Married Michelle Morris, 1990; children: Sam. Education: New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, B.S.; Johns Hopkins University, Ph.D.; postdoctoral studies at National Jewish Medical Research Center, Denver, CO.
Home—Quincy, MA. E-mail—[email protected]
Works for a pharmaceutical company in Cambridge, MA.
Author of blog, Feedback.
A biochemist by trade, Matthew Jarpe drew positive reviews for his first published science fiction novel, Radio Freefall. He admitted on his home page that he had played with the idea of becoming an author since high school, but science had intrigued him more in college. He earned a bachelor's degree in biology from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, then went on to complete a doctorate in biochemistry from Johns Hopkins University's School of Medicine. With these impressive credentials, he landed a job at a pharmaceutical company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and settled down to start a family. "So I didn't set out to be a writer," he related, "but I did write. Badly, at first. But I kept at it, got better. I wrote most of a fantasy novel (evil sorcerer saves peaceful kingdom, for a price) that was embarrassingly derivative of Stephen King. Then I managed to finish a movie script (serial killer vs. the Mafia) that was embarrassingly derivative of … well, nearly every thriller I've ever seen."
Jarpe thought he finally had created a good novel with Radio Freefall, which he submitted to the New York City publishing house Tor. Editor David Hartwell accepted the manuscript in 2001, then did nothing with it for four years. Disheartened, Jarpe had all but given up when Hartwell agreed to publish one of his short stories in an anthology. Jarpe found an agent, Russ Galen, and with his help they managed to get Tor to publish Radio Freefall at last.
A number of reviewers have compared Jarpe's science fiction debut to Robert A. Heinlein's classic The Moon Is a Hard Mistress, but with a distinct William Gibson, cyberpunk flare. From the former comes such ideas as a colonized moon seeking independence from an increasingly tyrannical Earth government, and from Gibson the idea of computer viruses and biology somehow mixing into potentially dangerous new forms of life. Into this mix Jarpe adds some of his unique contributions about music and technology in the near future.
Radio Freefall features several dominant characters, including Aqualung, an aging rock musician who uses a type of feedback machine in his band performances to increase the emotional stimulus in his audiences. Walter Cheeseman plays the role of the villain as the chief executive officer of WebCense, a company that controls the media on Earth. Cheeseman has aims of world domination; he intends to achieve this by unifying all the world's countries. On the surface, this might sound like a laudable aim, since it has the potential of reducing war and other national conflicts. However, as Jarpe pointed out in an interview on the Ficlets Web site, a unified Earth could also reduce competition and lead to the stagnation of innovation. Those who resist this idea are "opposed to the homogenization of culture, the dominance of big business and Walter Cheeseman himself," Jarpe explained. On the side of the opponents is Quin Taber, who was fired by Cheeseman because he had tried to warn Cheeseman that the Digital Carnivore virus Cheeseman was using to dominate world communications was actually an evolved life form that could have its own dangerous goals.
In the story, Aqualung does not initially wish to get involved in what is happening in world and lunar politics. He is only interested in his growing success with his bluesy group, The Snake Vendors, through their Feedback Movement. When it is discovered that Aqualung is actually Adrian Rifkin, who had a part in creating the original virus that became Digital Carnivore and who may hold important secrets about it disguised in lyrics written for his former band, Animal Bones, Aqualung is suddenly sucked into the intrigue. Running for his life from the driven Cheeseman, the musician flees to the space station Freefall, where he becomes involved in the independence movement there and on the Moon.
Many reviews of Radio Freefall were positive, although a critic for the Analog Science Fiction and Fact Web site had problems with what the reviewer considered a two-dimensional Cheeseman, causing "serious difficulty in convincing the reader to suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy the story." This critic also considered many of the themes to be about twenty years out of date, adding they are "a bit quaint and unlikely and played too straight to be meant as satire." On the Greenman Review Web site, Camille Alexa felt the story begins a bit slowly, but then "picks up a good head of steam, boiling quickly into an excellent stew of corporate takeover, political intrigue and ultimately, interplanetary war." Even more enthusiastically, Booklist writer Carl Hays called the novel "masterfully crafted" and "a winning combination of Heinleinesque wit and mind-bending technological speculation." "Rock and roll and old-school hard SF go together like peanut butter and jelly in Jarpe's debut novel," concluded a Publishers Weekly contributor.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August 1, 2007, Carl Hays, review of Radio Freefall, p. 56.
Publishers Weekly, June 25, 2007, review of Radio Freefall, p. 39.
Analog Science Fiction and Fact Online,http://www.analogsf.com/ (November 1, 2007), Tom Easton, review of Radio Freefall.
Don D'Ammassa Web site,http://www.dondammassa.com/ (May 24, 2007), Don D'Ammassa, review of Radio Freefall.
Fantasy Book Critic,http://fantasybookcritic.blogspot.com/ (August 8, 2007), review of Radio Freefall.
Ficlets,http://ficlets.com/ (September 19, 2007), "The Big Idea: Matthew Jarpe."
First Book,http://thefirstbook.wordpress.com/ (March 25, 2008), review of Radio Freefall.
Greenman Review,http://www.greenmanreview.com/ (May 2, 2008), Camille Alexa, review of Radio Freefall.
Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men,http://hotchicksdigsmartmen.blogspot.com/ (December 11, 2007), Janiece Murphy, "Matt Jarpe Is a Smart Man."
Matthew Jarpe Home Page,http://www.matthewjarpe.com (May 2, 2008).
San Diego Union-Tribune Online,http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/ (September 9, 2007), Jim Hopper, "Newcomer Cranks Up the Volume with ‘Radio Freefall.’"
SciFi.com,http://www.scifi.com/ (August 29, 2007), D. Douglas Fratz, review of Radio Freefall.
SF Revu,http://www.sfrevu.com/ (May 2, 2008), Ernest Lilley, review of Radio Freefall.
SF Signal,http://www.sfsignal.com/ (June 22, 2007), J.P. Franz, review of Radio Freefall.
Stars My Destination,http://jimnstewart.blogspot.com/ (July 31, 2007), Jim N. Stewart, "Politics of Radio Freefall."
Yogacara Network,http://www.yogacara.net/ (March 26, 2008), review of Radio Freefall.