Cyberpunk Review: Bubbles in Space #1 — Tropical Punch
Tropical Punch is a cyberpunk tech-noir murder mystery written by Sarah C. Jensen, featuring “Bubbles Marlowe”, an irreverent private eye with a robotic arm and who loves chewing bubble gum, which apparently is an important detail since every book in the Bubbles in Space series (Chew ’em Up, Pop ’em One, and Spit ’em Out) seems to reference chewing gum. Or perhaps it’s a cheeky play on words with the author and her readers, setting the tone for the books themselves. If so, it’s brilliant and hilarious, much like the majority of this book.
A Fun Cyberpunk Setting and Sidekick
Bubbles is an ex-cop private detective who is given a seemingly easy job: to deliver a message to a girl in HoloCity. Once she finds her, though, everything seems to go wrong, and she quickly finds herself inextricably caught up in a confusing murder mystery to solve which leads her right on board an inter-galactic cruise liner. By her side is her trusty android pig, Hammett, a cute wise-cracking robot with the ability to hack into systems and who serves as a reliable sidekick to Bubbles.
A Fast-Paced Page-Turner
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Tropical Punch and, much to my surprise, it was a page-turner that I finished in record time. I simply couldn’t put it down. Starting in the rain-soaked neon streets of HoloCity before going to the rich people’s space cruise, I loved the themes of income inequality, corrupt cops, cybernetics, religious zealots, and advanced tech in a noir-detective style.
Meme credit: S.C. Jensen
A Female SF Lead written by a Female SF Author
Another thing I definitely enjoyed was reading a novel with a female protagonist written by a female science fiction writer, for once. So much of the Cyberpunk novels I’ve read, from Snowcrash to Neuromancer, from Total Recall to Altered Carbon, have all been written by men with male protagonists. The Cyberpunk that I know and love, however, is more diverse than that. So we need writers like Sarah Jensen to continue lending her voice and her characters in order to fill the cyberpunk canvas with more complex, interesting characters. Bubbles is a recovering alcoholic, for example, which was inspired from Jensen’s own personal struggles with alcohol addiction.
Meme Credit: S.C. Jensen
Final Verdict: 9/10
What stopped this book from getting a full 10/10 mark was the fact that once I finished it, I didn’t feel like I had a deep awakening or a new insight on life or anything. It’s not the kind of book that really sticks with you. Rather, it a fun, light-hearted, fast read that hits all the right Cyberpunk marks. It actually felt rather reminiscent of the Harry Dresden Files books. If you like Harry Dresden but wished he were more Cyberpunk, then look no further than Bubbles Marlowe. And even if you don’t, I highly recommend this enjoyable read for the funny one-liners, great cyberpunk elements, top-notch writing, and the refreshing female perspective. I for one can’t wait to read the rest of this series! Book 5 should be out by the end of the year 2021. Books 1-4 are available now on Amazon via paperback, kindle, and kindle unlimited.