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Sub-Inspector Ferron Mysteries #1

In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns

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A man has been turned inside-out.

Fifty years in the future, in the sleek modern city of Bangalore, a scientist working on revolutionary bioengineering techniques has been discovered inside his own locked home, his body converted into a neat toroidal package of meat. It's up to Police Sub-Inspector Ferron to unearth the victim's complicated past and solve the crime, despite the best efforts of the mastermind behind the murder, aliens beaming signals from the Andromeda Galaxy, her overbearing mother, and an adorable parrot-cat who is the only witness.

73 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 2012

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Elizabeth Bear

306 books2,266 followers
What Goodreads really needs is a "currently WRITING" option for its default bookshelves...

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5 stars
168 (29%)
4 stars
244 (42%)
3 stars
138 (24%)
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15 (2%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 63 reviews
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews865 followers
April 14, 2022
"'I like living in the future.' Ferron picked at the edge of an areactin glove. 'So many interesting ways to die.'"

FridayReads 2021-08-20 'Earthly Delights', 'In The House Of Aryaman A Lonely Signal Burns' and 'Serpent's Tooth | Mike Finn's Fiction

I enjoyed Elizabeth Bear's In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns (Sub-Inspector Ferron Mysteries #1), a near-future mystery set in India. This is a more character-driven story that relies on the setting that Bear establishes. I plan to read other books in this series. Bear's writing is always smart, a necessity for a mystery, and a reason I pick up her books. 3.75 stars
Profile Image for Mihir.
645 reviews297 followers
April 21, 2014

Completely loved this short story (novella?) by Elizabeth Bear, read the full FBC review.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Elizabeth Bear posted about this novella on her twitter feed a couple of days and that is how I came to read “In the House of Aryaman, A Lonely Signal Burns”. It was originally published in Asimov's January 2012 edition and now is featured for free on the author's site. It is a novella that consists of a procedural mystery that is mixed with SF and also deals with the exploration of a foreign culture, in this case India. It is a quintessential Elizabeth Bear story that mixes different genre aspects with some terrific characterization as well a unique-ish setting that confounds partly and yet is completely alluring to those looking for a different world setting.

The story begins in the city of Bengaluru (Banglore) in India of the future with police sub-inspector Ferron (aka Tamanna), and her partner of seven years, senior constable Indrapramit, who are investigating the very perplexing murder of a brilliant but aloof physicist named Dexter Coffin. Coffin's remains are found in his apartment but in a very weird state; his body has been turned inside out—with the end result featuring a pink slimy mess. Their troubles are compounded by the fact that all data related to Coffin’s last few hours has been wiped out and the only witness might be a talking parrot-cat hybrid that was also the physicist’s pet and whose memories have also been tampered with.

In this futuristic version of India, people have developed newer ways of telecommunications and web surfing. Almost everyone is glued into the intenet by means of "feeds" and "skins" that help in instant communication as well as in filtering data about the surroundings as per the person’s requirement. The author has very convincingly built a futuristic society with most of the hi-tech gadgetry that we have come to expect however her unique touch is that she has seamlessly interspersed it with Indian culture and mythology thereby creating a uniquely captivating Indo-SF storyline. As an Indian I was simply stunned at the thoroughness of her research and the depth of the background detail, be it with the Indian police hierarchy or the mythological names and details or with even the names and Indian vocabulary. Elizabeth Bear’s world-building skills and her research has to be applauded thoroughly if not awarded.

Next up is the characterization and it is here that why I fell in love with this story as it’s the characters and the main protagonist that made my read such a captivating one. Ferron is a person who is at odds with her mother and yet she strives to do her “kartavya” towards her mother and her fellow citizens. Her friendship with constable Indrapramit is shown to be a deep one and there are hints at some background troubles faced by Indrapramit however that would be a tale for another time. The procedural aspect of the story is fueled intensely by Ferron’s diligent search for the truth while dealing with her personal issues. This detective duo pairing is entirely fascinating to read about and I hope the author does write more in this milieu and explore what happens beyond the confines of this story.

As a reader and world-building geek, I want to read more about this new age India and see the author explore Bengaluru and other corners of this futuristic Indian subcontinent. Elizabeth Bear’s prose skills are often lauded in her other works but since I’ve not read much of her work, I hadn’t had the pleasure of seeing why others had been in love with it. After reading this novella I can see that I will need to catch up on her remaining bibliography. The story is told with such skill that for a moment one forgets the settings and foreignness of the land and gets drawn into the primary character voice and the world as she views it. Her strengths, her weakness, her inner thoughts, etc. are laid bare with poetic precision and it’s no wonder that the story is stronger because of the author’s skill.

