Murphy’s Gambit, Syne Mitchell

ROC, 2000, 377 pages, C$9.99 mmpb, ISBN 0-451-45809-5

Reviewer’s Note: As I couldn’t muster up the interest to review this mid-list SF novel, I simply stuffed it in my brand new ReviewMatron™ and let it cough up an automated review. Here are the results: (Warning! The ReviewMatron™ has an unfortunate tendency to spoil novels it doesn’t like.)

Genre: Science-Fiction Adventure

Author Profile: searching… none…. first novel.

What the only cover blurb tells you: Mid-list SF author Eric S. Nylund says “Adamantine-hard science fiction with heart… a ripping good read”

What the only cover blurb doesn’t tell you: That Eric S. Nylund is Syne Mitchell’s husband.

Plot: Outsider gets embroiled in conspiracy revolving around piece of high-technology with potential to overthrow existing social order.

Protagonist: “Thiadora Murphy”, a “floater” -zero-gee-optimized human- sent to a military college.

Protagonist’s clichés (list): absent father… outsider amongst her peers… red-hot pilot… something to prove to the universe… meaningful tattoos…

Initial Plot Complications (list): Ostracism by peers… job offer from shadowy organization (refused)… framed… kicked out of academy… best friend killed… forced to take the job against her will…

Contrived or cliché?: Hard to say.

Author’s unsubtle theme: Discrimination.

Assessment of first third of novel: Poor. Cliché. Dull. Déjà-vu.

Plot shift into second act: High-tech vessel stolen from company, then stolen back by company. Meanwhile, protagonist meets first ally.

“Ally” characteristics (list): “Kyle”: Opposite sex… rather sympathetic to heroine… exceptional hard-to-explain skills… shadowy loyalties… secretly connected to powerful organization…

Thrust of Second Act (list): recovery of ship… discovery of capabilities of ship, including time-travel… forces pursue the ship… protagonist isolated from all sources of support…

Return of father: Check. (Sort of)

Explanation of Ally’s willingness to help protagonist: Check.

Assessment of second third: Better. Now that all clichéd pieces are in position, magnanimous readers merely have to follow them around.

Capture of heroine as start of third act: Check.

Torture: Check.

Awful doubt that ally has betrayed her: Check.

Ally still comes through: Check.

Best friend back from the dead: Check.

Best friend pissed: Check.

Hot lesbian love scene between protagonist and best friend: No.

Escalation of third act into galaxy-spanning political reform: Check.

Revolt of the ostracized masses: Check.

All seems lost: Check

Heroine figures ultra-clever scheme to restore rightful social order: Check.

Happy Ending: Check.

Assessment of Last third: Fair.

Assessment of writing skills: Okay. Enough to keep reader’s attention once everything gets going.

Assessment of Novel: Takes a while to get going. Slowly evolves in average mid-list SF novel.

Double-meaning title: Check.

Hard-SF? No.

Recommended action re Author’s next novels: Acquire at used book sales if price is right.

Final state of mind: Blah.

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