Scide Splitters: Deep Quarry by John E. Stith

ReAnimus Press, $15.99, 236 pages, trade paper, July 2016

ReAnimus Press, $15.99, 236 pages, trade paper, July 2016

Return of the Stith!

No, it’s not the next installment in the Star Wars franchise. It is the resumption of the writing career of the talented John E. Stith. It is also the return to print for his complete backlist that will be reissued by ReAnimus Press over the coming year. The first of those reissues is his 1989 novel, Deep Quarry, a genre blend of hard SF and mystery featuring the wisecracking detective “bug eye” Takent.

Takent is a private investigator on an overly hot (for humans) world locked in synchronous rotation with its sun. In the city of Dallad where he operates, it is perpetually early afternoon, and unfortunately, the heat exchanger in his office isn’t working. An attractive archeologist hires Takent to investigate the theft of valuable alien artifacts from a nearby dig site. The security setup is tight and the artifact storage vault seemingly impregnable, but it does not take long for Takent to start piecing together clues.

On the surface, it seems to be a straightforward case. Below the surface, literally, things get complicated when his investigation leads to the discovery of a spaceship buried for ten thousand years – fully operational and still occupied. I consider this last part to be something of a spoiler, but since the jacket copy informs you about the occupied spaceship, there isn’t much point in my concealing it.

Takent is a well-developed, likable character, but he irritates many of his fellow humans with his wisecrack comments. In fact, at one point an informant tells him that he will give him information but only if he stops with the jokes. Aliens (there are three other species on the planet) have less problem with him, in part because they don’t get his jokes, but also because Takent treats them with respect – hence the nickname “bug eye” earned for his being sympathetic to “bug eyed monsters.”

Scide Splitters June 2016 Image 2The world building in Deep Quarry is excellent, particularly as it relates to life in an area that is always facing the sun. And the portion involving the spaceship is good, old-fashioned, sense of wonder SF. If there is a negative to the story, at least as far as Scide Splitters is concerned, it is that the book is much more a SF mystery than it is comedy. Humor enthusiasts will enjoy Takent’s dialog and observations as the point of view character, but be forewarned that Deep Quarry is not categorically a comedy. It is an excellent read none-the-less.

In 2017, Mr. Stith will be publishing his first novel in twenty years. And while it is my understanding that this will be a mystery-thriller rather than SF or comedy, it is still good to see him back in the saddle, so to speak. The reissue of Deep Quarry is due out this Friday, July 1st, and will be available in trade paper or digital from ReAnimus Press. Watch for more of his backlist releases over the coming year. For a complete list of titles and release dates, visit John Stith’s website at neverend.com.

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