Birthday Reviews: Chris Roberson’s “Death on the Crosstime Express”

Birthday Reviews: Chris Roberson’s “Death on the Crosstime Express”

Cover by Bob Eggleton
Cover by Bob Eggleton

Chris Roberson was born on August 25, 1970.

Roberson has won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History for his short story “O One” and his novel The Dragon’s Nine Sons and has been nominated for it three additional times. He was a two-time nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and a four time nominee for the World Fantasy Award.

Roberson’s comic series iZombie has been turned into a television series which will start its fifth season next year. He has also written the Serenity comic series No Power in the Verse and the Fables series Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love. Along with his wife, Roberson runs MonkeyBrain Books.

Roberson published “Death on the Crosstime Express” in Sideways in Crime, edited by Lou Anders in 2008. The story is one of many works by Roberson that take place in his Myriad universes, but it has not been reprinted.

“Death on the Crosstime Express” is a multiple reality story taking place on an airship. At its core, it is a murder mystery in which the ship’s navigator, who is essential for guiding the craft through the different levels of reality, is brutally murdered. The murder plot and solution, however, take a backseat to Roberson setting up the world for the purposes of the story.

The beginning introduces an enormous cast of characters, each one from a different universe, which allows Roberson to also talk about how those worlds differ from our own and to show the vastness of the realms through which the Crosstime Express can travel. He also explains a little of the way the Myriad works as well as the functioning of the airship. There are enough characters introduced at this point that they are difficult to keep straight, especially since so few are given names, but they provide a large number of potential suspects once the navigator is murdered.

The setup would seem to indicate that Roberson is presenting a whodunit, but that isn’t the way the story plays out. Roberson focuses his attention on Vivian Starkweather, from Texico, who eventually, and relatively quickly, solves the mystery, the ship’s Captain, a Wolof named N’Diklam, and a trio of security men trying to meet with the captain to ensure the safety of their country’s leader who will be boarding the ship to sign an important treaty. The plot seems rather slight given the amount of set up Roberson provides and the length of the story. Perhaps there should be a novel length traditional murder mystery that is hiding in “Death on the Crosstime Express.”

Reviewed in its only appearance in the anthology Sideways in Crime, edited by Lou Anders, Solaris, 2008.

Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a sixteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Doing Business at Hodputt’s Emporium” in Galaxy’s Edge. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 6 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7. He has been the news editor for SF Site since 2002.

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Rich Horton

What! No Martin Amis?

Also Laura Ann Gilman.

But, really, I’ve enjoyed a lot of Chris Roberson’s work — I remember this story from that anthology.

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