The Nemesis List (book, R.J. Frith, 2010)
From SFX 202.
THREE AND A HALF STARS
R. J. Frith / Tor / 303 pages / £16.99
Competition winner’s first book
By winning SciFi Now’s War of the Words, Frith secured a publishing contract with Macmillan’s Tor Imprint, the king of space opera fun. This first book reveals a flair for characterisation and gritty writing, but Frith’s nascent skills run out on when we get to plotting. Sure, it’s a well-crafted piece, but for a down and dirty ‘spacers getting by in the face of hostile government’ type story, it’s too slow. The obvious sequel to the book would have been better incorporated here at expense of some of the detail, especially Frith’s attempts to dodge non-existent plot holes.
The Nemesis List reads like a love letter to Whedon’s Firefly. Like River, Jake is a high-powered experiment on the run who finds himself onboard a futuristic tramp steamer. Owned by Frank Pak, a disillusioned but honest military man, The Nova plies its way between greasy space stations and scratty frontier worlds, its crew one of likeable misfits. There’s a Kaylee/Inara hybrid, a Jane type and a Wash-like pilot. The autocratic government and shady corporate types are in pursuit as Pak finds himself entangled in one layer of conspiracy after another. The only real difference is that the rebellion has not failed –it’s yet to take place.
We’re not saying this is lazy or bad, it’s hard not sing homage to one’s influences, and had there been just a bit more going on we wouldn’t have given a hoot. As it is, there’s too much conversation in featureless rooms and not enough guns and stuff. excusable for TV, with its need for ‘bottle’ eps, but we’re talking the theatre of the mind here, where budget need be no constraint. Firth sells us, and himself, a little short.
Did you know…?
Frith’s future has a further similarity with Firefly – a rich inner set of worlds and a grubby outer set. The main wrinkle is that technological advancement has been banned.