An orphan girl is the sole survivor of a space pirate raid on a floating mausoleum. A scientist seeks the person who sabotaged his ship – who might be his wife. A rebel leader seeks the truth about a dangerous illness brought from space. A former Head of the Science Bureau, declared mentally unstable after rejecting government censorship, is now reduced to serving as a singularly unhelpful tour guide. An escort uses her skills to spy on the current Science Bureau Head. A bounty hunter is hired to kill a corrupt police officer. A police android learns to use her most dangerous ability – the ability to think for herself. Brought together by chance and suspicion, this motley group must evade the law, figure out the truth behind a government plot, and fight with each other to achieve their own, sometimes mutually-exclusive goals.
THE PREFERRED OBSERVER is an excellent example of fine worldbuilding in a science fiction novel. The characters are presented to us as whole people, shaped by and reacting to their community and their situations, and the dystopian world they move through is equally whole and detailed. There is almost no explication or background information given to the reader directly, however – instead, the world’s details unravel themselves naturally, as we watch characters interact with each other, and see how they think from inside. The result is a vivid sense of immersion in a real place and time that is both different from our own reality, and yet clearly similar enough to have evolved from our own given plausible events and reactions to those events.
The constantly-switching point of view, occasionally dizzying, does let us see the future world from multiple perspectives, adding to the three-dimensionality of the setting and characters alike. It’s an ambitious story, full of action, energy, and conflicting goals, but in places, the plot gets perhaps too complex, with all its intertwining threads, to follow easily. Additionally, some of the threads resolve in a somewhat unsatisfying fashion, as if not quite complete, and a few are lost completely – there’s plenty of room for a sequel here to tie up loose ends.
THE PREFERRED OBSERVER is a lively, action-packed story set in a vividly-portrayed dystopia, packed with well-drawn and interesting characters.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader