Friday, November 13, 2020

Short Book Reviews: Remote Space Exploration Goes Wrong

Nucleation, by Kimberly Unger (Tachyon)

Kimberly Unger’s debut novel opens with a brilliant premise: space exploration, overcomes the vast distances involved by squirting “eenie” nanobots through very tiny wormholes. The eenies then follow their programming to construct whatever’s needed to explore and exploit their material surroundings, such as an alien moon. Included are particles that allow an Earth-based human operator and her navigator to remotely manipulate robotic devices. This is such a nifty set-up, I was hooked from the start. Almost immediately, however, Things Go Wrong. As fast as the eenies can build machinery, other nanobots “the Scale,” are tearing it down, and these are alien, not human-created nanobots – but to what purpose? Who programmed them? Where did they come from? And can our heroine stop the process before the alien bots gain access to inhabited planets and launch a major remodel of Earth?

The story quickly morphs into a murder mystery industrial espionage thriller space-gadget adventure with a most satisfying, intelligent, and determined female protagonist. Unger moves the reader from one vivid scene to the next, skillfully weaving in context and background. Even the most exotic, remotely accessed environments become accessible as we follow our characters from Earth to the far-flung stellar mining outposts. Corporate power structures and personal relationships emerge through action, so that even complex, subtle aspects are balanced with dynamic plot twists. Unger’s handling of breath-taking tension and reflection held my attention, page after page.

The verdict: A spectacular debut novel, at once thoughtful and exciting, packed with innovative ideas and plot twists. I’m looking forward to Unger’s next!

No comments:

Post a Comment