Monday 22 February 2021

Review: The Qubit Zirconium: A KeyForge Novel

The Qubit Zirconium: A KeyForge Novel The Qubit Zirconium: A KeyForge Novel by M. Darusha Wehm
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A mystery set in the wacky world of a CCG, featuring private detectives with a difference. Actually, a lot of differences.

The PIs - a female alien who floats, and a nattily-dressed nonbinary cyborg - are not even a little bit noir; they don't get beaten up while pursuing their investigation, they're rigidly ethical in their methods, and they're not desperate for money. In fact, they spend quite a bit of their own money on behalf of a client who they know can't reimburse them, at first because they're bored and want a mystery to solve and someone they vaguely know appears to be in trouble, and later because they come to believe that the world is at risk.

For the first third - while the stakes were low - I wasn't engaged. It's clear that the PIs are fond of each other, even though they have a mild mutual irritation/odd couple thing going because Wibble, the floater, is a thrill-seeking extraverted optimist and Pplimz is very buttoned-down. But their banter is in a formal cadence, and there's not a lot of emotional drive or action. The investigation is a slow series of try-fail cycles which show off the setting, but the details are mostly decorative rather than functional. Neither the main characters nor the various secondary characters they encounter are shown to us particularly deeply, and none of them became interesting to me; they're odd, sure, but there's such a relentless tone of respecting difference (which, certainly, is a good thing in itself) that their oddity becomes flattened and doesn't lead to much conflict. We're told that this is a world in which there's a lot of danger and in which many factions are battling; we're shown a comfortable, fairly safe world in which nothing really bad actually happens.

This continues to be the case throughout the book, but at least things pick up a bit when the fate of the world seems to be at stake (view spoiler). There's no more clarity, and not much more danger, but there is at least a plot question to drive things forward. (view spoiler)

My previous experience with Darusha Wehm's books is that they do tend to be slow-moving and lacking in action, tension, and strong emotion, and this is not an exception, despite the opportunities offered by the setting. There are definitely people who will enjoy following the likeable protagonists through the interesting setting as they gradually unpick the puzzle, but for me it didn't have enough zing to it.

Disclaimers: I know Darusha Wehm slightly, as we're both members of the Codex writers' forum and of SpecFicNZ. I received a pre-publication copy for review via Netgalley.

View all my reviews

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