Rose/House

Appropriately enough, this review of an Austin Feminist Sci-Fi Book Club pick will go up while I’m en route to Austin!

A Memory Called Empire and A Desolation Called Peace were some of the best sci-fi I read in…whatever year it was. So when a new novella from Arkady Martine was announced, I immediately suggested it to the Austin Feminist Sci-Fi Book Club.

Rose/House is a completely different beast from the Teixcalaanli books. Rather than the far-flung reaches of space, we’re on Earth in a relatively near future. A world-famous architect who incorporated AI into all of his creations has recently died in the last and best of his houses, Rose House. In accordance with his will, the only visitor allowed in the house is his archivist and former student Selene—and since the Rose House AI takes this protocol extremely seriously, it’s more than a little concerning when the AI calls the police to report the presence of a dead body inside the house. Selene is therefore flown in as a person of interest, not to mention that investigating officer Martinez has no other way of accessing her John Doe.

Some novels should be short stories; some short stories should be novels. Or I’m not sure what this should be. There’s a lot that’s implied that requires reading between the lines—something I’ve never been good at as a reader. The solution to the mystery also feels like a cheap trick, and the hint to a later plot twist was so heavily telegraphed earlier on that it feels unsatisfying.

A comparison naturally arises to Six Wakes (sci-fi locked room whodunnit) and on the plus side, this was a much quicker read and therefore all the more enjoyable for not wearing out its welcome. Nonetheless, Rose/House doesn’t live up to the impossibly high bar Martine set up in the Teixcalaanli novels; I would have been hard pressed to name her as the author if I hadn’t known going in. I don’t know that I necessarily want more Teixcalaanli novels from Martine—it’s always something of a tragedy, I think, when a character’s or series’ popularity essentially forces their author to continue along a track they’d much rather abandon—but the brand of noir in Rose/House doesn’t seem like her strong point.

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katherine

Stockholm-based translator and copyeditor of American extraction.

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