I posted this review on Goodreads, on a thread devoted to R4R [Read-for-Review] where readers receive a free copy of a novel in exchange for a review.
The novel I chose to review was The Lazaretto, a science fiction thriller by Jason Phillip Reeser. I began by being apprehensive – what would I do if the novel was a stinker? – and ended up being impressed. See what you think.
* * *
The first thing I noticed about The Lazaretto was its size. At 2,650KB, it is a big ebook. Luckily I adore big books. Once I become seduced by a world or setting, I never want to leave, and I was seduced by the Lazaretto.
Imagine a moon with a breathable atmosphere where it rains a lot, and the clouds never part to allow the sun to shine through. I cannot think of anything more physically bleak. Now imagine a city on this moon, a city built for the sole purpose of quarantining travellers passing through to other worlds. In such a city, fear of contagion would underlie all social interactions, amongst both travellers and permanent residents. In such a city, people do not shake hands.
But the Lazaretto is more than just a quarantine station, it is also a prison without walls where the sick languish until they die. You see, the only purpose of the Lazaretto is to stop contagion from spreading. Finding cures is not part of the protocol.
As readers, we are introduced to the Lazaretto through the eyes of Gregor Lepov, a private investigator looking for a missing person last seen living and working in the city. Lepov is an interesting character, but he is only one of the main characters populating the story, and that is both one of the strengths and weaknesses of the novel. All of the main characters are well drawn, but none of them captivated me, except perhaps for the villain of the piece – The Collector.
Having so many main characters also had the effect of slowing the pace. And that is really the only criticism I would level at The Lazaretto – the story just moves a little too slowly.
In essence, the plot revolves around a number of mysterious deaths that are classified as murders, but leave the police baffled as to means and motive. Finding the ‘murderer’ involves the coming together of a number of disparate characters and story arcs, including that of Gregor Lepov.
All of these characters and story arcs contain a piece of the puzzle, and how they are woven together is both organic and very clever. But it does happen slowly.
In some ways, the structure of The Lazaretto reminds me of Tad William’s Otherland. As in Otherland, the story revolves around an ensemble cast, rather than just one or two main characters. Unlike Otherland, however, The Lazaretto is not a series, and so has had to compromise between the needs of the individual story arcs and the plot.
As with any compromise, something has to give, and in the case of The Lazaretto, the pace suffered. But only a little. Overall, my enjoyment factor was very high, and I found myself thinking about the world and its culture long after I finished reading. For me, that is always indicative of a very good story.
I should also mention that the writing is excellent. This is a mature novel by a very good writer. I would recommend it to anyone who craves something more than just a quick read and light entertainment.