The opening part of Jack Glass is so unbelievably tense that the last two thirds lack a little in emotive atmosphere in comparison. We meet Jack as he is imprisoned within an asteroid with six other men. Roberts creates a claustrophobic environment in which these violent and dangerous men must stay. They are there to excavate the space rock in order for it to be sold as accommodation. Roberts drip feeds knowledge of the titular character so slowly that it becomes addictive to turn the pages, in order to discover what makes this proposed murderer tick.
The story that follows this part and becomes the focus is politically charged and while it holds the attention, it didn’t grip the me to the same extent. This is also attributed to the style in which Roberts has created the narrative. It’s like watching a magic trick in reverse or being told the punchline before the setup. Roberts opens the novel by revealing the vital plot device and then proceeds with the story. Having said that, he has crafted a story that intrigues.
Those opening two paragraphs would make it seem as if I wasn’t pleased by the book… that is certainly not the case. Jack Glass is utterly stunning on two fronts – imagination and writing.
The name Adam Roberts is usually bounded around in sentences about literary qualities of language. It is easy to see why. Roberts has this talent for using beautiful prose but making it flow effortlessly as if you were reading a early learning book. Even his exploration of science and technology in vast depth is incredibly easy going for the reader, meaning that very little stops you in your tracks.
Then comes the imagination. What I would give to step inside this man’s mind and explore. Roberts makes writing Sci-fi seem easy. He uses the traditional Sci-fi tropes but adds a freshness to them. For an established fan, I’m probably preaching to the converted, but, as a newcomer to his work I feel as if I’ve stumbled onto greatness.
Much of the plot revolves around FTL travel – Faster Than Light – and it interweaves with a political story of controlling families on the brink of war over control over our solar system. We explore many themes such as revolution and human rights. Jack Glass develops within these ideas into various characters over the course of the novel and soon he becomes the antihero we all love to read. We shouldn’t be routing for a man the cover of the books outs as a murderer of many, but he has a quality that endears the audience. Jack almost becomes the voice of the reader in pressured situations. We agree with what he says because he is a voice of the people.
The environment that Adam had crafted is a truly scary one. People are seen as tools, commodities and replaceable. We’ve procreated to the point of giddying numbers. Trillions of people are living in bubbles in space in horrible poverty while the rich get fatter. A cynical person could say that Roberts has been studying our current economical climate and government rather a lot.
Looking back at the 360 pages it’s remarkable just how much is crammed into the story. It’s not just the Sci-fi aspects to consider but the fact that a trilogy of murder mysteries is woven throughout. The book will appeal to so many readers and every one of them will walk away enthralled by what they have experienced.
I have to say… how amazing is that cover?! I will now try to make time to read my copy of By Light Alone and I hope to explore more of his work after. I hear Yellow Blue Tibia is his best? (Though his wife believes that title falls to Jack Glass).
Published by Gollancz. This book was kindly sent by the publisher for review.