[Robert J. Sawyer] Science Fiction Writer
Hugo and Nebula Winner

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Review Excerpts

Robert J. Sawyer's Red Planet Blues

[Red Planet Blues cover]

"Red Planet Blues is a perfectly executed gem of a book. The premise is well considered and the execution confident and daring. Sawyer sets a classic work of noir against a Buck Rogers backdrop without ever hitting a sour note. Red Planet Blues is a gorgeous and engaging read." —Mystery writer Linda L. Richards, bestselling author of Death was the Other Woman

"A new Robert J. Sawyer book is always cause for celebration. Even more so when the book is something completely different than he's been doing for the last few years. Red Planet Blues is a tour de force.

"This is Robert J. Sawyer, so you know it's a well-written, intelligent story with some unexpected twists. Red Planet Blues isn't just a mystery story with science fiction trappings, it's a fusion of the two genres in which the mystery depends on the SF elements.

"Sawyer makes New Klondike as real as the street in front of your house. To top it off, he obviously had fun writing this book, and that sense of fun comes through on every page. Definitely worth reading." —Don Sakers in Analog Science Fiction and Fact

"A Robert J. Sawyer novel guarantees a provocative scenario bursting with questions in every direction. Red Planet Blues delivers a mother lode of them: how will human habitation of Mars work technologically, economically and socially? How will `transferred' humans (possessing whatever stunning upgrades in appearance and ability they've paid handsomely for) regard their (inferior?) flesh-and-bone fellow citizens? And what crimes will these cyborgs feel free to commit, now that they're incapable of leaving DNA evidence?

"To science-fiction fans, it's obvious that Sawyer's work is SF. Its attention to scientific detail and plausibility allows it to benefit from the Vonnegut gambit: major book sales to non-SF or SF-hostile readers by hiding its SF-ness in plain sight. This krypto-SF approach has helped Sawyer to become one of Canada's most successful authors in terms of sales, reader acclaim, awards and reach." —Minister Faust in VUE Weekly (Edmonton, Alberta)

"Sawyer had done his homework about Mars ... an interesting take on what a colony based on a `Great Fossil Rush' to Mars could be like.

"The novel is chock full of references based on science fiction stories and old movies, and I am sure I did not catch all of them. Perhaps my favorite was that the local watering establishment, where water ice is more expensive than dry ice, is aptly called Bar Soom as a nod to Edgar Rice Burroughs' name for Mars.

"The first 86 pages is the complete and very excellent Hugo and Nebula Award-nominated novella `Identity Theft.' That in itself is worth the price of the book.

"I found Red Planet Blues a great merger of science fiction with the old style detective genre, and I thoroughly enjoyed it." National Space Society

"My praise is about to get effusive, so settle in peoples. Two of my favourite cinematic genres are film noir and science-fiction, combine them in a novel and you can understand my enthusiasm. Referencing classic films like Casablanca, the gumshoe protagonist gives out a world weary Humphrey Bogart feel and the human transfers are reminiscent of the neo-noir Blade Runner. While Sawyer draws on these popular references, he also elevates them, transforming them into a compelling and original story with his `unputdownable' touch.

"I really don't want to give much of the plot away, it is far more enjoyable to immerse yourself without preconceived notions of what might occur. Having said that there will be Martian fossils, nifty transportation, dangerous dames, sex, violence and a fascinating planet full of adventure that had me reading until 3am this morning. 5 out of 5 — get me on a shuttle to Mars along with requisite hot new transfer body!" —Kristine Upton in Fictional Fix

"Red Planet Blues is terrific!" —Victoria Sinclair, Naked News

"Red Planet Blues resurrects the noir mystery, the gold rush western, and the science fiction adventure and the result is a unique, fun story that keeps you guessing, keeps the pages turning, and manages to put a smile on your face every few pages, in spite of the pulse-pumping action and adventure." —Jamie Todd Rubin in Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show

