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Science Fiction - Philip Palmer - Debatable Space

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Debatable Space
Philip Palmer
Orbit 2008
496 pages
www.philippalmer.net

Debatable Space is the freshman novel from Philip Palmer which presents to the world a new voice in the SF universe. Palmer’s Debatable Space is written in the third person subjective which jumps from character viewpoint to character viewpoint sharing their view of the unfolding narrative.

Lena is the primary voice in the novel followed by Captain Flanagan then a host of other lesser voices. The plot is simple enough: Captain Flanagan is a buccaneer of the space faring king and kidnaps Lena to hold for ransom since she is related to the leader of the known universe the Cheo. The kidnapping and ransom demand don’t quite work out the way that they were planned though and Lena ends up a crewmember with the pirate crew.

The description is a little facile but we are basically talking about an opera here and not a terribly well done one. There are some good explanations of the differences in ordinary time and approaching light speed time as well as the basics of quantum entanglement – which are put to very good use by Palmer. The bulk of the novel is a moderately interesting story but it drags on more than it needs to do. There seems to be a philosophy of critical mass out there these days in the publishing world where the physical weight of a volume is given more credence than the intellectual weight. Debatable Space is too long – period. A lot of the action and a lot of the explanation could have take up many less pages.

There is a little addition at the end of the book where Palmer talks about Ringworld, science, philosophy and poetics which is quite a nice addition – kind of like getting an extras menu on a DVD. Palmer is not a bad writer he just needs a good editor and to be more economical.

Denis Bernicky

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