In Lostetter's ambitious debut, the year is 2088, and humankind is finally ready to explore deep space, preparing to send convoys of clones on eons-long missions to investigate the outskirts of the galaxy.
Astrophysicist Reggie Straifer is convinced that something funny is going on with a distant star; there seems to be something surrounding it and obstructing its light. When Straifer convinces the organization building interstellar convoys to send one of its 12 missions to the mysterious LQ Pyxidis, he and hundreds of other brilliant experts are chosen to have their genes replicated into generations of clones who will staff the ships. The clones of idealistic dreamer Straifer, emotional and empathetic computer programmer Jamal Kaeden, kindly resource specialist Diego Santibar, insightful engineer Nakamura Akane, and the other humans with genes deemed optimal for deep space travel live out their lives working jobs assigned to them based on what their DNA says their talents are. They form new bonds and relationships with each other with every passing generation, even raising the next clones instead of muddying up DNA lines with natural reproduction; two versions of the same clone are alive onboard at the same time, the younger training to take over for the older. Every aspect of life in space, including sustainable materials, cultural development, personality quirks, and life and death among the crew members has been painstakingly accounted for to ensure mission success, all with an omnipresent AI assistant to keep the gears running. But algorithms can only predict so much, and the farther the convoy gets from Earth, the higher the stakes; after all, time is passing exponentially faster for the planet than for the ships, and the Earth the first clones knew is changing. So far removed from their home planet, are the clones doomed to repeat the flaws written in their DNA, or will they prove that people really can change, even if it takes a few lifetimes to get there? This spectacular epic examines everything from the nature of civilizations and societies to the tension between nature and nurture. Lostetter expertly balances the thrill of discovery with the interpersonal consequences of an isolated community. The tools of speculative fiction are deployed with heart-rending attention to emotional reality in this enthralling odyssey.
A striking adventure story that could hold a galaxy in its scope, this is an expedition that delves as deep into the human thirst for purpose as it does into the wonders of the universe.