Saturday, November 29, 2008

Very Bad Deaths -- Spider Robinson

It's hard to know what to say about Spider Robinson's Very Bad Deaths. Robinson's best know as a science fiction writer, and while this book has SF elements, it's not really SF. I'd call it a serial killer novel, but it's not really that, either.

The story begins with a huge coincidence. A telepath lives on a deserted island near Vancouver. A plane piloted by a serial killer is in trouble and passes over his house. He picks up the killer's thoughts of regret missing out on torturing and killing a family of four. But the plane rights itself, and the killer is saved. So how does the telepath prevent the murders?

He goes to the one person he can stand to be around, his former college roomie, Russell Walker. Walker's a newspaper columnist, sunk in depression because of the death of his wife. He knows nothing about how to do what the telepath (whose nickname is Smelly) wants him to or how to prevent the murders. They don't know the telepath's name or the name of the family. Walker's attempts to do something, with the help of a woman cop, take up the first 2/3 of the book. The last third brings in the killer.

The Walker character seems closely based on Robinson himself. There are flashbacks to his '60s college days that do little to advance the plot, plus plenty of opinionated digressions. Some nice descriptions of the landscape, too. Since it's essentially a four-character story, you get to know them pretty well. You might not like Walker much. He doesn't seem to be quite the nice guy he says he is. I'm saying no more about the plot, but you might not be too thrilled at the resolution, either. There's a sequel, but I haven't decided if I'll read it. I liked a lot of things about the book, but maybe not enough to read another in the series.

I think Robinson's a Robert B. Parker fan. Key clue: Use of the line, "We'd be fools not to."

1 comment:

JD Rhoades said...

plenty of opinionated digressions.

Well, Robinson's idol IS Robert A, Heinlein...