Review: Red Noise, by John P Murphy

Red Noise by John P. Murphy
I got a signed, numbered first edition!

Hardcover

Goldsboro Exclusive Edition

Published May 14th 2020 by Angry Robot

Price: Β£26.99

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.

The Rosie Synopsis

‘Jane’ or ‘the Miner’ desperately needs food and fuel, so she puts in to an asteroid-based space station, Station 35. Here she is ripped off by the ore company, finds three rival gangs in control and at each others’ throats, while the ‘decent’ population, lead by ‘Mr Shine’ hunker down in the lower depths of the station, except bar-owner/chef Takata and Station Master Herrera, who both refuse to be forced out of the galleria. Jane decides she’s going to clean up the Station and hand it back to ‘decent folks’.

Plans don’t exactly go as expected.

Basically, have you seen any of those old westerns, the ones based on Japanese films, like Seven Samurai, reworked as westerns, or Clint Eastwood’s work, like Fistful of Dollars? Think that aesthetic, but in space.

The Good

The novel calls on the traditions and tropes of westerns and on those westerns based on Japanese films, and obviously on the original Japanese work. So, the protagonist isn’t named, or only briefly, there are rival gangs and corrupt law officers, the place is far from anywhere with no help coming. I have seen an interesting collection of movies over the years but even if I haven’t seen the specific films, I know enough and can get the feeling over the originals, that the book’s references and plot points make sense.

An example of this tradition is in the naming of the protagonist. The ‘Miner’ is unnamed, given nicknames and only once is her real name and some clue about her identity revealed. This is going to be familiar to lovers of dodgy 60s Westerns based on Japanese books and films. Clint Eastwood famously play ‘The Man with No Name’ in the Dollars Trilogy. If you get the aesthetic and understand the tradition it stands in, this is marvelous fun. It’s not the first ‘spaghetti western in space’ sci fi novel, but it’s the first I’ve read and I liked it.

The pace is fast and choppy, moving between Jane and a character called Steven, although he doesn’t go by that name initially – he’s known as Screwball. They are nominally on the same, then opposed to each other and finally they’re allies. Jane doesn’t like people, preferring to stay out in space, mining and tending her orchids and bonsai trees on her little ship. Steven is a hired thug, working for Feeney, the original crime boss on Station 35. Over the course of the book Jane discovers she doesn’t actually hate humans as much as she thinks she does, and Steven finds himself questioning his life choices after a series of unexpected and painful events.

Basically, they follow the character arcs expected in the genre. They both play hero and anti-hero roles at different points and they both have similar motives initially – they need money. They both become more self-aware and ‘better people’ due to their experiences although acknowledging that they aren’t heroes.

As you can imagine from the foregoing, I found the characterisation enjoyable and fitting perfectly for the genre of the book.

The origins of the dispute and the background of the Station are mentioned in different places in the narrative, so the reader learns more as the Miner does. There are logical reasons for Station 35 being where it is when she arrives. None of the characters are surplus to requirements and the main characters as fairly well fleshed out.

Herrera’s insults are fabulous.

The Not-So-Good

Not much. I’d have liked to know more about the ‘universe’ and Herrera gets a bit characateurish at times.

The Verdict

I enjoyed reading this book, it’s given me hours of enjoyment over the three days I spent reading it. I was on the edge of my seat a lot of the time.

Highly recommended.

4 Comments

  1. Hi, I was wondering if I could use your synopsis? I’d fully credit you in the review and would link to this review.

    No pressure. I’m just too lazy to write my own but if you don’t feel comfortable, that’s what I’ll do πŸ˜€

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