One of the trials of reviewing books is first novels that aren’t very good, but are so well-meant and earnestly attempted than simply panning them would feel like kicking a puppy. Patrick Swenson’s The Ultra Thin Man is a case like this.
This novel aims to be mystery/suspense set in an interstellar future, with two intrepid detectives chasing a deadly terrorist into more complications than they bargained for, including inimical aliens and moles in their own organization.
There’s nothing horribly wrong with the execution, but there’s not a whole lot of win in it either. The prose improves from painfully clunky to acceptable after the first few chapters, the plotting is adequate, the characterization uninspired though not jarringly bad. But – and this is important – none of this is the kind of awful that suggests the novice writer is doomed to mediocrity or worse forever. There’s a bit of originality here and there and some flashes of entertaining quirkiness in the worldbuilding.
Patrick Swenson, whoever he is, needs more practice. And a better editor. And beta readers who will kick his butt when he needs it. Given these conditions, I suspect he could have written something pretty good. Sadly, this book is not yet it. If you like the synopsis it may be worth your time, but don’t set your expectations high.