An off-world colonist struggles to return to Earth in the wake of an interplanetary plague in this debut novel.
On a distant planet called Soltaire, Jamie Allenby awakens from an illness to find herself utterly alone. She’s just survived a virus that’s nearly wiped out humanity throughout the galaxy; only 0.001 percent of those infected survived, while the dead were reduced to piles of dust. On her phone, Jamie finds a garbled voice mail, which she believes is from Daniel, her estranged boyfriend. She recalls how they’d once said they’d reunite on a beach in Northumberland, England, if the world ever ended, and she now feels compelled to go to Earth to find him. She soon discovers two other survivors on Soltaire, and, after sending out a distress signal, they’re rescued by a passing ship. As they travel, they pick up more survivors, who all hope to somehow return to Earth. In the hands of someone with more literary skill, this story could have been something akin to Station Eleven in space, but it isn’t even close. The prose is insipid, with some eye-rollingly trite sentences, such as, “Home’s what’s left over when you’ve figured out all the places you don’t want to be.” Protagonist Jamie is staggeringly unlikable. For instance, she bemoans a past miscarriage, then reveals she abhorred her unborn child. Further flashbacks reveal that she’d only gotten pregnant because Daniel—the same man she’s desperately seeking—wanted a child. Worse, there’s virtually no science in this science fiction. The aforementioned virus, which inexplicably turns human bodies into dust, laughably calls to mind Daffy Duck being disintegrated by Marvin the Martian—although the science fiction of Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century is arguably better than anything here. The worldbuilding is dropped into the story in steaming piles of infodump that raise more questions than they answer. And after Jamie uncovers the absurdly obvious origins of the deadly virus (which had been telegraphed from the very beginning), the entire story is tied up in a big, banal bow.
Terrible science and even worse fiction.