"Red Dust" review


Title: Red Dust

Author: Yoss (translated by David Frye)

Subgenre: Science fiction, humor

2021 Bingo squares: First person, Mystery, Latinx author (hm), Genre mashup, First contact

Recommended if: you want a buddy cop space adventure that’s moderately funny or are specifically looking for a translated Latin American work

Not recommended if: you want fast-paced action

Stars: 3/5


Red Dust has a great premise that it ultimately fails to live up to. Set roughly fifty years after first contact, the novel follows positronic robot police officer (pozzie) Raymond Chandler (yes, named after that Raymond Chandler) in his attempt to hunt down escaped criminal Makrow 34. Chandler teams up with another convict, Vasily Fernández, chosen because he shares the same psychic (Psy) abilities as Makrow 34: the Gaussical ability to manipulate the probability of nearby events to occur.

It’s part anti-colonialist criticism of the status quo (humans are treated as second-class citizens because their lack of technology on par with that of the aliens, and so are only useful for the natural resources of earth), part homage to early-twentieth-century detective fiction, part cool space adventure. But where it should be a fast-paced casual read, instead there’s no dialogue at all for the first four chapters as all we get is backstory from Chandler’s (admittedly witty) first-person narration of his story, and after that much of the humor falls flat, and much of the adventure is just the two partners sitting around or Chandler musing about detective stories.

The premise of the Gaussical abilities is also underused in the novel; having two criminals who can affect probability distributions of events fighting against each other should be super cool, but it’s not played up that much and when it is used, it’s not particularly exciting.

Still, it’s a relatively enjoyable read, and the translation from Spanish is very good. If you’re looking for a quick space crime-fighting adventure novel, you could do worse than Red Dust.

Cover of Red Dust

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River is a MediaWiki developer and admins Leaguepedia. This blog contains her fantasy novel reviews.