Book Review Science Fiction

Red Noise by John P. Murphy

Book Summary

Caught up in a space station turf war between gangs and corrupt law, a lone asteroid miner decides to take them all down.

When an asteroid miner comes to Station 35 looking to sell her cargo and get back to the solitude she craves, she gets swept up in a three-way standoff with gangs and crooked cops. Faced with either taking sides or cleaning out the Augean Stables, she breaks out the flamethrower.

What I Thought

Oh dear, where do I start? Let’s get this one out the way first, billed as Kill Bill meets a spaghetti western as in High Plains Drifter, RED NOISE is neither. It lacks the finesse, the heart, the emotion, and most importantly, the brutal action that peppered both Kill Bill and High Plains Drifter or, in fact, any damn spaghetti western.

RED NOISE should be a cracking good read given its premise, a lone gunman who comes to town, get’s ripped off, and decides to clean out the bad guys and save the day. Sad to say, this version misses the mark by a couple of thousand light years. 

Our erstwhile anti-hero is a miner, a woman, who prefers to be alone, and, we’re repeatedly told, has a scarred face. A point that is emphasised a couple of times, but to what end, I’m not sure? To make her behaviour more acceptable, more man-like, because that’s how the character comes across. As if, at the last minute, the author changed his mind. 

But that aside, man or woman, this should have been so much more, and wasn’t. There is little if any world building, and scant details or background to the set up on the ageing space station. Instead we’re offered up a ‘Mysterious man’ scenario who, having been cheated, takes out a form of twisted revenge under the guise of cleaning up the spaceport.

But what we’re never given is any reasoning behind anyone’s behaviour, actions, or motives beyond the banal. These people are bad … in fact, they’re all sad rejects, and the bad is what we’re told. Like everything in this drab story, we’re ‘told it’ rather than shown.

The same with the so-called action pieces, most of which happen off page so we are just ‘told’ once again, what happened. So that everything becomes one long monotonous piece of exposition punctuated by the occasional inane dialogue that, believe me, is not in any way funny, droll or witty—as advertised.

There is nothing witty here, nothing vaguely or remotely interesting because the characters themselves lack any definition, depth, or background. The most exciting character described—and this happens about the halfway mark (200 plus pages in)—is NUKE, a guy with a nuclear bomb attacked to his heart, who’s in exile from the station… well, for obvious reason, otherwise this dull story would be over in a heartbeat, with a large explosion. 

The MC herself lacks any depth, detail, or background and is otherwise referred to, throughout, as just the Miner. Or, because of a brief conversation with one of the heavies, Boss Feeney, early on, as either Jane, because she saw a book title, or Mick, because her hacked bank account name is, Mickey ‘Fucking’ Mouse. It’s all rather puerile. 

And if this woman rubbed her chin once, she rubbed it every fecking five sentences. 

Even with a lack of connection, empathy, or depth to the characters, this still could have been an interesting read if there had actually been a story, any real action, and less meandering of everyone from point A to point B, through endless dirty dull grey corridors, with endless explanations of the piss smell everywhere.

At 200 pages in my mind was apt to wander, as the repetition became mind-numbingly boring. 

The author clearly dropped the ball when it comes to any kind of plot. Decided we didn’t need any world building, or depth to a set of paper-thin characters whose only motivation seem to be in beating one another up. So that, in the end, I could not have cared less about anyone in this plodding excuse of a story that makes me wonder, why, why was this a Nebula Award finalist? 

In conclusion, there is nothing fun, fast or entertaining about RED NOISE. May I humbly suggest you avoid it, as you might die of sheer boredom or otherwise drown in the author’s 440 pages of verbal diarrhoea!

RED NOISE
John P. Murphy
Angry Robot, 2020
Trade Paperback, 440 pages
Science Fiction

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