The Hard-Boiled Genre Recast to Future, Outer Space
The Predator and The Prey is the story of police Inspector Thomas Sullivan’s efforts to catch a serial killer and stop the theft of living-saving medicine on a distant mining planet, Beta Prime, 200 years in the future. If you’re familiar with the fictional characters of Philip Marlow, Mike Hammer, or Sam Spade, and you put one of them in a future, outer-space setting, then you have a pretty good idea of the feel of this book.
Like the characters from the hard-boiled literary genre mentioned above, Inspector Thomas Sullivan is an antihero, more interested in justice than the letter of the law. He’s also damaged, riddled with remorse for his failures. To accommodate a character like Sullivan, Beta Prime is not a sleek, technologically advanced world – his ‘lead with your fists, rather than your badge’ attitude would not fit easily in an advanced society. Rather, Beta Prime is lawless and corrupt, again somewhat paralleling the typical setting of the hard-boiled genre – the 1920-30s prohibition era and organized crime. For me, recasting the typical hard-boiled crime story into a future, outer-space setting worked quite well.
The book, however, did have a few shortcomings. First, there were some small but quite persistent tics in the author’s writing. Word repetition was particularly problematic. At one point, the author uses the word ‘evil’ five times in six, consecutive sentences. Certain themes and thoughts are also repeated unnecessarily. Some occurrences of either of these minor missteps is understandable, but the frequency of them made staying immersed in the story difficult for me.
Second, the author tended to take what should have been subtle nuances in a character’s make up and push them to the point of breaking. Sullivan’s tendency toward feeling remorse is one example. By the end of the book, he is blaming himself for just about everything that goes wrong. An initially complex character became distorted by unnecessary emphasis on one trait. The character of the serial killer took a similar route, as he seems almost supernatural by the end.
The interested reader should also note that this book contains somewhat graphic violence against children.