This is a good attempt at an interesting Sci-Fi idea, but the writing flies in the face of too many tried-and-true writing conventions, and so the novel never really leads us into the world the author has created so meticulously.
The first error is one I must admit I have committed in my own writing. If you are writing hard Sci-Fi for those dyed-in-the-wool fanatics who want their science no matter how fictional, to be bang-on accurate, then a certain amount of complexity is demanded. If you are writing for the average Sci-Fi reader, you just can’t hit them too heavily with intellectuality. Many writers (mea culpa) get carried away with the tech. This writer is more oriented towards the intellectual. The key section of the story is a report of a meeting where the hero explains in great depth and detail to a panel of scientists why a computer program malfunctioned, killing someone.
Now, let’s put this into perspective. I am a Sci-Fi writer and website designer with three university degrees and 60 years of Sci-Fi reading behind me, and I could just barely follow, at a basic level, what he was talking about. As far as explaining it to anyone later, forget it. When you write hard science of this sort, you really limit your audience. Average readers are not willing to plow through that sort of detail with no action to keep them emotionally involved.
The other problem that keeps us from connecting with this novel is the format, which involves a reporter from the future looking back on the events and piecing them together. This gives the story immediacy and veracity, but unfortunately, it also cools our emotional connection and removes us from the main character, who tries valiantly to reach us, but is continually interrupted by the narrating reporter.
And this is too bad, because somewhere in this book is a good story with a sympathetic main character who develops through the tale to the point where he can make an important moral decision that we can all empathize with. When the reporter steps aside and lets the characters take over the action, it’s a good book. But these real-time action sequences are the exception, not the rule.
The last third of the book shows us the potential the story contains. Now we find out why there was such a detailed description of the space station at the beginning. Now all the glimmers of personality that showed through in the first part of the novel add up to help us understand the actions of the characters when the chips are down. Now the main character gets to show us what he’s really made of.
A good story with an unfortunate choice of literary devices to move the plot along.
Recommended only for Hard Sci-Fi fans.(3 / 5)
This review was originally published on Reedsy Discovery