Editorial Review: Sane Grace by Oliver Phipps
The main plot of the comedic space adventure Sane Grace, by Oliver Phipps, focuses on the spread of Fellirex, a new drug with enjoyable recreational properties, leading to highly dangerous addictions.
Fellirex is easily accessible, so galactic law enforcement needs to locate the source and stop the spread before the entire galaxy becomes addicted. Lieutenant Grace Wolfe is just the woman for the job, even if her superiors and colleagues are completely stunned by her strange behavior.
Grace is skilled with combat, investigation, and everything else that could come in handy in defending the galaxy, but she’s, uh, not exactly your typical space cop. She’s constantly playing by her own rules, which usually means making clueless comments in her sexy-airhead persona while processing everything around her in her advanced cyborg brain and responding with lightning-fast reflexes. Oh, and she usually also has a massive array of legal and illegal equipment tucked into her pockets.
Lieutenant Grace Wolfe is a memorable character, which sets this novel apart from a generic sci-fi adventure or even a space comedy. Whether she’s getting shot at, arrested, meeting her underworld contacts, or almost blowing herself into space, Grace keeps up the ditzy quips as she follows her own plans. She’s cheerfully greedy and acquisitive, but like a sexy space Robin Hood, Grace makes sure to only take advantage of criminals.
Over the course of the investigation, Grace’s original partner is injured very badly, mostly by failing to listen to Grace’s ditzy, giggly, but vitally essential warnings. Her new partner. Detective Vandenburg, is an understated but very competent desk jockey who’s feeling a bit bored with his work, and thinks working with Grace will be interesting. Besides, no one else is willing to work with her. From the moment Grace demands purple transport and then ignores all speed limits, Vandenburg wonders just what he’s gotten himself into. Grace doesn’t really need a partner, anyway, since she’s faster, smarter, and just generally more skilled than everyone she encounters, but the story of a quiet, paper-pushing investigator dragged along on an adventure does make a nice counterpoint for some of her wildest schemes. When Grace feels like explaining her motivations, she chooses Vandenburg to tell.
There’s a lot to explore in this almost cyberpunk future. The side plots involve wild space travel and hilarious contacts on both sides of the law. Grace is constantly having such a good time saying outrageously clueless things and popping in and out of danger, while quietly tracing the spread of Fellirex and saving the galaxy, that it’s hard not to enjoy her adventures.
The investigation is twisty and dramatic, but there’s not a lot of tension. Grace, with all her hidden and obvious skills, is almost too powerful for this storyline. With her lightning reflexes, advanced observational skills, cyborg brain, and extremely well-equipped pockets, it’s hard to feel like she’s ever in real danger. You never feel that she’s actually in trouble, instead, you wonder how Grace is going to get herself out of trouble this time. Even when Grace’s origin story is explored, it’s more about satisfying curiosity than any real feelings of tension or worry.
Overall, Sane Grace is an engaging, amusing space adventure that plays with classic sci-fi themes by creating the memorable Lieutenant Grace Wolfe.