“Space is meant to be what we aspire to.
We are, by our very nature, a people who explore…”
– The Explorer by James Smythe
But while the “human” element was interesting, the premise of the story was hard to swallow. This historic first manned deep space mission, which must’ve cost billions of dollars, serves no real purpose other than to “inspire” humankind: “to show the people of Earth that we – as a race – were able to take ourselves further, to push our limits, our scope…”
The mission isn’t really about discovery or inspiration, it’s about creating an entertaining drama – and, ultimately, mass manipulation.
“Space is meant to be what we aspire to. We are, by our nature, a people who explore. It’s in our blood. We go back to the times before maps and we just explored whatever we could, in search of something better – better land, better food, better shelter. We follow that line to nomadic peoples, to Vikings, to the Romans, and we explore everything. We discover America, and find that it’s already been discovered; we travel the globe and we plot maps that prove there’s no edge to fall off, no horizon carved with a blunt knife. We went to the Moon to prove that we could, and we did it as soon as we were able to. We watched ourselves from up there, and we saw that we were exactly who we thought; a people overreaching, stretching ourselves. We explore, and we stretch what we’re capable of. It’s in our nature.”
Strangely enough, it’s the science fiction elements where this novel about deep space exploration is the weakest. The potential was there for this to be a cynical, visionary masterwork but, like the image of the astronaut helplessly floating in space on the novel’s cover, something went wrong along the way.
“Ground Control, we have a problem…”
But that said, I would still recommend this novel. Although it's a weak science fiction read, it is a compelling psychological thriller.
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. You can follow him on Twitter at @paulgoatallen and get all the latest Barnes & Noble book news from @BNBuzz.