A Tunnel in the Sky

Like templetongate.net on Facebook  Follow @templetongate on Twitter
-Site Search

Drunk On All Your Strange New Words
by Eddie Robson

Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted July 18, 2022

Buy from Bookshop or Amazon. A purchase through our links may earn us a commission.

I received an e-ARC of this title from Edelweiss direct in an email, I hadn't requested it. The premise sounded interesting, so I googled the author, whose previous work in TV, radio, and comics has mostly been in a comedic vein. A light-hearted romp was welcome so I downloaded it, even though I had already reached the limit of ARCs I had promised myself for the year. It turns out there is very little humor here, and while it was good enough to finish, that was mainly to learn the perpetrator of the murder at the heart of the story. Set in an indeterminate future year, or possibly an alternate present or near future, when the alien Logi have established an embassy in New York. The Logi communicate telepathically, so it is necessary to find telepathically adept humans to act as translators. Lydia Southwell is one such, assigned to the Logi cultural attaché Fitzwilliam (obviously not his real name, which humans couldn't pronounce anyway). The title refers to the fact that a translator can become tired and confused, indistinguishable from being drunk, after a long session of translating.

An early scene has Lydia translating the play Hedda Gabler for Fitzwilliam in real time. At intermission, Lydia rises too quickly, becomes dizzy, and nearly falls over the balcony rail, but Fitz is able to catch her in time. The play was toward the end of a weeks long arts festival. At a reception afterwards, Fitz is approached by a man anxious for the Logi to sponsor his work, but Fitz brushes him off. That man later insults Lydia, and she punches him in the face. She is persuaded to take a leave of absence, so she takes a trip to her hometown of Halifax. Not Nova Scotia; in the UK near Manchester. She goes out to a club one night, meets a man named Hari, and they get a hotel room for a night of sex. When she returns to New York she finds Fitz has interceded on her behalf, so she is able to keep her job. For a while at least. She lives on the upper floor of Fitz's Manhattan residence. One night shortly after her return she is awakened by noise downstairs. She finds Fitz on the sofa in his study, dead of a gunshot wound. All of the security features of the residence had been disabled, along with street cams. Lydia is a suspect of course, since she was the only other person in the house at the time (all service was provided by bots). Lydia even considers she could be guilty, thinking her "drunkeness" might be responsible for no memory of the event. Another Logi, Madison, is sent to tidy up Fitzwilliam's affairs. She wants Lydia removed from the premises, but the police deem her a flight risk, thinking it would be easier to keep her under surveillance if she stayed.

Shortly after that two strange things occur. Lydia begins hearing Fitz talking to her; in her head of course, the way they had always communicated. She is able to question him, his replies make sense, but it doesn't stop Lydia from thinking she is imagining it. Fitz does not want Lydia to inform Madison, or anyone else, that he is talking to her. Supposedly it is a common thing for Logi to linger after death, but Fitz suspects Madison since they had always been rivals, so he doesn't want her aware he is still around. Fitz claims he doesn't know who shot him since it was dark in his study and it happened quickly, but he begins giving Lydia clues to investigate. The other strange thing Lydia learns is that shortly before Fitz's death, Hari, her Halifax hook-up, had arrived in New York. His work was supposedly in high-tech security, so he is a suspect due to the disabling of security measures in and around the residence. But why can't the police locate him, and why is it Lydia who encounters him in the Battery while investigating one of Fitz's clues? Why is she even allowed out of the residence to conduct those investigations? There are two different narrative techniques used in a lot of mysteries; Checkov's Gun and a MacGuffin. The first is about featuring something early in the story that should be utilized later, or else it shouldn't have been included. In this case it is not a literal gun, but rather a skill that Lydia has, and it does come in handy later. The MacGuffin involves something revealed, or at least clearly implied, about another character, yet it is never resolved. The fact that character turned out not to be the culprit doesn't forgive the implication, so in a sense that was Checkov's Gun that should never have been mentioned.

Plenty of other clues laid down, some relevant, others obvious red herrings. But which are detours, which might lead to the truth? Even though written in third-person, everything is from Lydia's perspective, so it might have been better to have been in first-person. Some writers are good at that, others not so much, many don't want to attempt it. Robson might not have felt up to it. It's only his third novel, the other two also in third-person according to the samples available at Amazon. There are a few instances of mistakes in verb tense, and at least one sentence that slipped into second-person present tense, which was jarring. A science fiction mystery should be balanced, but I think mystery fans might not bother due to the SF trappings, and SF fans will see those trappings as mere window-dressing, easily recognizable tropes. As I said above, it was entertaining enough to finish, and it's short enough not to bore. I'm not giving it a strong recommendation, but neither am I warning against it. Take all my comments into consideration to determine if this might appeal to you.


We would appreciate your support for this site with your purchases from Amazon.com, Bookshop.org, and ReAnimusPress.


Eddie Robson

June 28, 2022

Purchase Links:

A purchase through our links may earn us a commission.