Book Review: Dead Space
I’m a huge fan of science fiction and a decent fan of murder mysteries, and I’m beginning to realize how much I enjoy the merging of these two genres. For me Dead Space contained a lot of what I liked about both genres, and only a little of what I don’t care for as much.
SUMMARY: Hester Marley used to have a plan for her life. But when a catastrophic attack left her injured, indebted, and stranded far from home, she was forced to take a dead-end security job with a powerful mining company in the asteroid belt. Now she spends her days investigating petty crimes to help her employer maximize its profits. She’s surprised to hear from an old friend and fellow victim of the terrorist attack that ruined her life—and that surprise quickly turns to suspicion when he claims to have discovered something shocking about their shared history and the tragedy that neither of them can leave behind. Before Hester can learn more, her friend is violently murdered at a remote asteroid mine. Hester joins the investigation to find the truth, both about her friend’s death and the information he believed he had uncovered. But catching a killer is only the beginning of Hester’s worries, and she soon realizes that everything she learns about her friend, his fellow miners, and the outpost they call home brings her closer to revealing secrets that very powerful and very dangerous people would rather keep hidden in the depths of space.
In terms of science fiction: it has the futuristic setting, the multi-planet spanning plot, the space stations and outer space exploration, the fusing and man and machine, and the excitement of artificial intelligence.
In terms of murder mysteries: it has, well, the mysterious murder, the cast of suspicious characters, the red herrings, the betrayals, and the numerous twists and turns.
The author does a good job of developing the characters and building the world(s) around them. I especially liked the Protagonist (a brilliant scientist-turned-lowly-security officer who struggles with her past defining her future), the Investigator (an calm and commanding Martian with a complex past I would love to learn more about), and the Lawyer (a disagreeable rich boy who actually has a heart of gold, er maybe bronze).
The book also engages with a lot of interesting concepts, including unchecked capitalism, corporate enslavement, scientific exploration, and the pros/cons of artificial intelligence. Even being set so far in the future, it felt a little too close to home with its portrayal of greedy, insensitive corporations and Earth as an uncouth antagonist of other worlds and species.
My main complaint is the overwhelming amount of exposition. Though a lot of the details relate to the characters and the setting, they still came across as bloated and overdone. Exposition is par for the course with science fiction, but here it just felt like much too much. Also, I had some minor quibbles with comically overdone action sequences involving robotic spiders.
Overall there’s a lot to like here, from the compelling characters to the scenes of brutal violence to the surprising plot twists. There’s also a nice bit of representation of the LGBTQ+ community and persons with disabilities, which was refreshing. It’s a character-driven space murder mystery with elements of horror, and the second half especially had my flying through the pages.