A researcher attempts to save the International Space Station from a terrorist plot in Lanning’s debut novel.
In the not-too-distant future, the ice caps are melting, submerging the world’s coasts but leaving Antarctica open for habitation. Lowry Walker, a resident of the polar continent, has been invited to spend two years as a research assistant aboard the new, enormous International Space Station, helping to survey Antarctica from above. At first, Lowry is in awe of the technology that surrounds her, but soon the artificial environment begins to disturb her. Later, she asks a co-worker, “Do you ever stop to think about the human beast, Sevy? Outside of war, disease, and hunger, there’s just no fun anymore.” When a computer virus temporarily shuts down power on the station, Lowry and her colleagues are reminded just how close they are to death. More alarmingly, it’s revealed that the virus entered the station’s computers via one of Lowry’s surveying files. The Earth’s precarious geopolitical situation—millions of refugees and limited land—means that there’s no shortage of reasons that someone might want to attack the station. As political powers rush to use the attack to further their own aims, Lowry must work with her uncle, Nick Walker, a volunteer police officer in Antarctica, to discover the saboteur before he or she destroys the station and all the souls on board. Lanning writes in a chatty, accessible prose that mimics Lowry’s caustic, semi-jaded worldview. For a space-based thriller, the author pays an admirable amount of attention to her characters’ emotions, even if the execution is occasionally unsubtle: “Her head fell into her hands, and her shoulders jerked as her tears flowed. She had given herself permission to grieve—not so much for her failed marriage as for the loss of her innocence.” The troubled world of the novel, however, feels disturbingly believable, and the central mystery is compelling without ever feeling over the top. The novel’s well-drawn characters, nicely paced plot, and satisfying conclusion will please sci-fi fans of every stripe.
A tight, engaging sci-fi tale.