REVIEW: The Qubit Zirconium by M Darusha Wehm
Alien detectives stumble across a mystery that could tear apart their patchwork planet, the Crucible, in this riotous science fantasy novel from the smash hit game, KeyForge
Wibble & Pplimz, the Crucible’s most unusual private investigators, must set off from their office in Hub City to clear the name of a former client. Along the way, their investigation broadens from a simple accusation of theft to include a missing person, a potential murder, and a highly unusual gem. Four interlinking incidents take them across the Crucible, as they attempt to solve the case. But there’s something more sinister lurking underneath: evidence of a secret society that aims to discover the power of the Architects, and forever change the nature of the Crucible itself.
Dear M Darusha Wehm,
I had never heard of the card game that inspired this novel but once I saw the cover, I just had to ask to read it. Yes, I’m shallow that way. A good cover will lure me in a heartbeat. I’m so glad I read it as Wibble and Pplimz are wonderful characters and the Crucible is fascinating to read about.
What is the Crucible? Actually no one is quite sure. It might have been made. Or it could be a product of physics. Perhaps it’s due to an immense gravitational field and being too close to a wormhole. It’s huge – as large as Earth’s sun – with endless variations in geography and the beings who inhabit it are as diverse as the universe allows. Once beings – or in the case of Mars, part of its planet – get there, no one can leave. But that hasn’t stopped beings from dreaming of doing that and being drawn to those who are newly arrived in order to ask questions and seek answers about the outside world. Two of its best private investigators – if they do say so themselves – are Wibble and Pplimz and now they’re trying to discover who stole a tiara that an elven acquaintance of theirs has been accused of taking. Soon, however, the case has broadened to far more than that.
I want to be more like Wibble. She’s delightful with a wide open attitude that allows her to embrace everything and view potential problems and disasters as exciting events to be relished. Her ability to bobble along and zoom up high for aerial views lets her see things her partner can’t while her zest for new adventures sometimes means they have to gently rein her in – just a little.
“There’s more going on here than we know,” Wibble said, as an emerald hue came over her body. “I love it when there’s more going on than we know!”
Pplimz is the calmer, more methodical partner who favors custom made pinstripe suits and prefers less adventurous means of travel than the rickety airship that Wibble finds irresistible. Pplimz is a bit more … prim and proper are good words to use. But they are just as meticulous and ready to follow up on clues as bouncy Wibble plus they have an understanding of and wild idea about quantum physics.
While the investigation is well done with Pplimz and Wibble carefully checking clues, following up on leads, and concerned for the elf they’re trying to clear, I’ll be honest and say that this part of the book is fairly standard stuff. Find the witness, interview the witness, sift through new information, revisit and revise how the case is viewed then approach from a new angle – it is the stuff of private investigation. What attracted me and kept me enchanted is the world that has been embroidered on here. The Crucible is big, diverse, full of different lifeforms, and ways to be. It’s endlessly varied yet the descriptions allowed me to vicariously visit it without the risk of getting trapped there. Wibble and Pplimz exist fully formed and a part of the world and their interactions, comments, and thoughts about it allow it to exist for the reader without feeling overwhelmed or as if we’re being subjected to a boring info world-dump.
There are some “suddenly we’re told about” aspects regarding locations or things but then this planet is wild and weird and wonderful and anything could happen. As one character says, it’s “wonderfully preposterous.” Plus there are marvelous things there like “matter discombobulator-recombinattors.” Correct pronouns are offered and always used, consent requested and given, care given to AIs who are viewed as sentient beings, and both investigators are horrified at the idea of eavesdropping or spying on characters who have an expectation of privacy. Humans are there on the Crucible but aren’t the saviors of the situation or the cause of any disaster. Whew, that’s a relief.
The world is huge, probably artificially constructed (though no one really knows), has myriad populations, languages, customs, religions, food, gender identification, affiliations – well, basically anything you could name. I had so much fun diving into this place and, through the action and plot, imagining exploring it. But Wibble and Pplimz make the story. Their relationship is obviously one of platonic friends and close colleagues who care for each other which just made my day to read about. The book ends with them being approached by a potential client. Dare I hope that we’ll see more of them? B