My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book as earned a place on my favorites shelf after reading through the more that 400 pages in one sitting.
In the near future (approx. 200 years), the world has changed in profound ways as it struggles under increasing human population until a global pandemic kills off enough to give us some time to plan. The current hegemonies were reorganized with China ascendent on earth with an aggressive American Union that has lost its way and devolved into a quasi Christian theocracy in all but name, while the powerful elites escape to space orbitals owned and run by competing business conglomerates. The advent of Chinese interstellar engines, a closely guarded monopoly, enables earth to attempt colonizing worlds in other star systems; so the Americans, with Chinese help, build and launch several colonies ships, leveraging cryogenic tech to help the crew through the decades long journeys and keep resources manageable for such a voyage. The first colony at Bethesda landed and seemed to be doing well when it suddenly goes silent. Quickly finding out what happened to the 5000 colonists may hold the key to the success of the remaining colony ships, so an international “rescue” is launched to find out.
The world building here was absolutely fantastic, with a hard science feel without the typically long, and potentially boring, tech descriptions that gave everything a natural feel. That said, this story is almost completely character driven, with just enough action to maintain the dramatic tension. The main character is an orbital pilot that was recruited at the last minute to replace the second in command for the rescue mission. As a Canadian, with a Russian brother-in-law, working at the top of a Chinese space elevator in Kenya Africa, she quickly finds her “neutrality” the key to keeping the paranoid, multinational crew of the rescue mission together after the captain dies enroute in a “suspicious” compartment fire. Everybody is keeping secrets and trying to figure out each mystery is really what drives this story forward … what happened to the colonists on Bethesda … who “sabotaged” the cryogenic chamber where 7 of the crew died and why … what are the secretive Chinese engineers (the only team allowed to maintain the interstellar drive) hiding … and who is the mysterious spy electronically watching over everything. Each character is broken in some way and this is hinted at or revealed through crew interaction (reminiscent of a good murder mystery). Some of the secrets are progressively revealed through flashbacks as we get the backstory of why the MC volunteered for the trip where everybody she knows will likely forget all about her before she returns (if they are even still alive by then). Some become red herrings and feints that totally pulled me in (well done) with some great twists at the end that I didn’t see coming. There is a light touch on a few philosophical questions on capitalism, human nature, and environmental depredation that, for me, added a lot to the story but are easily skimmed over if that is not your bag.
I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
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