I am absolutely in love with this story and I hope more readers read it as its currently featured free on the author’s website. Discover for yourself why Elizabeth Bear has been nominated in almost every category by all awards under the sun. She has legions of fans and now I count myself one among this rising tide.
Profile Image for Riju Ganguly.
Author 31 books1,392 followers
May 5, 2021
A hugely thought-provoking and yet entertaining novella— this work deserves repeat reading. The world-building, characterisation and plot were truly immersive. The mystery was sharply handled, as well.
After reading this work, one is compelled to search for more works featuring our protagonist. I failed to find any more. But I must say, an entire collection of such future-noirs would be lovely.
Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Lis Carey.
2,164 reviews94 followers
November 10, 2022
A half-century in the future, in Bangalore, Police Sub-Inspector Ferron is called to the home of scientist with a checkered past, who has been reported missing. What she finds is a toroidal mass of meat that, when DNA tested, is identified as the missing scientist. She also finds the only witness, his parrot-cat--a genetically engineered talking cat.

Whose memory, unfortunately, has apparently been wiped. Ferron talks to the cat, gives her food, and calls her Chairman Meow, and the cat imprints on Ferron. This isn't what Ferron intended or inspected, with no previous expereince with parrot-cats. Besides, she already has a pet--a domesticated silver fox, the pet her mother got bored with. Anyway, she has a murder to investigate!

She soon has the police department's AIs, Doyle and Conan, digging up the scientist's background, and is talking to his coworkers at the laboratory, where they've been working on world-changing biotechnology developments. The more Ferron learns about the apparent victim in this crime, the more questions she has.

Meanwhile, she's also dealing with her overbearing, demanding mother, and the neighbors in the kin-based apartment building they both live in (in, blessedly, separate aparments.) Ferron's mother is, along with more standard Indian mother obsessions like getting her daughter married, is addicted to the immersive online world now available--with compolete archives of your activity, if you can afford the storage. And since her mother can't really, she's been bullying her daughter to pay for it.

Ferron is juggling an apparently horrific murder, no obvious murderer because, while he had many enemies, most of them aren't anywhere nearby, an American private, but bonded and very professional cop chasing entirely different crimes related to the dead scientist, her own mother, and also being distracted by a supernova, or maybe something more startling, in the Andromeda galaxy--and a growing collection of evidence that says something else entirely is going on.

I found it engrossing, and fun, and along with good characters, there's also excellent world-building.

Profile Image for Jamie.
1,159 reviews103 followers
October 22, 2020
Fairly uninspired near future murder mystery with too many infodumps and sidebars. I did however like the setting.
Profile Image for Andreas.
482 reviews131 followers
July 23, 2014
Cyberpunkish near-future India setting with a locked-room mystery starting with This pink tube. This enormous sausage. This meaty object like a child’s toy "eel", a long squashed torus full of fluid being a human body turned inside-out.

Lots of well-researched background of Indian culture, nice projection of near-future gadgeting, suntrees, complex characters including a talking parrot cat, and some scientific elements concerning bioengineering and astronomical phenomenons.
I didn't get the sub-plot around first-contact and a supernova which was a bit irritating.

The central story is about identity and parent-child relationships in the meatworld and virtual reality. It was quite hard for me to get into the story at first, but then I loved her brilliant and lively descriptions, and the multi-layered plot. What makes me a real fan is her great characterization of the detective duo in this exotic setting of Bangalore.

Is there more of that available?

Read as part of the The Year's Best Science Fiction: Thirtieth Annual Collection anthology.
Profile Image for Mike Finn.
1,173 reviews31 followers
August 27, 2021

There were a lot of things in this 132-minute audiobook novella set in a near-future Bangalore that I enjoyed but there were a couple of things that jarred with me and prevented this from becoming an I-must-read-the-rest-of-this-series-at-once experience.

So what was good?

It's jam-packed with ideas on near-future life, not just the technology that people use but how they choose to live. The ideas are woven into the story rather than being info-dumped. There's no future-tech porn lusting after bright new toys, just a taken for granted use of things we don't have yet, much the way people under twenty pay no attention to how extraordinary smartphones would have seemed to those of us who were under twenty in the 1970s.