"Unlike the detective in Red Planet Blues, Robert J. Sawyer uses his novel as a means to open questions, rather than answering them, challenging his audience to debate and speculate on issues of identity and human experience rather than forcing readers to accept his conclusions. Sawyer calls on readers to open their minds to new possibilities of what it means to be human and what it means to be a human separated from our Earthen home." —Derek Newman-Stille in Speculating Canada

"There's always been an exuberance to Robert J. Sawyer's writing, and reading Red Planet Blues one can't miss the feeling that he's having a lot of fun with a story featuring whiplash plot twists, lethal babes, superhuman `transfers' who have had their minds uploaded to robotic bodies, greedy prospectors, and even a writer-in-residence who doubles as a femme fatale. Red Planet Blues delivers a pulp buffet of strange things done 'neath the Martian sun." —Alex Good in The Toronto Star

"Science Fiction & Fantasy Books — March 2013 Highlights: Robert J. Sawyer, who excels at writing solid and accessible science fiction stories, offers Red Planet Blues, a noir-ish mystery set on Mars." Kirkus

"Sawyer has an absolute ball playing with the mystery form. The result is a lively love poem to the mystery genre that is terrific fun." Adam-Troy Castro in Sci Fi Magazine (Syfy Channel)

"The story becomes something of a roller-coaster and you quickly read from chapter to chapter to see what happens next so be sure to give yourself the necessary time to read a lot per sitting. An edge-of-the-seat book that will have you wanting more. I do hope Rob Sawyer considers doing a second book [about Alex Lomax]." GF Willmetts in SF Crowsnest

"How interesting it is to see how well the mystery genre blends with science fiction and builds successfully on the differences. Mars comes to rich life in Sawyer's hands. This is a complex, imaginative story firmly based on Earth's red neighbour and its unique circumstances — and its own brand of murder." Saskatoon Star-Phoenix

"Lomax is more layered than your standard-issue private eye, and whether you read it as a science fiction story with a good mystery inside or as a pulp mystery with a science fiction setting, Red Planet Blues is a rollicking read, at turns funny, exciting and full of twists and turns." C.A. Bridges in The Daytona Beach News-Journal

"Red Planet Blues rocks! This is the best book I've read for months! Maybe years! What's not to love? You have the Frontier (Mars), the Gold Rush (only it's a fossil rush), a Chandler-like, witty detective, extreme conditions (no atmosphere outside the dome) and cyborgs! Did I mention the body doubles and mind swapping? This book has everything! I couldn't put it down.

"This is the first book I've read by this author in which the mystery is the heart of the tale and he has mastered that genre neatly, while never straying from science fiction. The mystery involved so many reversals and plot twists which I totally didn't see coming that it kept me guessing throughout." Ann Wilkes in Science Fiction and other ODDysseys

"A sheer delight to read with lots of twists and turns and loads of skulduggery." John Litchen in SF Commentary

"Red Planet Blues combines all the twists and turns of a classic noir adventure with all the hard science goodness of Sawyer's previous work." —Science Fiction writer James Alan Gardner, finalist for the Hugo and Nebula Awards

"The type of book codified perfectly by Isaac Asimov in his The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun is rare indeed, hard to bring off since the writer must obey and honor two sets of genre expectations at once. Robert Sawyer's newest novel — incorporating and expanding his well-received novella `Identity Theft' — joins these ranks with zest and enthusiasm, providing a ride both criminal and stefnal.

"Sawyer plays absolutely on the up-and-up, outlining the parameters of his new world clearly and providing enough information to make his resolution very satisfactory and suspenseful.

"Sawyer has a lot of fun with the typical mystery novel doings, always keeping one or two steps ahead of the reader's guesses. Dames and gats, treachery and MacGuffins abound — all of course flavored with a space-age ambiance. Sawyer introduces some deep backstory to complicate the plot, and zigs and zags in unpredictable fashion, always keeping the reader alert and entertained.

