Sunday, May 22, 2011
Review: Alien Murders by Stephen Goldin
Alien Murders by Stephen Goldin is a well-written set of two mystery novellas with sci-fi trappings. Deborah Rabinowitz is a literary broker who negotiates rights for Earth literature to alien cultures. In the course of this job, she becomes involved in the two cases presented in this short book. In the first, she is mid-teleconference with an alien on another world, when he is murdered in front of her. Since she only inhabited his virtual world, she did not see what happened in his real one. But as the only 'witness' she cannot help but be involved.
In the second story, she assists a friend who was accused of murdering an alien she had been collaborating with on a cookbook. The twist is that this alien world has a major taboo about public eating, so both the friend and her unfortunate collaborator are branded as moral corrupts, and this complicates Deborah's defense of her friend.
The near-future world of Deborah was well-drawn. The technology and world-creation was subtly woven in and not oppressive and the traits of the aliens were interesting. One of my favourite little throwaways was the part where Deborah must virtually visit a world where status is represented by the height of your body. The 'body rental' agency has to ask numerous questions to determine Deborah's status so they can loan her the appropriate-sized form for her visit. A subplot involving Deborah's directing an amateur Shakespeare production was also nicely implemented.
A few small quibbles; a nicer cover design would not be remiss, and although the book itself was free of errors, there is a distracting typo in the Smashwords blurb that might turn away potential readers. And the first few pages were a little confusing; Goldin over-plays Deborah's 'attitude' just a little and I very nearly shut the book on him. I am glad I stuck with it, though. As a mystery fan who doesn't generally enjoy a ton of sci-fi, this book struck just the right balance for me. I wish there had been more stories. A sequel, especially a novel-length one with a single story, would very definitely interest me and I have added this to my Indie Favourites List.
I rate this book a 4/5 and definitely recommend it.