As some may have noticed from my other reviews of this series, I'm not reading them exactly in order. I read 4 from the middle of the series in order, with some skips, then picked up 4 more and put them in chronological order. I read Purity -- then Reunion and Portrait, bracketing Purity.
Hey, folks -- I do seriously recommend nabbing this series as a set and reading them in their proper order. There's a major story-arc involving the two main characters, Lt. Eve Dallas and a financier named Roarke, and piecing their story together is not nearly as enjoyable as reading it straight forward.
However, each book does stand alone as a Police Procedural Mystery. And the Mysteries are solidly plotted and well turned at the end. There's enough background of previous books so you can read out of context without being bewildered.
The third element in these novels that makes them of primary interest to me is that they are set in 2050's and beyond, where Earth has business interests on other planets. I so far have not read a story where Eve goes offplanet with Roarke, but I saw a reference to such a visit.
But I don't have much hope for that novel because of the short-shrift given the third element in this series.
That third element is the weakest part of these novels, and if futurology matters to you, skip this series.
The author has not done the sf novelists' mental work -- extrapolation, or "What if ..." So the series as a whole does not make a solid, well developed argument for future history taking a particular track. The kick an sf reader looks for in a near-future novel just isn't there.
There are bits and pieces of what looks "futuristic" but isn't really. Much of the fashion and computer technology assumes that things won't change as much in the next 50 years as they have in the previous 50 years. Each futuristic item is apparently chosen from a different extrapolation line than the others, so they clash instead of adding up to a vision of the future.
At this point in the series though, I think Roberts/Robb is paying attention to complaints about the futurology and really trying to include some. The strain shows, to those who look for the bits and pieces to explicate some sort of theme.
She knows how to use theme. Her mystery plot has a thesis and makes a statement about that thesis. Her romance plot zeros in tightly upon a very sharply defined thesis about Relationship and shows character development with a grace and style any writer could envy.
But she doesn't use those same skills on the futurology.
She has not even attempted the 3rd of 3 major requirements for writing an science fiction/ fantasy novel -- "What if ...?" "What if the Homeland Security department concept succeeds?" "What if the Homeland Security department concept fails?"
OK, she's inserted a historical event known as the Urban Wars -- but that doesn't qualify as good futurology without considerable support within the other elements of the story. And she ignores today's headlines as sources of "What if ...?"
She has done "If Only ..." (the 2nd of the 3 requirements for an science fiction/ fantasy novel). Her Relationship extrapolation is definitely an "if only..." statement. If only men and women could get along like this!
But she hasn't applied "If Only ... " to any other element in the story.
"What if ...?" "If Only ..." and "If This Goes On ..." are the 3 most important elements in sf/f. A novel which has all 3 done to perfection is always considered a classic, and few writers achieve all 3 in one novel. I would expect of a New York Times Bestselling author a much better performance than this. OK, I am holding her to a very high standard, and perhaps that's unrealistic, but it's my expectation as both a professional sf/f writer and as a reader.
So for these lacks, I have to withhold a star at least, maybe two for some novels. However, I have to give her credit for playing another game that sf/f writers and readers love.
She's playing up the in-group jokes for all they're worth. She's borrowed from a number of classic novels, from TV shows, and other well-known sources. If you're not widely read you'll miss the best parts of these novels!
As I said in a previous review, she has given Ayn Rand a nod with the Roarke character's name, profession and attitudes. And I doubt anyone has missed the Elizabeth Peters nod with the name of the Peabody character. Amelia is of course an Egyptologist, so I keep expecting Peabody to turn up with some marvelous incidental knowledge that can be put to use.
However, Peabody does have these fascinating parents -- one of whom is a psychic Healer, the other very wise. One of the disconnected and apparently random bits of futurology that doesn't "add up" to any statement but is "borrowed" from major sources is the way Peabody's father's healing talent is taken for granted by everyone. And Elizabeth Peters doesn't shy away from occult undertones.
Yet Roberts/Robb does nothing with that except that fabulous concept Dallas gets healed so she can close a case.
This series is soooooo goooooooodddd! "If Only ..." it's futurology was as good as the romance and mystery, it would be a solid 5-star all around great, an immortal series that would live forever.
As it is, I'd advise you to buy the paperbacks, even used copies, and not bother to try to save them for your grandchildren. They will not understand what you think is so great about them. Alas.
Live Long and Prosper,