Ellen Larson tells a science fiction tale with In Retrospect. There is something utterly eerie about Larson’s story and how it unfolds. The backstory truly shines and creates an Earth that is as different from our own as night and day. The society which Larson designs is full of mystery, intrigue and time travel.
Former elite operative Merit Rafi suffered during her imprisonment at the end of a devastating war, but the ultimate torment is being forced to investigate a murder she would gladly have committed herself.
In the year 3324 the Rasakans have attacked the technologically superior Oku. The war is a stalemate until the Oku commander, General Zane, abruptly surrenders. Merit, a staunch member of the Oku resistance, fights on, but she and her comrades are soon captured. An uneasy peace ensues, but the Rasakans conspire to gain control of the prized Oku time-travel technology.
When Zane is murdered, the Rasakans exert control over Merit, the last person on Earth capable of Forensic Retrospection.
The concept of In Retrospect is pretty neat but is unfortunately clouded by the many negatives of Larson’s writing style. The most evident of these is how Larson tells her story in a muddled fashion, lacking any clarity to show plot direction or overall storyline. This is incredibly frustrating and detrimental to the reading process. This vague writing leaves you wondering what characters are actually doing. The only time that Larson brings some detail is when she writes the mental breakdown of the main character Merit. This is by far the most interesting plot point although it manifests in the banal. Despite the neat time travel, the most vivid scene is when Merit goes a bit crazy because she thinks her ex boyfriend is sleeping with her former rival. This was the clearest scene but frankly, the most boring. The timing for this break couldn’t have been worse since it is at the end and climax of action. The lack of clarity is exasperated by Larson’s time jumps in narrative – many of which are completely unnecessary to the time travel.
Try as I might, there was nothing I enjoyed about In Retrospect. There was no action, very little investigation and a last minute attempt to create romance. I think Larson is a prime example of a writer who needs some guidance. I may have liked her novel had it been less convoluted. Here’s hoping someone can bring some light to Larson’s writing.