A sequence of clicks in otherwise mundane radio signals may indicate the presence of aliens on a Jovian moon in Donoghue’s (UMO, 2018, etc.) sci-fi series entry.
Aerospace engineer Kiera Walsh’s former roommate asks her to meet with a man named Ajay Joshi. He’s an accountant by trade, but he’s also an amateur astronomer who’s made a discovery that Kiera has trouble believing. Specifically, he’s found periodic clicking noises in readily available NASA recordings of Jupiter’s radio waves. Most people claim that these are merely interference, but Ajay surmises that the clicks, which occur in a pattern, are an alien broadcast to Earth from Callisto, one of Jupiter’s moons. When Kiera peruses the recordings, she finds some validity in Ajay’s claims. She and fellow engineer Dante Fulton relay the information to billionaire Augustus Amato, whose company, A3rospace Industries, is focused on deep-space exploration. Amato responds by expediting a mission to Callisto; he suspects that if NASA makes it there first, there will be a coverup. Apparently, NASA has plenty of secrets, including a failed space mission to Callisto 23 years ago and the discovery of alien beings there, known as UMOs (“unidentified magnetic objects”). Soon, the race to Callisto becomes a tense standoff. Donoghue’s multigenre approach to his series opener is a triumph. Although it’s primarily science fiction, the story also boasts thrillerlike suspense (Amato is threatened with imprisonment at one point) and mystery (very little is known about the UMOs, which appear as light). Numerous characters evolve over the course of the story even though it’s only Book 1: Ajay turns out to be more than just an internet conspiracy theorist, and NASA’s chief administrator, Dennis Pritchard, begins as Amato’s ally, but circumstances change their relationship. The narrative is largely driven by dialogue—intelligent, engrossing discussions of such subjects as probe launching and how the UMOs’ behavior is akin to that of Earth’s bees. This approach results in minimal action scenes, but the ending promises further adventures with these well-drawn characters.
A promising, if chatty, first installment in a spacefaring adventure.