A Borrowed Man
By Gene Wolfe
Gene Wolfe’s latest is a retro-flavoured SF-mystery tilted into an eccentric orbit by its bizarre premise.
The retro part is the plot, which is concerned with a schoolteacher, Colette Coldbrook, looking to solve the mystery of her brother’s and wealthy father’s deaths. Her only clue is a book, now an antique but not yet obsolete technology, found in a wall safe in her father’s lab.
What complicates things is that Colette wants to solve the mystery of the book by enlisting the aid of its author, someone who is long dead but whose clone can be signed out of the library. Despite being a second-class citizen, this “borrowed man” is a first-rate detective and gradually unlocks the mysteries of the Coldbrook family mansion, which includes a secret emerald mine and a doorway to another dimension.
This is a fun read that harkens back to SF’s golden age, right down to its flying cars and blunderbuss-style ray guns. But like all of Wolfe’s work it’s also something wonderfully unique.