I was attracted to this book by the blurb, describing the book as a “dark and gripping sci-fi noir” in which a police detective from Earth arrives at a lunar penal colony and steps in to the local police department to take charge of an investigation into the death of an associate of one of an eccentric billionaire. I got all this, and so much more.
The moon, much like the initial colonization of Australia, once served as a massive penal colony … the place where criminals were sent to eke out their lives in a hostile environment. It has grown, and communities and cities have come about, with names like “Sin” and “Purgatory” and running much of this is a man by the name of Fletcher Brass. He’s been grooming his daughter, QT Brass, to become his successor, though their relationship has grown tenuous. When a close aid to Fletcher is killed, Damien Justus, a cop who takes his work seriously and who cannot be bought, is brought to the moon. Justus discovers why he was needed as the Lunar Police don’t seem to care too much to put in a hard days’ work. But just about the time that Justus arrives the moon is facing a new problem that many don’t quite know about yet … a robot is running rampant around the moon and killing people.
What surprised me about this book is not the darkness or the violence, but the humor. The book is definitely dark, with killings that happen in a most gruesome manner, and author Anthony O’Neill doesn’t just gloss over these points. But he does complement them with a strange, insidious, dry sense of humor that really appealed to me. Anyone watching me reading this would have noticed my constant smiles.
O’Neill does a wonderful job with his creating of characters and world-building. Although the names of some of the characters might remind me of the early works of sf-humor author Ron Goulart, the characters themselves have some depth to them that I feel we’re only seeing a portion thereof. Justus comes across, for a while, as a bit casual and barely competent, but when he takes a subtle meeting with an unlikely source, we see that there’s more to him than meets the eye. There’s a little ‘Columbo’ going on here. And QT and Fletcher also manage to be both larger-than-life and ‘real’ at the same time. Even the mad robot (or perhaps, especially the mad robot) has a fantastically intriguing character.
But O’Neill is no slouch in the writing of the mystery aspect of this either. I was quite caught up in story as well. The red herrings (or at least the constant changing of who might be the guilty party), had me curious. And the manner in which the story of the robot and the mystery surrounding Fletcher Brass would come together (if it came together) also had me guessing.
If you look at my Goodreads ‘currently reading’ page, you’ll see that I am constantly reading more than one book at any time. But this was one of those very rare instances where I started this book, was caught up in it very quickly, and I did not want to read anything else until I got to the last page. In fact, if there were a book two already available, I likely would have picked it up and jumped right in.
Looking for a good book? If you’re a fan of science fiction or mysteries (and especially a fan of both genres), you will want to read The Dark Side by Anthony O’Neill – don’t wait!
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Dark Side
author: Anthony O’Neill
publisher: Simon & Schuster
paperback, 400 pages