Sunday, May 18, 2014

Review::The Man Who Wasn't Anders Voss by Greg Curtis

The Man Who Wasn't Anders VossThe Man Who Wasn't Anders Voss by Greg Curtis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Man Who Wasn't Anders Voss by Greg Curtis

I want to give this book high marks for a well crafted plot and interesting characters; but I'm torn by some style choices that tend to drag it down a bit. This is a clever little tale that uses a couple of well heeled tropes. The first is the notion of sending bits and bites of living and inanimate matter across the vastness of space in a signal that might defy even the speed of light. The other is the one where aliens get a first hand look at the moral decrepitude of the human race and decide they don't need that in their neighborhood.

Dr Harrison is your typical scientist or maybe your typical mad scientist who has discovered a way to send explorers to other stars with the touch of a button, so to speak. And Anders Voss is one of a thousand subjects he's experimenting with but unlike the good Doctor Moreau who kept his creations close by, Dr. Harrison is sending his as far as he can, away from him and out of sight. And on the other side of this the Man who wasn't comes out in a burst of terrifying bloodcurdling mental agony.

The Doctor was wrong or worse he lied because he had plenty of time to test this thing. And Anders Voss has been a dupe, a convict in a prison who is given the option to help with space exploration or do some mining at the mars prison facility. And so Anders gets a first hand experience of the discovery that Star Treks 'Bones' was right to worry about having your atoms scrambled and sent across long distances and reassembled. But initially upon arrival Anders feels physically alright just mentally off-put by the fact that he just witnessed his own death and now this new creation on the other end is someone else who has a similar body with all new atoms and the same memories. He doesn't know that things can get much worse.

This kind of death is a great concept, but like beating the dead horse Greg Curtis visits the notion of death by disintegration and reintegration so many times it's almost like he doesn't trust the reader to believe how horrible the process really is so he describes it from many different angles. The first chapter is mostly that and the reader doesn't get a good picture of what is happening until the second chapter with Doctor Harrison who we find out is an evil scientist who has no regard for convicted criminals. Next we get slogged down by some mundane stuff to continue a sense of world building and it's not until the aliens bail Anders out of his situation that the story really takes off.

I'm being a bit unfair here though because we do get a full explanation of the crime in those first three chapters. As Anders, who decides he should now be called Lars, struggles both with setting up camp and the equipment that will allow him to communicate with Earth and he has to decide if he wants to suffer death to return to Earth the same way he got there. The reader also gets the build up to a realization that not only does the Doctor not expect him to want to come back that way, he also expects Anders/Lars to become sick and die and there is no cure for it and no stopping the process.

The actual plot and character development start around the time the aliens pick Lars up and discover that he must have been sent through a Wave function Transporter which they know is a heinous crime of murder not once but twice because of the after effects. Lars doesn't just die once to have to live with the horrible memory of that; but he is doomed to die a second time. This raises a moral issue of how this doubles the crime that the Doctor is committing if each tranportee has experienced this.

The Alien way of life is so different from human that they have difficulty understanding how anyone could purposely do such a thing and they have as much trouble understanding Lars desire for revenge. They have a totally different idea of justice. And when they begin to locate many more of the strange Wave function tranportees they begin to have serious reservations about the entire human race.

This is a good novel for SFF soft Science Fiction fans with a great take on some old notions with some new twists and I could easily live with the slow and redundant start, although I need to offer my usual caveat for a novel that has way too many poorly constructed sentences with other grammatical errors and could have stood to have another set of eyes check some things before publication.

J.L. Dobias

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