Thursday, February 5, 2015

Review: Racers of the Night

Racers of the Night
by Brad Torgersen

Format: Paperback, 347 pages
Publisher: WordFire Press 
Cover Art: NickGreenwood 
Release Date: August 13, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-1614752325

I thought it was past time I did a full review for a collection/anthology book.  I rather enjoyed Brad Torgersen’s first collection, Lights in the Deep, so I thought I’d give his new collection a try. 

“The Curse of Sally Tincakes.”  About a female race driver determined to overcome freaky superstition to be the first woman to win on a lunar race track.  It’s a fairly decent SF sports story, though utterly predictable. 

“The Bricks of Eta Cassiopeiae.”  Very solid emotional story about prisoners set on a colony world where resources are scare so everyone must contribute to the economy.  The main character is not a hardened criminal, but rather someone who made a stupid mistake in his youth and has worked hard to change himself.  As someone who sometimes struggles with his own temper, I can easily relate to it.  Possibly the best story in the collection.

“Guard Dog.”  A wounded soldier takes an opportunity to serve by becoming an android in order to protect Earth from a vicious alien race.  At least until he discovers the truth.  Solid story for the most part, but there really isn’t enough pages devoted to setting things up.  Also, fairly dark ending, which is perhaps not too surprising considering it was co-written with Mike Resnick.

“Recapturing the Dream.”  A former asteroid miner must overcome emotional trauma to recapture the human dream.  Decent story about the severe emotional trauma possibly when one single person survives the death of small, close-knit group.  The idea is hardly new, though the author handles it well.  It’s just that as an introvert myself, I’m not sure I really understand how such a thing would affect other people.

“The Flamingo Girl.”  A murder mystery about a prostitute genetically altered to look like giant birds.  A strange story idea from Torgersen, not to mention I felt this world-building element was rather gratuitous for no real reason.

“Reardon’s Law.”  A military cop investigates the theft of prototype military armor and stop it from falling into enemy hands.  The longest story in the collection, and yet the least developed and the most ridiculous.  What I mean is, hardly any of the necessary political backstory concerning a civil war between human factions is explained when it should have been, plus there are faults of logic all over the place. 

“Blood and Mirrors.”  Another murder mystery, this one about a former sex robot turned cop who must stop a series of brutal murders.  Torgersen seems to have prostitutes on the brain lately.  Premise relies on robots built for sex that then become self-aware.  Okay, I could buy that.  But then while the author did think through the commercial and legal implications, he certainly didn’t consider the programming side and why the robots think exactly like real people.  His lack of experience in the mystery genre is also evident because the killer is painfully obvious.

“The Shadows of Titan.” Horror mystery about alien artifacts on Saturn’s moon, Titan.  I like that Torgersen was thinking about what Titan is really like and wrote a story set in the location.  But like “Reardon’s Law” above, there are logic problems such as how the captain of the vessel exploring Titan does stupid things for no apparent reason and nearly gets everyone killed.  There is supposedly a reason relating to the alien artifacts, but I didn’t find it believable so it comes across like the captain went stupid because she was a civilian with no military training. 

“The Nechronomator.”  Time travel story where zombies powered by the afterlife go back in time to prevent their own deaths.  Really, really weird genre choice and a very strange story overall.  I’m not really sure what to think to be honest.

“The Hideki Line.” Another time travel episode, this one about “lines” that go back to particular points in time and a small group of extremists want to go back and erase all the mistakes made by mankind.  Frustrating, because the whole thing comes across as a spiel against the dangers of environmentalists.  Extremists are dangerous no matter which side they’re on, buttercup. 

“Peacekeeper.”  Humans are used as peacekeepers by a third party on an alien world wracked by civil war.  Definitely one of the better stories in the collection, probably because it’s the second story here that was co-written by Mike Resnick, a much more experienced writer.  This one really should have been expanded a bit more as there was a lot of good material here. 

“Life Flight.”  Another solid, emotional story about a kid, on a colony ship headed for another star system, who is unable to go into hibernation and must spend the entire trip awake.  Torgersen really captured the essence of being the only person to grow old on a trip like this.  However, like some of the other stories, it has logic problems, the biggest one being why kids would be awake during the trip.  Yes, some adults are awake as well, but there is no reason I can think of why kids would be except without that there is no story. 

Overall, I suppose this was a decent collection of short stories, however, it felt like a letdown after some of Torgersen’s older stories.  There were way too many plot and logic problems.  Perhaps because Torgersen is trying to write more stories with particular messages than for the story itself.  If you’re pretty new to science fiction, then maybe you might enjoy this.  More experienced readers will probably want to look elsewhere.

Rating: 5.5/10.

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