Debatable Space - Philip Palmer
“But I have an answer for all this. With time ticking away, I pick a section -- Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery, History, Biography, Fiction, whatever -- and I look for the first name or cover that captures my attention. If it is by an author I don't know I buy it.”


This quote from Brad’s review of Debatable Space decided me on reading this novel as I’m familiar with the phenomenon of which he speaks. I don’t follow his method exactly but there are several authors I’ve discovered by similar means, including Eluki Bes Shahar (Butterfly and Hellflower) and Iain M. Banks (Consider Phlebas, et al.).

In this case the result was between 2.5 and 3 stars, and I’ll round up in this case because I was swept along for the weekend I voyaged in Palmer’s “debatable space” by the writing’s enthusiastic pace and verve.

My difficulties with the novel are two-fold:

(1) I felt like I had read this story before, and there was nothing that I found fresh about it. This isn’t a bad thing – a familiar but well told tale with interesting characters can be a satisfying read but that brings me to my second problem.

(2) I wasn’t interested in any of the characters in the book. Lena, the millennium-old mother of the Cheo, dictator of humanity, was the most interesting – at least potentially – but everyone else felt too “stock,” taken down from the shelves to fulfill a designated role.

That said, I did find the tale “well told,” and I think Palmer has the potential to write some interesting stuff. For Debatable Space, however, the experience was like a brief summer shower – refreshing and fun while it lasts but soon forgotten.