In Retrospect, by Ellen Larson
Five Star Publications
268 pages, Kindle Edition
Published December 2013
As a light sci-fi mystery this novel works really well. The characters are interesting, the writing is professional, and the plotting is done well to keep you guessing how things will exactly turn out. Beyond an entertaining diversion there isn’t much here, and that’s fine if a little diversion is all you’re looking for. I would have liked a little more emphasis on the world-building here, and on the science that allows this little mystery plot to unfold. Most jarring, the characters speak exactly like we do today, slang and all, despite being set over a millennia into the future. So to enjoy this one does have to suspend a certain measure of disbelief at the setup and go along for the ride.
The narrative is told through chapters that skip back and forth between different time periods of the life of the protagonist, Merit, starting at the onset with her apparent murder. Larson manages to write these narrative shifts in time without losing the reader, and this is really important, because the book simply wouldn’t work except written in a round-about temporal manner. It is this construction that allows the mystery, as events of Merit’s past now come back to force the present situation.
Merit is probably what I enjoyed most about the novel. Her character is complex and conflicted, unsure of who she can trust any longer, and uncertain of her own capabilities and strengths. Although the novel lacked aspects that I would usually want to see in a sci-fi book, the depths of that character really brought this novel into something interesting to read.