The Wrong Reflection by Gillian Bradshaw
Ace / Penguin Putnam PPBK: ISBN 0441010970 PubDate: 09/01/03
Review by Jeffrey J. Lyons
368 pgs. List price $6.50
Buy this book and support SFRevu at halfprice.com / Amazon US / Amazon UK
When Paul Anderson wakes up after a car crash into a river, he's pretty sure he has amnesia. but he's also absolutely sure he's not Paul Anderson. So begins this imaginative story by Gillian Bradshaw, her first attempt at Science Fiction, which winds through the corridors of a top-secret think tank on its way to uncovering the mystery of "The Wrong Reflection".
Bradshaw's reputation for historical accuracy serves her well as she gets down to the nuts and bolts of the science behind the story, and her experience at characterization provides a compelling cast of misfits. We're talking about amnesiac-Anderson, sweet-Sandra Murray, a gay investigative TV journalist and his lover cameraman, and the son of the nurse who treats Anderson.
Amnesia and the quest for identity is a popular theme in SF. There are parallels to the short-lived TV show "John Doe" where Doe knew everything about everything. but in contrast Anderson is oblivious to Sherlock Holmes, the Beatles, dogs, and can barely write a sentence on a piece of paper. Still, he remembers vividly an innovative theory of confined magnetic fields not known on earth and how to decipher encrypted computer codes, which hold keys to his real identity. Stellar Research however, where the real Anderson is a high-level executive, is using all of its resources to keep "Not-Anderson" from spreading the theory to the world.
Bradshaw's mystery thriller also branches off into a quasi-love story between Anderson and Murray. Suffice to say, without giving away the ending, the relationship plays a role in the exciting action-packed climax. Bradshaw has written 16 novels including several successful historical novels, children's books, fantasy, and now Science Fiction. In many respects, this book reads like a mainstream thriller rather than a Sci-Fi novel. While her attention to detail is notable, sometimes that detail seems a bit overdone. There are also moments when Bradshaw inserts some convenient character traits, which help to get out of jam and move the story forward.
That's not to say that I didn't like it. It was a page-turner and a fascinating read albeit a bit wordy. She could have eliminated about 75 pages. Avid Sci-Fi readers like myself will have a pretty good idea about what's going to happen and where it is going to end up by about Chapter 4, but you enjoy the bevy of mismatched characters so much that you are anxious to see how you get there.