Wayward Moon, Denny DeMartino

wayward_moonWayward Moon, Denny DeMartino (2001)
Review by Ian Sales

There’s little point in reviewing the plot of Wayward Moon as it makes little sense and is almost impossible to summarise. It is the sequel to Heart of Stone, and appears to be the last book in the series. The two novels are about Phillipa Cyprion, who is the personal astrologer to Emperor Theo of Earth, but has somehow ended up working as a troubleshooter/private detective, with her boyfriend, ex-policeman Artemis Hadrien, for the emperor. Wayward Moon opens with a murder during an experiment on a space station. That is the only part of the plot that makes sense. The experiment was being conducted by the Idealians, a cyborg race (although the word cyborg is not used once throughout the novel). It is something to do with moving a moon, which is being used as an anchor point by an energy shield for a planet in another dimension occupied by another alien race. It is, in fact, almost impossible to tell what is going on from one page to the next. The plot contradicts itself constantly, characters explain things they did not know; and whenever Cyprion and Hadrien come up with a theory of the crime, they learn something which makes a nonsense of everything they had previously thought. Philip K Dick’s plotting was more coherent than this.

However, the most notable element of Wayward Moon is DeMartinos’ completely inability to write a British character. Cyprion is from the East End of London, and fond of dropping local expressions into her conversation. And they are all spectacularly wrong. Here are some samples…

Surely, his recommendation had buttered his backside (p 10)

… we were flying with our bloomers flapping open in the sweet, Brighton Beach breeze (p 14)

I’ve stayed in better fleabags on Earth (p 31)

… and air that smells like a fresh wank in the heat of the summer (p 32)

I’ve learned to keep my jelly-bits into myself over the years (p 36)

I was the last hot buttered crossbun left on the shelf (p 41)

It was orange, bright and brilliant, like my mum’s St Patrick’s day glad rags (p 45)

I couldn’t tell if it had titties or a Hampstead wick (p 45)

I was as weak as fiddlesticks (p 49)

Intuition. That’s me bread and treacle (p 56)

Telroni’s words instantly bothered me, but I couldn’t tell if he was blowing raspberries (p 69)

… it bubbled and squeaked just like a pot of my granny’s cabbage (p 69)

… and craned his neck like a Sunday plucker at the pony races (p 72)

… it’s like someone is punching raisins into the rising bread dough (p 87)

I could tell right off Fay-et was all suckers and mash (p 92)

Earth scientists found this mode of travel to be as randy as trying to punch out of [zero-gravity point] in the midst of an asteroid belt (p 102)

I can’t be going on with this knicknack that you’re talking (p 105)

It put jelly atop his butter; it pissed him off (p 113)

“You look like you’ve been buggered a few times,” I said in way of greeting (p 117)

I take it that once the investigation is over, you’ll be next up at the plate to play cricket (p 125)

… it smelled like an overflowing yank on a hot summer’s day (p 136)

I got me a Scotsman doing a kick and a prance in me bongo drum (p 159)

“And that gives you a crink in your pride?” (p 159)

“I’m not a nig nog, you bunch of metal turds, and I demand to know what you’re saying” (p 166)

It was a Shakespearian [sic] question – that was for diddly certain (p 167)

Or maybe he was feeding me Sunday’s leftover pork pie (p 172)

It was right about that time, the yeast started to rise in my bread loaf (p 172)

… he took a good pull of the plink-plonk (p 191)

Taking a big titfer of it, I luxuriated in the burn of the liquid (p 191)

… he’d had his load of old cobblers taken from him by a fierce decree at population control (p 203)

Hadrien was better than I at buttering the crumpet (p 203)

That was the penny in the peach pie (p 215)

I joined him, feeling like I might chuck a little bubble and squeak at the smell (p 216)

… so I bent the gooseneck down so I could get a better look at Marctori’s bread and butter (p 217)

Being British, it’s a little hard to let go of the conservatism that keeps our conscious thought in control of our sensitivities (p 226)

… he tested the meat by poking me with his own understanding (p 227)

Hadrien pushed the ragged edges of the manila mailer (p 233)

“I feel like me bric-a-brac is hanging out” (p 244)

And I think that’s quite enough. This is a book to avoid.

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Heart of Stone, Denny DeMartino

heart_of_stoneHeart of Stone, Denny DeMartino (2001)
Review by Ian Sales

Philipa Cyprion used to be the emperor of Earth’s astrologer, but she fled the planet, and her job, after the murder of her husband, who had also worked for Emperor Theo. Now she’s been called back, because one of the emperor’s sons (has has over a hundred children) has been murdered, and the emperor thinks Cyprion, with her science of “the interplanetudes”, can solve the crime. To this end, he pairs her with a Terrapol detective called Artemis Hadrien – despite the name, he is male. Details of Prince Lundy’s murder suggest a link to the Waki’el, an alien race with which Emperor Theo is allied. In fact, he has such close ties to the Waki’el that he has a half-Waki’el daughter… And she becomes the next victim.

