Cuban science fiction author Yoss has written a simple, elegant narrative in Red Dust, a novel centered on a robot deputy of little renown. Within Yoss’ succinct 150 pages, the reader follows an eccentric robot obsessed with noir fiction named Raymond after Raymond Chandler. Yoss goes beyond a reliance on overused storytelling methods to craft an entire story from overwrought science fiction tropes slamming into detective noir cliches. The premise—an alien confederation wrapped in power politics holds down the advancement of the human race, and one robot police officer must track down an alien criminal with the help of a convicted thief—should make for a predictable story at best. However, Yoss’ choice of narrator and ability to converse with the reader make Red Dust a breezy, fun read perfect for summer afternoons.
With its copious amounts of cliche, a reader could easily lose interest or find themselves unattached to characters in Red Dust. Raymond, however, keeps the reader engaged, sarcastically pointing out obvious literary references as they happen. The first-person narrative shatters the fourth wall with constant, direct allusions to the story’s noir influences. The resultant quirky lightheartedness creates the feeling of watching a cheesy movie with a good friend, joking about each plot hole and contradiction. As a result, the plot holes don’t matter, and the contradictions are fun instead of frustrating.
Our spunky robot gets assigned the incredibly difficult task of tracking down a supernatural killer called a Gaussical, a being capable of manipulating probability to make any number of insane things happen. This ability translates into the space equivalent of magic, and to catch a wizard, Raymond needs a wizard. Enter El Afortunado, an imprisoned thief and smuggler who happens to be the only known human Gaussical, and is out for revenge. While not particularly complicated, the plot takes the reader on a lovely jaunt through a troubled Sol system, chasing bad guys, ejecting power crystals and eventually, finding a happy ending.
If you are looking for either hard science fiction or gritty noir mystery, Red Dust is not for you. If you want to peruse those worlds through a rosy tint and listen to the narration of a sardonic positronic companion, then this book will happily fill a short few hours of your time.