Debut Review: Debatable Space by Philip Palmer

Debatable SpaceTitle: Debatable Space
Author: Philip Palmer
Publisher: Orbit
Published: 24 Jan 08
Price: £10.00

A band of pirates kidnaps the daughter of the ruler of the universe and holds her for ransom. The trouble is ruler of the universe Cheo isn’t that receptive to their demands and their prisoner, Lena, isn’t what she first appears.

But this isn’t just a pirate story. It’s an exploration of 1000 years of human history. And what has happened? Human have travelled, colonised, enslaved, and turned into dolphins (well some of them have).

For a first novel it’s a big challenge and a bit of a balancing act. Palmer presents his story from multiple viewpoints. We delve into the minds of Lena, the pirate crew, occasionally others, but we get most of our information from Lena.

And this is where the balancing act comes in. How time do you spend with each character and how they appear will depend on their part of the story. As Lena is a big part of the story we spend a lot of time with her. As a main character she is a fascinating and a worthy companion. The problem is she goes on a bit.

Palmer through her retells how the current state of humanity came about. He does occasionally retell too much. This is slightly frustrating especially as events speed to a conclusion when we’re presented with a large chunk of history. It is relevant but maybe isn’t as vital or as enjoyable as Lena, or perhaps Palmer, thinks.

This is strange as I enjoyed most of the other tales and the asides and presentation of history. It’s probably because it takes too much time out of the current action at a point where it should be sprinting towards the finish.

This isn’t though a fatal flaw. The characters are varied and well formed; the story is well planned and interesting. And most of the time it works. When it doesn’t I’d put down to over enthusiasm on Palmers part to share the universe and history he’s created.

For a first novel and a story on such a wide scale Palmer keeps a good grip on the reins and where it does get away he pulls it back in. I look forward to seeing what tale Palmer tells next.

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