Pros: High anxiety; interesting mystery
Cons: Utterly bizarre style; small problems
Rating: 2 out of 5
I’m not entirely sure what to make of the experience of reading Gretchen Rix’s The Goodall Mutiny (The Goodall Mysteries) (Volume 1). Lieutenant Joan Chikage has just finished recapturing the beetles she’s been studying aboard the spaceship USS Goodall when everything goes strange. The ship falls silent of its normal sounds. Has the expected mutiny over the captain’s missing cat, Tiberius, begun? Some little fires appear to have been started; are her subordinates pranking her, or are they part of the mutiny? Come to think of it, where are her subordinates? Soon she discovers a dead crewmember, a hole in the side of the ship, and a murderous associate. Can she think of a way to use the cat to save everyone’s lives?
The narrative style hurt my head. It’s almost entirely thick musings in Chikage’s head, broken up by staticky bursts of a line or two of dialogue here and there. The only good thing it did was increase the claustrophobic feeling of anxiety; otherwise, it mostly just felt weird. Chikage obsesses over every teeny-tiny little gesture, tic, wobble, etc., no matter how urgent other matters may be. We’re expected to buy into her obsession over this mutiny right from the start when the only context we have is the ship going silent and her panicking so badly she vomits. There are whole paragraphs on sneezing in the middle of a survival story. It’s hard to see Chikage as remotely sane.
So many little things never quite add up. There are little fires at the beginning that never get explained. One crewmember gets killed in a grotesque manner, involving being bound by ropes, and yet Chikage seems to think the death may have been “a drug-induced accident”. Someone claims to have seen people kill that crewmember, yet Chikage never prioritizes asking that person about those mysterious killers, even when it’s found that she and her subordinates are the only people around. Her priorities often seem skewed, in fact. Half the time I couldn’t figure out why she was fixating on one particular thing or another. There’s a moment early on when her crew seem to be capable of blending into the bulkheads, or at least some of them do?, but that never really comes back. At first things were so bizarre that I entertained the idea that the Lieutenant was hallucinating. She at one point comes to a hard conclusion that she’s going to have to leave everyone else alone while she goes to get her spacesuit, but it never occurs to her to send someone to get it. And why the hell did Praetor eat a bunch of beetles, anyway?
The mystery is kind of interesting, or it would be if I could have concentrated on it. Instead I just have a headache.
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