The so-that's-how-they-dealt-with-climate-change stuff is tantalising because it's vague but plausible. The geopolitical changes that bring Americans to India, virtually or physically, looking for high-tech work were amusing (and plausible). The various ways in which people stretched the boundaries between virtual reality and real-life to create an experience that was an alloy of both were fascinating as was the mainstream use of drugs to control moods and sustain attention for days at a time-

I also liked that, behind the main narrative, like a bass guitar behind a lead singer, was a wider contemplation of where we all sit in the universe. This was done partly by the way the police inspector's classical education remained part of her day-to-day experience of this very modern world and partly by considered a strange pattern of light coming from a star millions of light-years away. What I heard of this, I liked but I would have preferred to have heard more of it, perhaps by cutting back on the time given to the lead singer.

The mystery part of the book was clever and kept me guessing but had that Issac Asimov 'I, Robot' feel of a cunning puzzle that had little or no emotional content. In the apartment of an American working for an advanced biotech firm in Bangalore, a body has been found, turned completely inside out and with nothing missing. The only witness, a bio-engineered talking parrot-cat appears to have had its memory wiped. It's up to Police Sub-Inspector Ferron to discover what has happened and who is responsible. It was a good vehicle for learning more about Ferron and the world she lived in. It was relatively complex but never either tense or threatening. I was sure that Ferron would solve the problem as if it was an equation or as should determine the meaning of a piece of epic poetry.

So, what didn't work?

There was something off about the narration. The narrator had the right accent and the right speed but my ears weren't comfortable. Then I realised that the problem was that I wasn't hearing any Indian speech patterns that I recognised. I was listening to American English being delivered in an Indian accent. It wasn't terrible but it wasn't right either.

I also felt that the novella was a little over-stuffed with content. At times it was like standing in front of an open fire hydrant. I'd have liked not to have to run so fast to keep up. But that may just be a sign that I'm getting old.

Although this wasn't all that I'd hoped for, it was still good Science Fiction and it has whetted my appetite for Elizabeth Bear's novels.

Profile Image for Kathy.
219 reviews
July 12, 2018
In a few words: Do you need any more than the tagline "A man has been turned inside-out"? The Law and Order spin-off that we all deserve, if it were a police procedural set in a future India
Why: For having a baller title

Worldbuilding flavour: just right. Sort of on the line with this story, only really because it feels like a glimpse of a larger series that highlights these characters and the world they live in. Aspects of it remind me of a story in Alissa Nutting's Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls that touches on similar aspects of terrible mothers and online-based social connections. Other than presenting the dilemma of whether a talking cat seems cute or eerie to me, I am fascinated by the concept of genetically programming the sense of filial responsibility. It's something so integral in many cultures and many diaspora and immigrant families, including mine. So asking what that means through the lens of science fiction and genetic engineering is fascinating to me.
Profile Image for Daniel.
691 reviews46 followers
November 23, 2018
4+ More, please!

Very enjoyable SF-Mystery from Bear. I'm going with a 4 on the rating as I don't really see myself rereading it, but I would definitely be up for more of them. The status is a bit confusing as the subtitle indicates a series, but a bit of digging indicates this was apparently first published (in Asimov's) in 2012 and I can't find any references to further installments, sadly.

Bear does a good job balancing the mystery elements with the detective's personal stuff, though of course that sort of thing is likely subjective. Hopefully she does have more of these in the pipeline.

