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The Foreigners
James Lovegrove
Victor Gollancz, 421 pages

Chris Moore
The Foreigners
James Lovegrove
James Lovegrove, who also writes as J.M.H. Lovegrove, is an Arthur C. Clarke Award short-listed author. He was born on Christmas Eve, 1965. Despite the rumour and the year and a half he spent in Chicago between 1995 and 1996, he remains inarguably, ineluctably, irretrievably, irrevocably British.

James Lovegrove Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Krilov Continuum
SF Site Review: The Hand That Feeds
James Lovegrove Profile

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

Believe it or not, there was a time when some people considered it impossible to combine science fiction with the traditional murder mystery. It would be to easy to solve the mystery with some technological gimmickry, is how the thinking went. Like most self-imposed limits on artistic expression, this one was quickly proven to be a mistake by writers such as Isaac Asimov and Alfred Bester, and now no one questions a good murder set in a technologically advanced future; the rules are simply the same as those for any mystery: the reader must have access to the clues.

There are plenty of clues in James Lovegrove's The Foreigners. It is set in the near future, shortly after a time in which world culture nearly collapsed into chaos. Then suddenly, the Foreigners appeared in human cities, one at a time. They brought with them one new technology, and a consuming passion for music.

Jack Parry, of the Foreign Policy Police, believes that the Foreigners' presence saved his world, and he admires them greatly. He is stunned to learn when returning to New Venice from a vacation that a Siren and a Foreigner have been found dead.

Much of the early part of the novel is concerned with Jack Parry, his past and his relationships. It may seem a little slow at first, but it is certainly not a waste of time. All the character building is necessary to resolving the plot, and from the moment that Jack first believes he has solved the case, the novel picks up in intensity and carries it to the end of the story.

It's the science fiction aspects of the novel that are problematical. The Foreigners appear in public in golden suits, and as far as anyone knows, they are physically disembodied. Their presence, being beneficial, is accepted, but the mystery of who they are and where they come from is never solved. With such lack of explanation, they risk becoming purely metaphorical figures in the book.

The serious SF reader may also wonder why the world, except for the general peacefulness of the inhabitants, seems so little changed. Aside from those gifted enough to be Sirens, no one seems to be doing much of anything.

That aside, The Foreigners does work as a good murder mystery with solid characters and plot twists at the right time. Don't expect a great science fictional setting to go along with it, and The Foreigners will do just fine.

Copyright © 2001 Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L. Johnson lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a city with lots of great live music, but, so far at least, no Foreigners. His reviews also appear in The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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