Translated by David Frye
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted June 8, 2020
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Yoss is the pen-name of Cuban writer José Miguel Sánchez Gómez. His third novel, Polvo Rojo, was published in 2004. A new edition, Red Dust, translated from the Spanish by David Frye, is due out next month, July 7. I received an ARC from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. From the title I assumed it was set on Mars, instead it's a space station orbiting Saturn's moon Titan, but I still thought there might be a Mars connection since the station's name is Burroughs. Turns out that's not a reference to Edgar Rice, but rather William S., so it was clear this would be satire. But again, not exactly what I was expecting, and I'm not sure how much the translation had to do with my confusion.
The book is dedicated to Raymond — Chandler, that is. Raymond is also the name of the the story's narrator, who on the first page offers up a variation on the opening lines of Chandler's short story "Red Wind." This Raymond is a pozzie, an android policeman on the station, manufactured on Earth but from technology provided by the alien races that established the station as a part of their Galactic Trade Federation. Pozzie is slang for "positronic," as in the robots envisioned by the Good Doctor Asimov. So just in the first few paragraphs we have references to the premier Beat Generation writer, the preeminent hard-boiled crime writer, and a Grand Master of science fiction. But the exposition is nothing like Chandler's prose, and instead of mimicking Asimov or Burroughs (either one), it reads more like Vonnegut, or more accurately his fictional SF writer Kilgore Trout. Not that that's a bad thing, if it worked, but nothing really jells. Another thing, Raymond is a huge fan of Chandler's fiction, and even though he has read him multiple times, he is not able to use that fiction as a means to figure out an approach to the mystery. He borrows books by Hammett from another pozzie, as well as watching a cache of detective movies, but instead of anything from the noir period, he comes up with an idea based on the 1982 Nolte/Murphy film "48 Hrs." The narration has all the pitfalls of first-person. We only get what Raymond wants to tell us, and there's a huge gap in continuity (and plausibility) in the third act.
That's it, that's the review. Not as good as I was hoping, and I can't recommend it.
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