Eugene J. McGillicuddy's Alien Detective Agency, by George Allen Miller, SEP2023 LTER

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Eugene J. McGillicuddy's Alien Detective Agency, by George Allen Miller, SEP2023 LTER

lokakuu 1, 2023, 10:26 pm

If you are the kind of reader who needs to have a clear vision of what is happening in a novel, you’re going to want to give this one a pass.

On the other hand, if you’re up for a science fiction/fantasy/mystery packed with exotic aliens, incredible technologies, and a complex galactic civilization, through which the hero spins, bounces, leaps, and occasionally crawls, usually from one menacing situation to another, generally not knowing quite what is going on except that if he doesn’t figure it out, he’s going to get squashed -- or zapped -- or possibly eaten – have I got a book for you.

George Allen Miller has created a background stuffed to the gills with intriguing aliens, hints of unique cultures, and more whiz-bang gadgets than Buck Rogers ever thought of. His imagination is simply overwhelming – and whether that’s a good thing or not is wholly dependent on how willing the reader is to just lie back and be overrun by the whole glorious, unruly mess.

The gist of the plot is that the title character, one Eugene McGillicuddy (generally known as Jack) is a budget-basement private eye in a 23rd-century Earth that has come under the protection of a Galactic Council, after nearly destroying itself with the excesses of the 21st century. McGillicuddy has an affection for a snappy fedora and a fascination with an immediately-recognizable 20th-century cinema detective. He also woke up one morning with the inexplicable ability to answer any question posed to him – but only if it’s asked by someone else. It seems that “someone has wrapped a piece of your essence into a cosmic stream of awareness”, and now he’s been tasked with finding proof positive of a pre-Council alien contact on Earth – which may or may not exist. Along the way, he’s tailed, threatened, pummeled, and zapped by various aliens, most of whom want him to take them along or spill the beans as to its location, or possibly just to crack open his skull and remove the source of his psychic ability. The hapless detective’s attempts to fill the contract and figure out which faction is out to double-cross the others, forms the basis of the plot, such as it is.

Along the way, he keeps getting sidetracked into various mini-adventures, usually accompanied by either his secretary/partner/babysitter and any one of half a dozen rogue AIs who have become bored with their lives as office chairs or parking meters and have developed their own underground society.

Even as Miller keeps the action at a high boil, he manages to work in a coherent subplot, involving that secretary, a young physicist who has had an experiment go horribly wrong, causing the disappearance and presumed death of several of her co-workers. Leaving academia to concentrate on trying to replicate the circumstances of the experiment and so determine the fate of her friends, Alice mostly keeps Jack out of trouble while dealing with her guilt, and with the crushing realization that no matter what brilliant discovery she might make, it’s already been discovered, studied, developed, utilized, and superceded by other discoveries, somewhere in the vast Galactic Congress. There’s a fair amount of existential angst going on there – what does a theoretical physicist do in a universe where there are no theoreticals left?

Eventually, Miller corrals all these disparate elements and comes up with a conclusion that leaves pretty much everyone satisfied. Even Alice thinks she might have found one more what-if to examine, and her experimental path leads to an unexpected ending that will either set up a sequel … or shut down the possibility completely.