(2023) David Wellington, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, 679pp, ISBN 978-0-356-51822-0
‘Endless Dark, Endless Terror’, the cover blurb promises, and with this novel weighing in at over 600 pages, I was certainly expecting the endless part. What I wasn’t expecting was turning to the last page quite so quickly – because this is a novel that won’t let up. There’s hardly a page goes by that that the pace slackens and when it does, there’s some other massive problem right around the corner.
A hugely enjoyable (if sometimes disturbing) sci-fi horror tale of a small spacecraft sent to a colony planet to check in on the colonists who’ve gone strangely silent. The planet in question is Paradise 1, and with a name like that it’s clearly asking or trouble, right? On board are ‘Firewatch’ agent Sasha Petrova, failed pilot Sam Parker, neurotic doctor Zhang Lei and a robot with attitude called Rasputin. A classic misfits in trouble unit. They become a tight, well developed team that will no doubt see us through many a sequel, and they’re full of mysteries and secrets.
When the ship gets to Paradise they find that the place is guarded by over a hundred Earth ships and they can’t get to the surface. Worse, their ship’s AI has gone into emergency shutdown and is constantly rebooting itself, leaving them almost helpless. And even worse, the other ships in orbit are trying to kill them.
The dialogue is snappy and the characters are engaging with a narrative that screams ‘action thriller’. It’s not particularly original (though the principle antagonist is scarily different) but that doesn’t matter when the writing is as immersive as this. In the right hands, this would make a great film.
I wasn’t bowled over by the big reveals but the strengths of this type of book are all in the journey, not the destination. And the sequel is very nicely set up. Recommended.
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