A curate’s egg, this one. Despite my generally favourable opinions regarding Ms Lord’s other book, she goes straight ahead and nicks my title (Voltaire? Who he?) and then slaps it on a novel which is one of those best described as ‘interesting but flawed’.
The trouble is the language. We know from Redemption in Indigo that Lord can write, and we know it here as well from the third-person framing sections dotted throughout the book. Most of it, however, is narrated in the first-person by Grace Delarua, a young biologist writing in what is presumably meant to be a breezy, colloquial manner. This style is entirely in keeping with her jaunty, superficially naïve personality: a personality which is inhabited and fleshed out pretty well by the author. These sections really do read like (what I imagine of) the diary of a young woman who’s never written anything else. Unfortunately the diary of a young woman who’s never written anything else turns out to be, somewhat predictably, very badly written indeed.
To reiterate the point, there is plenty of available evidence to suggest that this is not a failure of the author’s ability, but the fact remains that this really comes across as Star Trek fanfic: distant and intellectual, yet honourable and lustworthy foreign races; a superficial episodic structure; a protagonist who, while fortunately very likable and engaging, is essentially a Mary Sue. This feels like a reasonable debut self-published novel might: there are clear signs of promise and potentially engaging characters and ideas, but the execution is inconsistent at best. However, this is neither a debut nor self-published so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to find it all a little disappointing and underwhelming.
But, for all that you know Grace will always eventually land on her feet, and the romantic
subplot is almost
insultingly telegraphed, she is just so damn likable and that, it would seem,
is enough. Or enough for me to finish the book, at any rate.