"Red Planet Blues should sit on the shelf right next to David Brin's thematically and topically allied Kiln People, as an example of how to hit two targets with one shot." —Paul Di Filippo in Locus Online

"Imagine the plot of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre played out on the planet Mars. Sawyer has, and the result is wonderful in both senses — a terrific noir crime novel that is full of the wonders of Sawyer's sci-fi world. In Red Planet Blues Sawyer has imagined, and written, his best book yet." —Mystery writer Eric Wright, four-time winner of Crime Writers of Canada's Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel of the Year

"Sawyer's gift for ingenious ideas and settings shines in this clever and exciting genre-crossing homage in which classic noir takes on a decidedly reddish hue. More fun than a joyride in a Mars buggy!" —Mystery writer Karen Dudley, author of Food for the Gods

"I've been waiting for this book for years. After reading Sawyer's novella `Identity Theft' I couldn't wait for a return to his vision of a wild, Klondike Mars where the rush is to discover fossils, not gold.

"Full of rough and tumble good guys, double dealing, and femme fatales, Sawyer melds noir tropes skillfully with his future tech and archaeology. The protagonist, Alex Lomax, is himself a fan of Earth's noir period of film and fiction, and so there is a slightly meta quality to the novel that I enjoyed. Red Planet Blues tips its hat to its crime progenitors without becoming pastiche and at the same time does what they could not: take crime to the stars.

"Five stars. Highly recommended!" Chadwick Ginther, author of Thunder Road

"With Red Planet Blues, Sawyer crosses boundaries in a literary hybrid that will please devoted science fiction readers and create new converts to genre." —Stuart Nulman in West End Times (Montreal)

"What makes a good science fiction writer great is the ability to infuse gripping sci-fi with ideas that are both grandiose and grounded — feasible futures. Robert J. Sawyer is one of the most consistent authors out there in bringing readers that dynamic blend.

"His latest is Red Planet Blues; the novel sports the delightfully descriptive subtitle `Murder on the Mean Streets of Mars' — which tells you everything you need to know.

"There's a wonderful Raymond Chandler-meets-Ray Bradbury vibe that permeates Red Planet Blues. Sawyer's Mars is as realistically realized as his settings always are; no one creates a plausible near-future quite like he does. There's a richness of detail — particularly in the descriptions of New Klondike — that is particularly engaging. From the shady dive bars to the spaceships to the sweeping Martian plains, Sawyer paints a vivid picture.

"But it's his creation of Alex Lomax where Sawyer really shines. There's an obvious love for the noir detectives of the past here; by dropping this character into a future that is more grit than shine, the seedy spirit of literary gumshoes gone by is brought to glorious life. Add to that a liberal dose of Sawyer's dry wit, awash with pop culture awareness, and you've got Sam Spade's spiritual cousin.

"At its core, Red Planet Blues is an excellent detective novel that just happens to take place on another planet. It's a genre mash-up that might have felt gimmicky in less capable hands; however, with Sawyer at the helm, it succeeds beautifully. A hard-boiled noir detective on Mars — the sort of character a guy like Sawyer was born to write.

"Red Planet Blues is a fine example of what makes Sawyer such an enjoyable read. Alex Lomax is the good-naturedly tarnished soul of the story while the scientific detail that marks Sawyer's work is undeniably present. That science might not be as prominently front and center as it has been in some of his previous works, but the balance being struck here is just right. A ripping good read." —Allen Adams in The Maine Edge (Bangor, Maine)

"I flew through the book, unable to put it down, and completely hooked. Red Planet Blues is equal parts Philip Marlowe as played by Bogart, the film Blade Runner, and The Martian Chronicles. All the traditional trappings one would expect to find in a film-noir are present, but twisted ever so slightly to the lessened gravity and the thin and dangerous atmosphere.

"Like any good noir story, the twists, the double-crosses, the dames and revelations keep coming. Sawyer has done his homework, and all the clues are there, all the hints, and I sometimes found myself guessing aloud what something was going to mean, or happen. Sometimes I was delighted to be right, that I understood Lomax's character so well, or at least the genre he lives in, and other times I would be equally delighted to be proven wrong and have the story twist in a new way.

