Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book/magazine reviews.
I have this irrational bias against a sub-genre I've never read: sword and planet. Now Planet of Mystery sounds like sword and planet. The cover art has a modern sword and planet feel. Reading the first few lines, I was hooked. Is this book sword and planet? I don't know, it's best left for readers to decide. It definitely has sword and planet elements though and subverts the cliches of the genre in a convincing manner. The only thing I'm sure of is that Terry Bisson blew me away.
Here's the summary/blurb at the front page (and at PS Publishing's site): "Like Pride and Prejudice, it’s an adventure. Like Don Quixote, it’s a love story; and like Lolita, it has a happy ending." I can honestly vouch that's all true. And not in the ways I imagined it would be. By the time I reach the end, I'm teary-eyed.
Okay, all that gushing aside, what does Planet of Mystery excel in? At the heart of this story is character. Bisson makes us sympathize with our protagonist. The moments of solipsism are believable. The banter between the characters feel right. And let's not forget the humor or the sarcasm in the dialogue. Heck, the author even makes a two-dimensional character fit in perfectly.
Bisson's language is easy to get into and the pacing is quick. Going through this book was easy and it was a struggle to put it down (because I had other duties at the time). All that however is in service of the story. This is one of those pieces that could sell even to hard science fiction fans despite all the implausible events transpiring.
This was a terrific read. Get it now. Buy it for your significant other. I can't stress how good this book is. It tugs at your emotions at all the right moments. I'm still recovering from the ending.