Through the Eye of a Needle by Hal Clement
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Great mystery novel, but such horrid sexism! Sure, Clement does a moderately good job of insisting that the alien be completely fair to both sexes, but the human characters (male and female) are all horribly in need of taking a few feminism classes. Then again, the story is set in 1949 and was probably written not long after that date, so at least the author is portraying the humans in a more or less realistic way, even if they don't garner any respect from me.
The setting, story, and mystery in the novel is all quite good, though. This is a proper mystery tale, where the reader has a real chance of figuring out the mystery by the end, and nothing "unfair" happens like an introduction of an as-yet-unseen technology or surprise that clever readers could not have seen in advance. Nevertheless, the mystery is still obscure enough to make it difficult to figure out by the end. Not many mystery novels follow the rules as well as this one does, especially when it comes to scifi settings. Thankfully, Clement is a master of hard science fiction, and so knows how to write this kind of book fairly well.
The biggest drawback (other than asshole sexist characters you'll dislike) is that Clement does not write relationships between humans very well. But that's not the focus of this novel, and so is not that big a drawback. Clement does well in almost every other respect, and the result is a very good hard scifi mystery. I definitely recommend it to any who like science, scifi, and mysteries.
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