"Sawyer has crafted a fantastic tale, and created and populated a world that I honestly hope he revisits a number of times. I'd love to have more adventures on this version of Mars." —TD Ridout on The Mind Reels

"A perfectly satisfying novel." Mike Shinabery, KRSY-AM 1230 Alamogordo, New Mexico

"Sawyer's new book is more gripping than a pair of pliers." —SETI Institute astronomer Seth Shostak

"In Red Planet Blues Sawyer has found a highly original and fun way to pay homage to the great hard boiled detectives of the past. Mars, like the sun kissed streets of Los Angeles Philip Marlow once patrolled, may sound like it's an exotic location, but underneath the glamor of being on another planet there's just as many dark and dangerous secrets as anywhere else. So it's the perfect setting for a private eye willing to skirt around the edges of the law. You'll have a lot of fun wandering the mean streets of New Klondike and over the surface of the Red Planet with P.I. Lomax, and he might even give you a few things to think about." —Richard Marcus in Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"Combining hardboiled noir detective, the Wild West, and classic Martian pulp into a singularly potent cocktail, then spiking it with the big ideas that made the WWW Trilogy, Triggers and FlashForward unmissable landmarks of contemporary SF, Robert J. Sawyer serves up frontier justice in Red Planet Blues. It's a two-fisted tale of greed, murder and alien paleontology — straight, no chaser!" Science Fiction Book Club

"Canada's premier sci-fi writer Robert J. Sawyer applies his speculative sensitivities to a whodunit story in his new novel, Red Planet Blues. Set on Mars, it features fossil collectors competing for the most lucrative find while the murder of two influential prospectors remains unsolved." Now (Toronto)

"Red Planet Blues is just great; it's a lot of fun." Edward M. Lerner, author of InterstellarNet: Enigma

"Red Planet Blues is a terrific mystery in the noir tradition: detectives, dames, saloons, car (well, sort of) chases, snide humor, and all the rest of it. What Sawyer has done here is nicely melded SF and mystery. This story is not a mystery moved to Mars for the sake of calling it science fiction; rather, this story cannot be told if it was set on Earth. The planet's setting is integral to the story, so that unlike so many other novels that throw in a few SF tropes so it can be called science fiction, this one actually needs the tropes to tell the story. Once again, these things are integral to Sawyer's novel, and that's why I keep going back to his work." —Joe Karpierz in MT Void

"Red Planet Blues: Take equal parts Raymond Chandler's noir detective novels, Robert Service's poetry of the Yukon gold rush, and Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, add a generous splash of The Road to Utopia, shake it all up in Rob Sawyer's noggin and chill in the Yukon for a few months. Decant onto pulp paper, and knock the concoction back like cold Sarsaparilla in a dirty glass." —Ernest Lilley in SFRevu

"Unfortunately life is too short to read all the good stuff that's out there. I'm thinking seriously about taking some time off to catch up. In the meantime, though, I've run across some strong books that deserve attention. Robert Sawyer's Red Planet Blues features New Klondike, a Martian colony that is the ultimate in frontier locations. The inhabitants are there on a long shot, hoping they can find some Martian fossils, which are rare, but can bring riches. The technology includes a capability for moving minds from failing human bodies into mechanical units. This is background for a detective who, at the start, feels like Bogart's Sam Spade. He is caught in a missing persons case which in the course of time becomes considerably more."Nebula Award-winner Jack McDevitt

"One of the purposes of science fiction is to take a good story and insert it into a futuristic world of science fiction, making it a great story; something you haven't read before. Bestselling author Robert J. Sawyer does just this with Red Planet Blues as he presents the classic noir detective novel that just about everyone is familiar with, and inserts it into a future world of a colonized Mars, which makes for some very riveting reading.

