Murphy's Gambit


Syne Mitchell


Fantasy / Science Fiction


Date Reviewed:

June 26, 2004

his book should not have been published. It is really lame. I like to read new authors, hoping to discover a new talent. Sometimes that results in picking up a book that is a complete disaster, such as this one. Murphy's Gambit completely lacks any plausability, and all the character's are stock cardboard cutouts. The story takes place in at a time when "half the galaxy has been explored, but no other sentient race has been found", but it lacks the epic feel of space opera. Instead, space seems like a small, crowded environment. Everywhere Thiadora Murphy goes, she is recognized as the daughter of Ferris Murphy - imagine being recognized everywhere you go in a space empire of 50 billion stars! It reminded me of the movie Escape from New York, where the Snake Plisken (Kurt Russell) character is greeted half a dozen times with the line "Snake? Snake Plisken? I heard you were dead!". This galactic wide recognition makes space seem a mighty small place. Every time the Murphy "jumps" to a new solar system, even those that are supposed to be deserted, she bumps into someone within 20 minutes.

Murphy's Gambit is Mitchell's first novel, and it is the last one by her that I will be reading. Even a first novel should not rely on a "plot twist" where Murphy, hurtling helplessly past the space station into empty space, throws up a hand in despair, and the magic space suit, acting against all the known laws of intertia, halts her progress. That is not a clever plot twist, that is lazy storytelling. Unfortunately, this novel has plenty more "surprises" on that level. Kyle, the mystery man who can hack any software system in the galaxy in half an hour and rewrite code, turns out to be Kyle Gallagher, whose father founded the evil Gallagher Corporation.

The evil corporations want to capture Murphy because "only she has the skill" to fly a mystery spacecraft that has been floating around the Formalhaut star system (which just happens to be the system where Murphy was born - another tidbit that makes this space opera seem small and cramped.) 50 billion stars (presumably a good percentage are inhabited), and only Murphy can fly their craft? Murphy does seem to have a surprising ability for flying this alien spaceship - she sits at the controls and figures out how to navigate the ship. How likely is that? Imagine yourself suddenly placed at the controls of the spaceship you have never seen, never been briefed on, yet expect to fly yourself through a spacewarp to another system.

The publishers have a blurb from Eric Nyland on the front cover: "Adamantine hard science fiction with a heart, a ripping good read." Isn't Adamantine the material that forms the claws of Wolverine, the mutant x-man comic book hero? This book reads like a comic book plot. The characters are always exploding into rage and punching, knifing and swearing at each other. I guess anything to keep the pages turning, since the crude plot can't carry the reader forward, maybe some mindless action will fill a few more pages. I confess I broke my rule about book reviews - I am only supposed to review books that I read in their entirety, but I failed to finish Murphy's Gambit. After 280 pages I finally gave up. Perhaps the last 100 pages are suddenly Hugo quality writing, but I doubt it, and I didn't want to waste any more time on this poor book. I will conclude this review with an adamantine hard poem to warn you:

Steer clear! Steer clear!

There is only drivel here!