The Spare Man

by Mary Robinette Kowal

Monday, February 5, 2024

Featured image for The Spare Man

I read this off the back of enjoying the Lady Astronaut series a lot but not fancying the author’s other books that look to be historical romances. This was science fiction and it also turned out to be a murder mystery so right up my street really.

Tesla is on her honeymoon - a cruise ship from Earth to Mars - when her and her newlywed spouse, Shal, come across a dying person outside their cabin, who quickly becomes a dead person and Shal is accused of the murder. It’s a good setup and a lively story. There’s lots of nice futuristic technological bits muddled up with the recognisable banality of cruise ships which stay the same no matter where they are headed. The human elements of a story don’t change no matter the setting, and the authors romance fiction background shows. I mean that in a positive way, the relationships between the characters are interesting and it’ll keep your attention even if you’re not sure about the science fiction aspect of it.

There’s lot of nice stuff here, as well as the cruise ship aspect there’s lots about the nature of celebrity and trauma. The chapters all have related cocktail recipes, which is cute and thematic, though it wasn’t clear to me until the end that they were mostly (maybe entirely) alcohol-free in this version of the future which obliviates the worries I had whilst reading about the characters all day drinking. Not to mention the service dog.

I also felt the murder mystery plot was pretty decent, no strange space shenanigans were hiding the culprit. I think the cruise ship setting led it to have a feel out of the golden age of mysteries whilst very much not being of that era. All in all, I enjoyed it a lot.