The Waki’el are humanoid, and either blue or cranberry-coloured (DeMartino seems confused as to what colour cranberries are), possess some sort of sternum ridges, and visible within the cage they form, an external heart. The female Waki’el also produce an addictive drug called “honey” in glands in their mouths when sexually aroused. Some of them produce an even more potent form of this substance, called “amber”. These last belong to a different caste to the ruling Waki’el, although they are born among them.

The plot of Heart of Stone is tied up in both the science of astrology as practiced by Cyprion and the life-cycle of the alien Waki’el. It’s all something to do with zero-point energy, or “creation energy”, and photons and the speed of light in this dimension and an alternate dimension where souls go when people die, and from where they are reincarnated… but the Waki’el apparently have a direct connection to that dimension. Except the current Waki’el leadership have been trying to take control of the zero-point energy, or something, by fitting “quantum pacemakers” to their external hearts, in order to extend their lives. They’ve been assisted in this by “balloon heads”, who are the super-intelligent but profoundly disabled results of humanity wanting “to see how a human fetus would form while stranded for nine months in the creation energy” (p 114). Also involved in the conspiracy is the emperor’s “executioner”, Cornelius Paul. The dead prince and princess were just collateral damage in the plot to seize control of the zero-point dimension and the Earth. Or something.

Cyprion and Hadrien learn all this during a visit to Arif, the Waki’el home world, in the Pleiades Star System (DeMartin probably means “star cluster”. They have travelled to Arif with Paul, although they are at pains to point out they are acting under the direct orders of Emperor Theo. Unfortunately, this seems to cut very little ice with the various people Cyprion and Hadrien interview… and their eventual stumbling onto the solution is more the result of Cyprion’s wild theorising on creation energy, the way in which the Waki’el interact with it, and the “tachyon pacemakers” designed and built by one of the Waki’el chief priests…

As if Heart of Stone‘s failure as a crime novel, and its frankly confusing science-fictional world-building, weren’t enough… DeMartino chose to make Cyprion British, and the Britishisms she uses throughout the novel are all… wrong. I can’t even tell if it’s done as a joke, they’re so completely tin-eared:

“… If I get the chance, I’m going to give the little bramble bunny a piece of me mind.”
“A piece of me mind?”
“And that’s another thing. Don’t go braying about me accent. I’m from East London. Get used to it.” (p 6)

Rhyming slang is used quite often in dialogue – and it’s often wrong, or a phrase you very rarely hear:

“… So, tell me. Which dustbin lids were they?”
“Dustbin lids?”
“Dustbin lids – kids,” I said. (p 11)

“Have you ever seen so many bobbies in one place, going about their trade like it weren’t nothing?”
Bobbies was short for Bob Hope which rhymed with dope. (p 138)

Some other British terms are mis-used – a “johnnie”, for example, is not a toilet…

“… so I hid in the johnnie for a while…” (p 19)

… “wank” is certainly not

I didn’t distract him by replying. It wasn’t so much because I didn’t want him wanking Hadrien but more because my brain had swerved into overdrive like a Rolls-Royce driven by a spoiled princess. (p 133)

I smelled his musky odor. It threatened to make me wank, but I held in the nausea, sitting back quickly. (p 161)

Some more mangled Britishisms – I suspect “tiddlywink” is supposed to be drink…

I polished off the rest of my tiddlywink before standing up (p 163)

… but the phrase is definitely “bread and butter”…

… no astrologer worth his bread and jam would say (p 175)

… and it’s “birthday suit”, but not “pony trap”…

“How dare you invade me privacy? I’m in me friggin’ fancy suit … if you ever come into me space uninvited again, I’ll rip off your Tommy Rollocks at the root and stuff them up your pony trap (p 177)

And even verbs get misused – Hadrien will have been grassed up… and…

I had a feeling that Hadrien had been grassed by one of the boys at Terrapol. (p 76)

I’d say Cornelius Paul is crapped up in the brain (p 188)

“Brahms and Liszt” means drunk…

“Are you telling us that Zebrim Hast has fed us a load of Brahms and Liszt?” (p 190)

And “septic tank” is rhyming slang for Yank, not the reverse…

” … it stinks like an overflowing yank in here,” I muttered (p 202)

As for the rules of cricket…

… and we found ourselves offside at the cricket match (p 205)

Philipa Cyprion is without a doubt the most unconvicing British character I have ever read in a book, and that’s in a story which itself doesn’t convince, set on a late twenty-third century Earth which doesn’t convince, and in prose in which all the cultural references are mid- to late-twentieth century, like Elvis Presley and Adolf Hitler…

A sequel to Heart of Stone, titled Wayward Moon, appeared in the same year as the first book. DeMartino had previously published a near-future urban fantasy quintet under her real name, Denise Vitola.