite jarring, as we go from gritty crime thriller to Agatha Christie in space, and it takes a little while to adjust. The middle story also serves to expand the world and lay the groundwork for the finale, but sadly, fans of good old fashioned mysteries will see a lot of twists coming, but perhaps not all of them. After all, isn’t that rather the point?
The novel finishes with good old fashioned mystery, and builds on the momentum from the previous sequences to create a high-speed page turner which is hard to put down. Adam Roberts never fails to surprise with his quirky take on the world, and Jack Glass is no different.
The author has crafted an interesting world, one of wonder and poverty, crime and perfection, one that is as fantastic as it is believable, filled with subtle slavery, cynical genius and larger than life characters. The protagonists do suffer from being two-dimensional, but this is more a result of mixing space opera and murder mystery, rather than any sort of lack in the writing. I suspect most sci-fi fans will find something that will delight them in Jack Glass, but at the same time there will almost certainly be something else that isn’t to their taste. It’s a finely balanced work, but perhaps not quite balanced enough to be the instant classic it comes close to being.