Red Noise by John P. Murphy
Angry Robot, pb, £7.99
Reviewed by Matt Adcock
Outland starring Sean Connery is one of my fav sci-fi films. It is pretty much High Noon in space – and as a concept that works really well (a Marshal stationed at a mining colony on orbiting Jupiter is marked for assassination and must fight to survive). So it follows that transporting western plots to space which is the ultimate ‘wild frontier’ is a great idea, and here Red Noise takes the classic A Fist Full of Dollars (itself based on samurai legend Yojimbo) and sets it on ‘Station 35’ a godforsaken outpost where nothing good ever happens.
Our ‘hero’, for want of a better term, is The Miner – a nod to Clint Eastwood’s ‘Man with No Name’ surely. A not so innocent gunslinger who comes into town/space base looking to sell her haul of ore. After being ripped off, she decides to get some payback by playing off the two opposing crime families who have taken over the outpost. Yes, it’s a re-tread of a plot that’s been explored a few times before in different guises, but Murphy manages to bring the noise with panache and a great eye for tasty violence.
Red Noise is a pulpy page-turning treat, the action rips along at a good pace, and the fights punctuate the story in fast and brutal regular bursts. While you never really get to know The Miner, she is a potentially iconic character in the making who can kick serious ass – thanks to her combat implants and an uncanny skill with a samurai sword (another Yojimbo nod).
What you get here then is a thoroughly enjoyable space western that doesn’t reach for deep thought or complex narrative but does pack an impressive body count. If you want a life-changing space odyssey – stick with your Arthur C Clarke – but sometimes you just want a book to wash over you and keep you entertained, and that’s precisely what you get if you sign up for a visit to Station 35.
Reviewed by Matt Adcock
In the land of the dumb, where no guns are allowed, the man with the mini-gun equipped mech-suit is king. Murphy has riotous fun painting carnage against the backdrop of the criminal factions power squabble. His characters are a wacky bunch of thugs, mercenaries and loudmouths with names like Screwball, Sparks and Ditz. The world they inhabit is somehow immediately accessible for anyone who has ever experienced a sci-fi film or book. The ready ‘lived in’ environments wouldn’t feel out of place in the Alien universe, and I could see The Miner getting on well with kindred badass female lead Ripley if there ever was a cross over.
In the end, Red Noise is a satisfying fast food read that, even at 440 pages, doesn’t hang around as it’s hard to put down once you’ve picked it up. I can’t give a much higher compliment because I firmly believe books should be enjoyed and hopefully leave you grinning – so cowboy hat-shaped space helmets off to John P Murphy. I’m hoping we get to read some further adventures of The Miner in the future.