RogerBW's Blog

Delete All Suspects, Donna Andrews 22 December 2014

2005 SF/mystery. Turing Hopper, an AI emergent from research assistant software, looks into the affairs of a techie who's been hit by a car and is now in intensive care. Was it an accident?

Where the first book in the series was clearly set in a divergent future, later volumes have been closer to the real world apart from the presence of AIs, and this one turns up the technobabble (albeit mostly accurate technobabble) in an apparent attempt to hide its lack of meaty plot. There are some good bits, in particular an audacious impersonation, but mostly it's just rolling along in a predictable way. It's basically a private-investigator story where one of the team is an AI, and distracting subplots don't hide the problem that the AI isn't entirely necessary to the story. Yes, the characters do their things, but they seem to be even more sanded-down than before (apart from a good moment in hospital for Tim); even Claudia's starting to feel a little blah. KingFischer turns up just to act rather out of character, and there's plenty of moralising (all the human good guys automatically regard porn sites as Evil, rather more so than they do spamming – even legal porn, insofar as that's a meaningful concept to them). And everybody's ready to look down on the badly-injured fellow who was so sloppy as to ask his friends to act as backup sysadmins for his no-budget private server farm when he was away, rather than employing someone.

It's another series entry, and while the call to action at the end may be welcome it should have happened two books earlier. As this seems likely to have been the final book in the series, it's particularly disappointing that the big running plot (at least since Click Here for Murder) didn't get materially closer to resolution.

I can see why Andrews dropped this series to concentrate on Meg Lanslow, even without knowing the sales figures; this book feels as though it's floundering, and that it was hard work to write. Concentrating on the AI plots would alienate the mystery readers; the SF readers had probably already dropped the series when the SF content got toned down. Even so, if Andrews ever publishes another I'll certainly read it.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

Previous in series: Access Denied | Series: Turing Hopper

  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 11:43am on 22 December 2014

    I'm spotting a trend across your book reviews. Series sometimes improve in the second book, and then almost invariably head downhill from there. And the long running threads never get resolved, the authors keep stringing them out presumably to get readers to keep coming back hoping for progress on them which never materialises.

    I've also noticed that any series off the beaten track eithers veers towards a standard genre or gets dropped. Which is sad.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 03:48pm on 22 December 2014

    Except that there have been at least two series this year which didn't follow that pattern: Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London and Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead were both great, but both crashed with the second book, at least for me. This series I think wasn't intended to be one at first; I'm guessing the initial book was well received so Andrews wrote a sequel introducing the long-running elements.

    It's a standard problem in any serial medium where the existence of chunk N depends on the popularity of chunk N-1: chances are it'll end abruptly on a bad note, because it's the unpopular book (or TV season) that causes the next one not to be made. Some smart TV companies are now saying to their producers "OK, this will definitely be the last season, so wind up anything you can".

    It's much harder to sell people a book if they think they have to have read a bunch of other books first. And lots of readers really do follow the genre tags and get annoyed if they're violated.

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime crystal cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2021 hugo 2022 hugo 2023 hugo 2024 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1