In this novel, a group of astronauts explores a faraway planet for colonization, but discovers it already has some inhabitants.
After the last Great War in 2054, the worldwide population was reduced to less than 100,000. By 2072, Earth is a wasteland that can no longer feed its people. Only finding a suitable exoplanet can save humans now, so the Order of World Leaders mounts an expedition to Arianrhod in the Triangulum Galaxy to see whether it can sustain life. The crew consists of three women, Xi, Rho, and Zeta—the narrator—and three men, Sigma, Omega, and Chi, all young scientists (their Greek letter tags are adopted for the operation). Their leader is Capt. Ralph Reynard, “a retired former United States Marine from back when the United States still existed.” It’s a dangerous mission uncertain of success, but if they triumph, the seven will earn early retirement and lifelong prosperity. But not long after their arrival, the undertaking goes haywire: Reynard acts suspiciously and a scientist disappears. Searching for the lost Sigma, Zeta discovers what seems to be an alien species—but they speak Russian. With everything at stake not just for themselves but for Earth, the team members make some desperate choices. Goodison (Limboland, 2016, etc.) entertainingly blends the sci-fi and mystery genres here; though Sigma’s death is made clear before long, other puzzles arise to be solved. Complicated strands in the plot include the early space race, the environment, and class/power struggles; these issues add thoughtfulness to the book’s exciting action scenes. Goodison keeps readers guessing about Reynard, OWL, their real motives, and how this can all possibly work out until the final pages. Although the Greek letter tags make it a little difficult to keep everyone straight at first, Goodison’s characterization is well drawn, and Zeta becomes an admirable heroine, a tough, smart cookie with a good moral center. This future world is usually presented with plausible changes, but to quibble, it’s annoying when years and months are renamed—for no discernible reason—“rotations” and “moons,” while days are still “days.”
A thoughtful and eventful sci-fi mystery that satisfies.