Profile Image for Judy.
981 reviews56 followers
June 7, 2019
This is a good murder mystery that takes place in a near future-world, in an Indian metropolis filled with cool energy-collecting-and-storing mechanisms, mind-tweaking humans, genetically engineered pets, and of course, overbearing and annoying family members. The book is one of those inexpensive "Part I" Kindle singles, so I expect there are more or will be more in this series.
Profile Image for Diane .
222 reviews
July 30, 2022
Nothing like science fiction crossed with a homicide to make a story interesting and unusual.😏
Profile Image for Alva.
41 reviews
August 25, 2018
Reading this was for me a throwback to my personal golden age of reading science-fiction novellas, the Sixties and Seventies, when I'd always look forward to the novellas in the Nebula Award and Year's Best series because of that particular balance they held between short form and novelistic arc and detail. The novella always suggests the longer work that could have been published and read in its stead, bits of other narrative that would clarify or expand the meaning of what's there; but at the same time the form contains the perfect satisfaction of a single excellent meal, rather than a succession of dining experiences. Bear's story is especially good on the integration of virtual and "non-virtual" reality in her future, and in its lightness of touch with respect to the two science-fiction subgenres it bridges, First Contact and Noir.
Profile Image for Denise.
6,456 reviews104 followers
November 12, 2020
Set in a futuristic India, this novella combines police procedural and science fiction in an entertaining murder mystery that allows Elizabeth Bear to show off her skill at building unique and fascinating worlds. And of course: Gotta love the cat!
Profile Image for Dawn F.
495 reviews68 followers
November 30, 2019
It’s not often I can guess a murder mystery plot in advance but one was a little on the nose. Despite that it turned out to be an interesting universe Bear created here, and I loved the ending.
Profile Image for Iona Sharma.
Author 9 books111 followers
July 16, 2018
A really interesting, enjoyable SF police procedural, set in a fantastic solarpunk Bengaluru. I thought this vision of India from a non-Indian author was very thoughtful also. One minor disappointment: it’s one of those universes with designer drugs, so people can take uppers/downers when they need to without much ill-effect. I got excited at a main character who seemed to have bipolar (II) disorder, without the story actually being about that (which is something I've been searching for in SFF so far to no avail). Disappointingly it's an artificially induced hypomania - but that's just a minor aside. I recommend it.
740 reviews1 follower
July 7, 2018
This was an interesting novella, not least because everything felt so familiar that I'd swear I'd read this before, but I was still unable to remember the solution to the mystery until we were right upon it; it speaks well for the world-building and how much I'd enjoyed it. There's also some musings on personal connections in a world where it's (materially) trivially easy to screen out anything and anyone you don't want to hear from, what this does to the people doing the screening, and to those left out but still emotionally tied together. I feel like there's a lot to unpack there, but I haven't yet gotten my head around all of that.
Profile Image for Karl.
Author 16 books4 followers
July 3, 2018
I was fortunate enough to encounter this story years ago in Elizabeth Bear's collection, Shoggoths in Bloom. Reading it again as a standalone, I am impressed to see how well the story holds up. In fact, I found deeper levels of characterization and worldbuilding than I remember. This is an excellent example of Bear's mastery of ideas and prose. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Luca Cresta.
966 reviews24 followers
March 28, 2020
Ecco un ottimo ibrido SF-Giallo, un racconto lungo di Elizabeth Bear, ambientato in un'India supertecnologica del futuro prossimo, con personaggi ben tratteggiati ed un essere artificiale difficile da dimenticare. Il plot è quello di un giallo classico, ma le indagini e l'ambientazione sono totalmente calate nella fantascienza più evoluta. Una bella "pitturata" di cultura indiana completano questo ottimo testo. Grazie a Sandro Pergameno per l'ottima scelta ed a Tiziano Cremonini per la bella copertina
Profile Image for Denisse.
492 reviews290 followers
January 17, 2019
A fresh futuristic read. Very innovative! It has way more to tell than what we can expect and a cool 80's aura. Recommened.

Me dio la impresion de que leia a Asimov en ciertas partes. Muy recomendable, para cualquiera con ganas de leer algo ligero en el genero pero con sustancia. El final es inesperado y la protagonista en tan pocas paginas me termino comprando.
Profile Image for Gloria.
504 reviews6 followers
April 22, 2019
My one complaint about this novella is that it was too short. I want to know more about Inspector Ferron, Chairman Miaow, the murder victim - all of it. I prefer longer lengths almost always, but I have to admit, this story was compelling. I now need to search and see if there are any more stories in this world. Recommended, with the warning that you will be left wanting more.
Profile Image for Jamie Rich.
376 reviews1 follower
August 19, 2018
In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns (Sub-Inspector Ferron Mysteries Book 1)
by Elizabeth Bear

My only complaint is that this short story should be an entire novel! I hope the followup books are!
Profile Image for Andi.
211 reviews5 followers
October 22, 2018
A perfect novelette. I sincerely hope Bear decides to explores this character- and especially this world!- in longer form.
Profile Image for Nerine Dorman.
Author 64 books210 followers
April 18, 2023
This one was included in my Audible subscription, and I appear to have given it a spin out of order – I listened to book 2 not so long ago. This is book 1. In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns by Elizabeth Bear is part of the Sub-Inspector Ferron Mysteries and offers listeners a somewhat quirky dive into an India of the future, where virtual and augmented reality blend seamlessly with real life, and humanity deals with the challenges of climate change in a technologically driven society.

