Jack Glass by Adam Roberts

I first learnt of Jack Glass by Adam Roberts thanks to the Book Depository home page. Although I contacted Orion Books no one replied to me, so the very Adam Roberts was kind enough to send me signed review copy nonetheless! Lucky me.

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From Good Reads:

Jack Glass is the murderer—we know this from the start. Yet as this extraordinary novel unfolds, readers will be astonished to discover how he committed the murders and by the end of the book, their sympathies for the killer will be fully engaged. Riffing on the tropes of crime fiction (the country house murder, the locked room mystery) and imbued with the feel of golden age SF, this is another bravura performance from Roberts. Whatever games he plays with the genre, whatever questions he asks of the reader, Roberts never loses sight of the need to entertain. Filled with wonderfully gruesome moments and liberal doses of sly humor, this novel is built around three gripping HowDunnits that challenge notions of crime, punishment, power, and freedom.

What called my attention about Jack Glass was its approach to morality. After writing my dissertation on morality in Kate Atkinson’s books, I have been looking for more books addressing the issue. In the case of Jack Glass it is stated from the very beginning that morality will play a key role in the narration: Jack Glass is a murderer. But, just that sentence will evoke very different feelings and reactions in very different readers. While some would categorically label murder as an offence that requires punishment, many others will want to know more. Murder is not always a bad thing.

Another thing that called my attention is that Jack Glass is a si-fi book. You may wonder why this is important, but if you follow this blog you will notice the lack of sci-fi reviews. It is not a genre I feel naturally drawn to. My mum is a huge sci-fi fan and so is Mr.B&R, but I tend to buy mysteries, thrillers or 19th and 20th century novels. Never had I felt a need to read a sci-fi novel and Jack Glass changed that. I also felt it was a challenge and since I graduated I feel the need to challenge myself and explore works I would not feel comfortable with. This novel was a challenge because I probably did not get most of the sci-fi references although I did get the crime ones, so half a point for me! Obviously, these references made me feel at ease and comfortable and I was able to follow the plot even though I knew I was missing almost half of the references.

The novel is organized in three very different and very interesting parts. At the beginning, the introduction already presents the reader with the organization which I found quite helpful since I knew – or I thought so – what to expect. These three parts refer to key themes and structures in crime fiction but take place in typically sci-fi environments and worlds. Surprisingly, they mix great together, or I should say, Adam Roberts made a huge effort to make them work amazingly together and whilst I read, I wondered why this blend of sci-fi is not more popular since it would allow for a deeper exploration of moral and social issues.

Roberts’ style is simply wonderful. It is complex yet easy to read and he takes such good care of details that the worlds although fictional, seem whole and complete. Actually I thought his novels could pass for Margaret Atwood’s regarding style and even themes: possible worlds allow for an exploration and deconstruction of gender, race, sexuality and power in a way that broadens the reader’s mind. The book’s prose is one of those that asks the reader to cooperate and engage themselves in the narrative. You have to work, you have to figure things out and through the process you challenge your views and ideas. For me, these are the best books!

So, Jack Glass by Adam Roberts is a brilliant novel. A blend of sci-fi and crime fiction that allows for a great journey into our beliefs and challenge the world as we know it. I would recommend this book to anyone who is open to have their views challenged or who is interested in other points of view, especially regarding morality. Also, I know you should not judge a book by its cover… But look at that cover! Isn’t it gorgeous? It even called my brother’s attention even though he is not so keen on books. To sum up, a great combination that makes this book one of the best I have read this year and yet not quite well-known. I think it deserves far more praise and attention – even though it has already won several sci-fi prizes – from the general public. I had never read any sci-fi and this was the best place to start, so I recommend it to anyone who feels like venturing into the genre.

P.S Jack Glass is the book that inaugurates Books and Reviews’ “Sci-Fi” category 🙂

4 thoughts on “Jack Glass by Adam Roberts

  1. What an astonishingly pretty cover! I’d absolutely want to read it, except that um.. I am not good with crime novels :/

    1. Crime comes pretty much as seconday. There is a lot of religious and social criticism too regarding slavery, trading, etc. I think you’d love those parts!

  2. I thought I’d commented on this, did I talk to you on Twitter about it? Anyway I’ve added it to my wishlist; anything that deserves comparison with Atwood is good for me!

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