I like science fiction romances; I enjoy the settings, the possibilities and risks that come with world-changing inventions, the societies that evolve. As a result, I am always happy to come across a book or story in this genre written by a new-to-me author. I am also very fond of fairy-tale varations, so this book was an obvious buy for me. Unfortunately, in spite of the interesting premise, the story itself proved no more than average.
Jacqueline Robinson is a member of an elite law-enforcement agency called Mother, whose task is preventing the super-powerful corporations that rule this world from committing too many atrocities. But this time the mission is personal, and undertaken in Jaq’s free time: Her sister Merry has been infected with a disease created in a laboratory, and the antidote can only be found on the private floating island that belongs to Ochre, head of Giant Corp. Mother’s equivalent of Q provides Jac with some fascinating gadgets, the most important of which are some powerful beans that will grow high enough for Jaq to climb up to the floating island. See the fairy tale connection? Jaq’s has an added interest in infiltrating Giant Corp: A year ago, her fellow agent and former lover Harper English went onto a secret mission regarding Giant, and he hasn’t returned yet.
So far, so good. But what follows is humdrum at best. While the glimpses we get of how this society works remain fascinating, the main characters and their romance are entirely from central casting. I especially disliked the clichéd inner monologues and the later dialogues during which Jaq and Harp expound on why their relationship failed earlier, and in which way they have matured since. In a short story, one doesn’t have much space and these really slowed things down.
I was also annoyed at the title, though I must admit my reaction here is nit-picky. There is not a single harp in the story even if we do have Harper. If one wants to use a pun, it has more effect if you have more than one level of meaning.
So even with some interesting world-building, which had to remain somewhat sketchy due to length restrictions, Jac’s Harp is a story that didn’t engross me particularly. Reading it is a way to pass an hour, but right now I’ll be on the lookout for stories by other authors for that.