Member Review

A Superior Spectre

Pub Date:

Review by

Venero A, Educator

Last updated on 16 Jul 2018

My Recommendation

A Superior Spectre is one of those great surprises you’re sometimes lucky enough to find in a first novel—this one is as strong and assured as if it had come from the mind of a seasoned writer at the peak of her powers.

In this book, a dying man by the name of Jeff is struggling with personal demons as he retreats from his home in Melbourne to go hide out in the Scottish Highlands. He wants to escape his past, the urges that both sicken and frighten him, and maybe just himself completely. The thing is, we’re in some kind of future setting where the use of technology has become so all-consuming (I guess it’s not very far from the present) that individuals can do and get away with just about anything they want. Jeff has a droid helper, and though he says he’s always been the type to disdain people who rely too much on tech (as, for instance, in marrying their sex dolls) he starts to use a new device that can send his mind into a random individual from the past. When he’s inside this individual he has no thoughts of his own, he is the person—Leonora, a young woman in the 1860s, living in the Highlands.

Unlike Jeff her life has been fine, but a series of events brings her troubles that threaten to tear her life apart.

There are so many great things about this book: the basic idea wouldn’t be out of place in straight science fiction, and it contains a marvellous philosophical bent. Though a lot happens and A Superior Spectre proves to be a thorough page turner, it’s quite thoughtful in its way. Jeff isn’t the most admirable of characters—he has the same mordant self-disgust one might find in a Michel Houellbecq novel, but this is a strength of Meyer’s story, not a weakness. Leonora has a gentler, kinder disposition but she’s no less fascinating.
Angela Meyer uses description and setting incredibly well; I felt myself transported not only into the lives of these characters but the places (and eras) as well. 
Very highly recommended.

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