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Under The Microscope

LIGHT SPEED, by David Frame; Quoin Press/Hazard, 1996; 148 pages; $19.95.

The year is 1999. Claire Bartlett, New Zealand's youngest MP, is dead, killed by an exploding briefcase, while her Light Speed Act has reduced the speed of light to a mere 100 kilometres per hour in the name of green awareness. The idea is that since nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, reducing that speed would force everything else to slow down as well. No more skin cancer and, since bullets would travel slower, no more violent crime. New Zealand, through the power of eco-corrective legislation, has become a peculiarly different corner of the universe.

But who killed the lovely Claire and why? Dr Mortimer Mains, physicist and cynic, turns private investigator to follow the increasingly complicated trail of clues to Claire's last hours through a surreal red and blue Doppler-shifted New Zealand, and into the weird and equally surreal passages of power in a future MMP government. Even he is not prepared for the answers he finds.

This book is a murder mystery, political satire, physics thought experiment and cautionary tale all rolled into one, and must be the first New Zealand novel involving an MMP government. Its up-to-the-minute themes and unique Kiwi language make it an accessible, wholly New Zealand novel.

Craig Webster is a clinical researcher in the Anaesthesia Department of Green Lane Hospital, Auckland.