Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pattern matching to the rescue

kw: book reviews, science fiction, space fiction, mysteries

I find it interesting how frequently space stories could have been rewritten to take place on contemporary Earth, or a reasonably near-future Earth, with nations substituted for planets, and other cultures and ethnicities substituted for the various aliens. When all the action takes place aboard a space liner, it is a simple step to transform the milieu to a cruise ship.

With the proviso that two of the protagonists are artificial personalities (emphatically not artificial intelligences, as explained at least twice), we have in Narcissus by Don D'Ammassa a straightforward mystery set in a constrained environment.

The emphasis here is not so much the Sci-Fi environment, nor the clash of social systems inherent in combining people and a very few aliens from sundry planets. It is primarily a showcase for the type of systems analysis the author calls pattern analysis. The mental peregrinations of "pattern analyst" Sandor Dyle and his associate Marym Dunnis, an equally skilled former police investigator, are the prime concern.

They have to deal with teasing out the actual crime(s) from two horrific actions—a sabotage and a murder—that may or may not be related. In the end (did you doubt it?) neither crime is what it seems.

The book is subtitled "A Sandor Dyle Novel", the second such after Scarab. The title Narcissus provides a strong clue to the astute reader. Perhaps the same is true of the former novel.

1 comment:

Don D'Ammassa said...

Thanks for the review. I think you're the first person to notice the significance of the title. I guess people don't get taught the legend of Echo (Eco) and Narcissus in school any more.

There's another pun hidden in the story that is almost impossible to notice. The ship is the Helen of Troy and it has a complement of exactly one thousand. Yes, it's the ship that launched 1000 faces.