K. A. Bedford
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 367 pp.
Hydrogen Steel, from Canada’s Edge Publishing, is a great example of science fiction mystery done right. Right away we’re introduced to the main character, Suzette McGee, a homicide detective turned private investigator. I have to assume that the name “McGee” is Bedford’s tip-of-the-hat to John McDonald’s classic Travis McGee series. And just like McDonald’s McGee, anyone that crosses paths with Zette (friend or foe) tends to end up worse for wear.
There’s no slow build here, Bedford starts the ball rolling right away. McGee receives a call from an android who’s been accused of murder and wants her to help prove his innocence. Oh yeah, and he knows a secret that McGee has never told anyone—she too is an android. McGee’s client is killed before she can meet him, and her house is broken into and burned down by another android that looks exactly like Zette McGee. The assaults on our hero never slow down as she pursues leads across human-occupied space looking for answers to a mystery that brings her up against her own past and into a war between rival AIs with super-human abilities. At a few points the action seems to be too big and it feels like our heroes are being pulled along by a plot that is rushing to a climax. But overall this is an exciting mystery where the puzzles and threats continue to escalate and, in the end, delivers a solid conclusion that’s layered with serious, thought-provoking science fiction concepts.