Genetic manipulation is par for the course in this setting, and designer pets are de rigueur – so if you want to meet a talkative parrot-cat called Chairman Meow, who is the only witness to what at face value appears to be an utterly bizarre murder, then step right this way. Actually, I was sold by the fact that this story has a talking cat.

Narrated by Zehra Jane Naqvi, this is a short escapade of two hours (unlike the 20+ hour beasts I tend to download) which I admit took me ten or so minutes to get used to Zehra's voice. I don't know why, but I seem to inadvertently mostly listen to audiobooks narrated by British men, so hitting a woman-narrated work was a bit of an adjustment – especially with her accent being on point in terms of the setting. But once I was used to her voice, I was fine, and Zehra oozes quirk in abundance.

There's much to be unpacked in this setting, and my only real complaint is that it's too short! I'm definitely going to keep a lookout for further titles, should these be rolled out. It's great to have a story that's not the usual western-centric fare. If fun, light mysteries, with unexpected twists are your jam, then this one is the cat's whiskers. Oh dog, I shouldn't mix so many metaphors.
Profile Image for Raj.
1,388 reviews29 followers
January 7, 2023
This novella introduces us to Sub-Inspector Ferron, a detective whose latest case involves a person who has been literally turned inside out. And the only witness is a genetically engineered cat who's been wiped (and ends up re-imprinting on Ferron). Set in a future India, we get brief, tantalising glimpses of a fractured world as Ferron and her lieutenant, constable Indrapramit, try to find out who could have killed the victim, and what their motive could have been. At the same time, she has to deal with her overbearing mother, and there are rumours of unusual activity in the region of the Andromeda galaxy.

There' a lot packed into this novella. The world-building of the future that it's set in is impeccable and very deftly handled. Throwing in parrot-cats, breakdown of nation states, immersive virtual reality and much more, while keeping us grounded with Ferron and Indrapramit. In amongst all this, the actual murder actually gets a little lost. I wasn't surprised that I didn't figure out who did it (I never do), but I still don't really think I understand the why of it and what actually happened. But then, does it really matter, with such a wonderful world, and the intrigue of a signal from the stars?
255 reviews
December 22, 2022
Picked this up because I want to read A Blessing of Unicorns, the second in this story series. And I have to say that it is entertaining and interesting to read, like all Elizabeth Bear's work. I agree with other reviewers that there's a lot going on here, and in creating the mystery it gets a bit overwhelming. But a whole lot of good speculative elements. The sentient cats were cute, though I don't know how much demand there would be for an intelligent, socially demanding cat (accurately called a parrot-cat--parrots are really demanding). I enjoyed it and almost can give it a 4, but it's just a little all over the place. Looking forward to the next one.
Profile Image for A.M..
Author 7 books46 followers
April 19, 2022
A locked room mystery set in a future high tech India where the internet has become wearable and addicts live in VR. The victim is an American expat scientist, that the company wanted badly enough to pay the climate fees to move him to India.

But some things never change; families still live in complexes, mothers make demands, and your aunts want to know when you are going to meet a nice man and get married, even if you are a police sub-inspector.


Excellent worldbuilding, an intriguing mystery and some believable characters.

4 stars
Profile Image for Kelly.
281 reviews1 follower
December 27, 2018
A clever short story/novella with great worldbuilding and a fun murder mystery. This sci-fi story also deals with communication, family relationships, and genetic engineering in thought-provoking ways. I think my major complaint was that it felt too short and some of the plot ideas and characters didn't get quite enough time. Hopefully Book 2+ pads out the live of Sub-Inspector Ferron and Friends more!
Profile Image for Anastasia.
245 reviews
November 3, 2020
This book was good enough for a quick read... almost a short story, but just slightly over the line. The author did a good job working out who did it without giving away the ending, which is something not all of them are successful at achieving. I'm also going to listen to at least one more in this series to get a more well-rounded view of the main characters to see if I want to continue through the entire series.
Profile Image for Melissima.
45 reviews1 follower
June 12, 2019
A Truly excellent genrebending Sci Fi mystery

Fans of JD Robb's Eve Dallas and anyone who loves a twisty police procedural will enjoy this murder mystery set on a future earth. Bear always brings fascinating characters to life, and her settings burst with wonders to rival and surpass the best of star wars.
Profile Image for Kurt.
468 reviews1 follower
July 6, 2018
Strange, unexpected similarities with a novella I read earlier this year (A Dead Djinn in Cairo), but synchronicities aside, they have different emphases. No idea if there will be more in this series, but I'd be interested in seeing a deeper dive into the world.
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