"Sawyer has done a great job in creating a concrete, believable world and some strong characters. Science fiction readers will not be disappointed; noir crime readers will not be disappointed; and where the twain shall meet shall be one very satisfied reader."Bookbanter

"SciFi noir at its best! Alex Lomax is a futuristic gumshoe with an endearing penchant for old movies, topless barmaids, (one in particular who has caught his eye and a tiny piece of his heart), and snappy comebacks. He is as funny as he is fearless.

"This book is such a superb romp on the red planet that I reread it for this review with the excuse that I needed to check facts. The truth of the matter is that I may have fallen slightly in love with Lomax. His self-deprecating humor amid murder attempts and mayhem have completely won me over. If possible, I'd hop the next spaceship and journey to Mars just so I could hang out with Lomax and have a few drinks, cognizant of the fact that I'd be buying. Sawyer's delightful combination of action and humor make this suspenseful tale of crime on Mars one of my top reads this year." The Qwillery

"Mystery and science fiction fans alike will enjoy this fast-paced adventure. Gritty and a bit dark, this thriller is a fun read with plenty of surprises along the way." SciFi Chick

"Robert J. Sawyer is an absolute master of science fiction, and Red Planet Blues just adds more luster to his already towering reputation." —Science Fiction writer Mike Resnick, Hugo Award-winning author of The Buntline Special

"Red Planet Blues is science fiction. But it's also a fun mystery novel, one that's replete with all the action readers would expect to find in a book from the crime fiction genre — the sexy women, the weapons, the greed, the chases, the friendly and surly cops. It's got them all.

"In Red Planet Blues, Sawyer has successfully used his wealth of science-fiction lore to create an intriguing mystery novel, one that is bound to have readers hoping for more." —Eugene McCarthy in Waterloo Record

"Lots of light fun in a well-thought-out background. I hope Alex returns for more cases." —Henry Lazarus in Weekly Press (Philadelphia)

"Alex Lomax is a hard-boiled, borderline-shady private eye, living among corpses, gangsters, thugs, crooks and women that any guy would be a fool to trust. That he sees himself as Humphrey Bogart would be obvious, even if he didn't adorn his place with Bogie movie posters. Oh, and by the way, since this mystery novel is written by Canada's world-class science-fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer, Lomax lives on Mars.

"Red Planet Blues is a total hoot. It's funny more than once in a while, it's a terrific page-turner, it moves faster than a rocket heading to Jupiter's moons. Red Planet Blues is a humdinger of a read." —Nick Martin in Winnipeg Free Press

"If you like your mysteries a little more, shall we say, hard-boiled, you should check out Red Planet Blues, by Toronto's Robert J. Sawyer. Expanded from Sawyer's near-perfect novella Identity Theft, the book tells the story of Alex Lomax, a private investigator who lucks into the biggest case of his career -- a case that could set him up for life, assuming he can stay alive long enough to solve it.

Lomax's first-person narration is appropriately noir-ish, the story is full of suspense and misdirection (it involves the a murder that happened many years ago), and the setting is fresh and very well-conceived. In Sawyer's expert hands, New Klondike, the first human city on Mars, feels dingy and threadbare, like a typical town in a typical noir mystery. The book might not be quite as good as the author's first mystery/SF crossover, the 1997 courtroom drama Illegal Alien, but it comes pretty darned close." Winnipeg Free Press (again)

Reviews of the Hugo and Nebula Award-nominated "Identity Theft" novella (which makes up the first ten chapters of Red Planet Blues):

"A terrific story." —Joe Karpierz, The MT Void (The Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society)

"Best of the lot [in Down These Dark Spaceways] is the last story, by Robert Sawyer. `Identity Theft' is on the Hugo ballot, and it is easy to see why. The story starts with the classic clichés [of hard-boiled detective fiction] and then twists and twists, until the reader is breathless keeping up. The conclusion is non-stop action — literally slam-bang. Highly recommended." —Ann Cecil, Sigma (newsletter of Parsec, the Pittsburgh SF Society)

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