The Watcher is a little slippery. If I described the bones of its plot or its characters (which include a planet threatened with destruction from an energy-being, time travel, sea monsters, and a conveniently bulletproof resident of Earth) it would sound either like a pulp-era space opera, or a consciously zany send-up of same (perhaps in the mode of Goulart or Harrison). But although The Watcher isn’t without flashes of dry humor, its characters certainly take their situations seriously, and since the novel is very much concerned with the internal lives of the characters, the overall tone is fairly serious.
The plot also has an unusual structure, almost like two tightly coupled novellas, where the resolution of one conflict leads into a new one. It also seems to deliberately establish some expectations and then deftly manoeuvre away from them. Palmer’s prose has a trick of unfolding important reversals with no buildup and no subsequent fanfare; she demands an attentive reader.
I didn’t think it was completely successful; there a few things-are-not-as-they-at-first-seemed reveals that seem ill-supported or even illogical, and there’s a slightly unsatisfying deus ex machina quality to some of the plot twists. But it assuredly held my interest, and made me curious to read more from Palmer, a writer I hadn’t encountered before.
(note: this novel was republished (for the US market?) as The Kybion)
I found this in The Book Shop in Heyward, California, which proved such a treasure trove of mildy oddball out-of-print SF that I made two visits and had to ship my purchases home separately from my overstuffed luggage.
needs more demons? no.