After thinking further about this book, I am even more annoyed by it.
The main premise of the story is that in order to have alliances and trade agreements with several alien species, humanity has come to an agreement with the aliens. They will each obey each other’s laws in their own lands. This consequently leads to humans breaking strange alien laws they don’t understand, and being subject to the punishments. Those mentioned are ritual death, imprisonment and hard labor, and the loss of the first born child.
The inadvertent breaking of these laws cause many humans to ‘disappear’ to avoid punishment. That is, they flee, changing their identity by using various disappearance services. Once of these disappearance companies has started selling out the people it disappeared to the aliens.
We learn all this in the first few chapters.
And I can’t figure out the point of the rest of the book. No one discovers anything, or changes anything. It’s just people running around trying to answer a question that the reader already knows the answer to, or trying to help the poor people who broke the alien law and shouldn’t have to pay for their crime because other cultures are dumb with stupid rules.
The end of the book has Flint, the main detective, quitting his job after stealing the client list of the disappearance company, so he can go warn them all that they’ve been sold out and help re disappear them. Meaning he’s going to be a ‘retrieval artist’ which is someone who looks for disappeared people, in his case though, to help them.
Since the title of the book is ‘a retrieval artist novel’ it’s obvious this is what the author wanted to write about in the first place. So what was the point of writing this lead-up novel in which nothing really interesting or important happened? What I have described above is all you need to know, and you could go into the next book without the slightest confusion.
This is a severe case of ‘cut to the action’. Instead of delete the first paragraph or first chapter, it’s delete the first novel.
Also, the idea that anyone who disappears to escape a crime is automatically a good guy who doesn’t deserve whatever sentence they were given is bizarrely xenophobic for a sci fi novel. Am I just supposed to take for granted that all alien laws are stupid and shouldn’t be obeyed, and all humans are good and being unjustly punished? Absurd. If Flint goes through with helping everyone on the disappeared list, he is going to be helping plenty of violent murderers and thieves, just because they are humans being prosecuted by aliens.
Anyway, just felt the need to complain some more about this one.