The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal was reviewed in the new issue of Queer*Welten. The review sounded interesting and I already knew the Lady-Astronaut-Novels and a Short story of Kowal, so I dived into this novel as fast as I could.


Plus, I've seen and heard her "for real" at the MetropolCon, which was also fun!


Tesla Crane is famous and newly wed. She and her partner are the interplanetary cruise ship Lindgren to Mars. The ship itself seems like a nice mixture between what I know of cruise ships and space ships. In the afterword I learn more about it ("So the Lindgren is bonkers, but it would work in theory"), which is fun and very interesting.


Tesla had a very bad accident some time ago and is now a pain patient. She uses a DBPS. Almost everything I know about chronic pain I learn from social media and friends, so I am no expert. The idea of a DBPS (Deep Brain Pain Suppressor) seems to be very thought-through. It does not only suppress paint, though. When Tesla wants to feel the kisses and touches of her husband, she has to change the setting to be able to feel him. I liked this downside, and also the self-determination and power about your body a lot. It felt very authentic while reading. Which is also true about the whole novel and the world. 


Not long after the cruise started, a person is murdered - and because of a bad coincidence, Tesla's husband is arrested for it. 


The novel developed on more than one level:

The crime story climbs upward, as more people get hurt or murdered and the pressure on Tesla and her husband to solve the case gets bigger.

Tesla's lawyer is farer and farer away, as the cruise ships nears planet Mars, synchon communication is no longer possible, they are several minutes apart.

Tesla's dog, which is important for her not only for cameraderie, disappears at some point.

For good reasons, Tesla tries to stay anonymous, but her true identity is revealed eventually. 


The Worldbuilding is very interesting. Per se, it's a post-patriarchal world. Everybody is addressed via "Mx", as long as no other preference is known. Same with the pronoun "they/them". I like that. There are still old-fashioned people with a tendency to misogyny, but they seem not to fit in this world and are immediately exposed as such. I think that's very refreshing. :-)

This world view is also reflected by the descriptions, e. g. "Body type was on the male side of the spectrum". I also like some ideas like "a 2034 film adapted from a Sarah Pinsker novel". Oh, please let this come true! 


Tesla has a very interesting and also tragic background and that's part of the reason she is fit in some useful life-cheats, I might steal one day. 


Favorite Text passages:

As the time difference between the cruise ship and her lawyer in earth's orbit already has several minutes, the lawyer has to watch via video and not really live, but with some minutes delay, what Tesla is doing and of course, Tesla hears her also with some minutes delay:

"... is like watching a horror film. Don't go through the door. DON'T GO THROUGH THE- oh, thank the Virgin's left tit, it's locked."


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