Book Review: Station Eternity by Mur Lafferty
As a life-long fan of both the mystery and speculative fiction genres, I was completely blown away by this sharply witty and wise combination of both. I was deeply impressed by this novel’s choice to examine, through a science fiction lens, why murders always seem to keep happening in the orbits of certain everyday people, particularly the protagonists of countless cozy and classic mystery series.
Our heroine, Mallory Viridian, is one such person, though instead of opening a cute small business and helping out the local cops, she’s viewed with suspicion by nearly everyone who knows about her history of murders. Not that she’s a killer herself—a point she’s long had to prove not only to investigators but also to the people she cares about. Being viewed as a bad luck magnet isn’t much better than being deemed a murderer though, causing Mallory to drift from job to job–and from crime scene to crime scene–convinced that there’s something wrong with her.
So when aliens make first contact and she gets a chance to move to Station Eternity, she (orbitally) leaps at it. The only other human officially there is Ambassador Adrian Casserly-Berry, who’s a little put out by the fact that the sentient station has not only mostly ignored his efforts to allow tourism from Earth but has also bypassed his approval entirely to let Mallory not only visit but live there. Mallory is just relieved to be able to avoid most other human beings, and especially whatever murderous impulses she seems to trigger in them. That all changes when she learns that, Adrian’s bumbling notwithstanding, a shuttle full of humans is scheduled to rendezvous with Station Eternity within the next few days.
Adrian, of course, doesn’t care when she warns him that a murder will likely happen if the shuttle is allowed to dock:
“I don’t care about your paranoia; I don’t care about your fears. I’m not here to represent you right now; there’s supposed to be only one human on the station right now, to negotiate for Earth. Not one ambassador and one societal leech. And even if you’re right, even if you do have some weird murder virus that causes people to fall on each other like wild animals, that’s a small price to pay for galactic-level diplomacy. The space program has killed a lot more people than you have, and that didn’t stop NASA. The universe is bigger than you.”
Mallory balled her fists. She wasn’t self-centered. People refused to acknowledge that she tried legitimately to help.
And that’s at least part of the problem, that Mallory tries to help and mostly succeeds in figuring out whodunnit every time, despite the disdain and fear of everyone else involved. With no way to avoid another murder, she braces herself for the worst, but doesn’t actually expect for things to go as spectacularly sideways as they do. The incoming shuttle holds more than one surprise, not only for her but for the rest of the unsuspecting residents of the station, including Eternity herself. Will Mallory be able to solve this latest murder without having to once again give up all her friends and home in the process?
This book is an absolute delight not only for sci-fi fans but for anyone who’s wondered about the amateur sleuths who operate as doom magnets in our favorite mystery series. Mur Lafferty examines this beloved mystery trope through an absorbingly intriguing metafictional lens, while providing not only a brilliant sci-fi adventure but also a stunningly smart series of mystery denouements. All this is couched in writing that is both poignant and humorous, as here where Mallory is wondering to her alien friend Ferdinand whether she should be doing more to bring the attention of security to the humans who’ve finally landed aboard Eternity:
“Why should they know? They have much more to worry about with the station in distress and the shuttle bays getting crowded. They can worry about a handful of live humans, or they can worry about the thousands of other people, not to mention the station itself, they need to keep alive,” Ferdinand said. “The dead will stay dead, unless–I don’t understand human bodies, actually, but they don’t come back from the dead, right?”
“Only in a few recorded cases,” she said, chewing her bottom lip. “I don’t think other species approach crime the way humans do,” Mallory muttered.
Station Eternity is the perfect read for anyone who enjoys cross-genre mashups, and ought to be highly regarded by anyone who cares about either speculative fiction or mystery novels. It’s also a perfect gateway book for readers who want to dabble in genres outside of their own comfort zones, as it does an excellent job of being outstanding in both fields. Highly recommended.