Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Review: The End of Science Fiction by Sam Smith

I got The End of Science Fiction for free during the Read an Ebook Week promotion; it's now $6.99 and in my opinion that's a little much. But if this book were available under a 'pay what you want' system like some of the other books I got during Read an Ebook Week, I might have sent the author $5. The novel is based on an intriguing premise: the world is going to end in six days and there is nothing to be done about it. What happens?

We learn what happens by following the character of Herbie Watkins, a police inspector who has chosen to spend his last few days solving his final case. As he interviews various citizens in connection with the murder of one Katherine Helen Soames, he finds people coping with the impending end of days in a myriad of ways. And he draws closer to solving the mystery of how one girl met her untimely end mere days before the rest of them...

I liked the central premise of the novel, and found the mystery reasonably interesting. But there were three things which bogged down this novel a little for me. The opening chapter is written in an unnecessarily gimmicky format which turned me off, and itwas only at the urging of others (and reassurance that the rest of the novel was written in the usual way) that I continued. Additionally, there were lengthy quotes at the beginning of each chapter that I began skipping fairly early on. They did turn out to have a minor relevance to the plot, but they were tedious and uninteresting and not particularly necessary. Finally, I felt that the novel, by virtue of its premise, grew a bit repetitive. Herbie would go to question someone, and the first words out of the person's mouth would be 'but the world is ending in X days, so what's the point?' I, the reader, understood what the 'point' was as far as this character was concerned, of course. But I grew tired of hearing him explain it umpteen times, over and over again, to everyone he met.

I appreciate that this novel came from a by all accounts reputable e-publisher; I have come to grow weary of 100% publisher-free self-published stuff which makes me feel like I am vetting the world's biggest slush-pile. This was a decent story, well-written and definitely worthy of reading. However, I am not sure it's worth the fairly high (for an indie book) price that's on the table now that the promotion under which I obtained it has ended. Comparable e-only publishers tend to offer their stories for less. $3.99 and I would heartily recommend this. At mass market paperback price, I would say sample it first and then decide.

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