Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Red Claw Red Claw
by Phillip Palmer

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Jacqui Smith

There is no doubt that Palmer’s work is engaging and innovative, and has a strong story. I’m not surprised at the positive reviews it seems to have received. But there is a flaw, and I will illustrate by relating an actual incident. My eleven-year old son and I were reading together. He had Roald Dahl’s Matilda and I had Red Claw. He looked over at Red Claw, pointed and said "Bad book! Bad!" Why, might you ask? It was because there, in the middle of the page, was repeated explicit profanity. I was embarrassed, and explained that it was a good story, pity about the writer’s choice of language.

I suspect that Palmer does not realise the potential to alienate potential readers (and therefore miss out on sales, and possible awards) through using bad language and detailing explicit sex scenes. All I can do is to warn you not to give this book to persons under eighteen, or of a sensitive disposition. It’s a pity, because this truly could be an exceptional work of science fiction. Palmer presents a complex and fantastic ecosystem, and a scientific expedition whose sole function is to detail the biosphere before it’s all destroyed in the terraforming process. It all goes rapidly downhill when the base computer turns rogue, and the survivors find themselves in the middle of a battle for their lives. I do not recall anyone ever so cogently debating the ethics of terraforming, in the middle of such a rollicking good yarn!

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