Monday, 27 May 2019

Across the Void

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

Commander May Knox awakes from a medically induced coma to find her ship damaged and her crew gone. The Hawking II was on a mission to collect samples from Europa and hopefully find proof of alien life. But something has gone dreadfully wrong and May needs help.

Sole survivors never get fanfare, just questions and suspicions.

S.K. Vaughn is a pseudonym for a screenwriter and I can only think they are writing for those dreadful daytime soaps, based on the plot of this book. What starts of as a reasonable space survival story, if somewhat cheesy in its dialogue, soon descends into nonsense. I suppose it's entertaining in its own way if you don't try and take it at all seriously.

May awakes on the Hawking II with amnesia, she can't remember what happened to the rest of the crew or even her own divorce. Why does her divorce matter? Well back down on Earth Stephen is working for NASA, and May thinks she still loves him. Her amnesia seems to go back a conveniently long way. The story goes back and forth between the action in space, Stephen's frankly possessive behaviour back on Earth, the story of how they got together, and May's relationship with her mother.

The writer isn't great at writing emotion so it's mind-boggling that they inserted this awkward relationship plot into what should have been an acceptable action-thriller. I'm going to talk about a bit more of the plot than I usually would in reviews, so stop reading now if you think you still want to read it unspoiled.

Retrograde amnesia. Don't you think the word amnesia just makes this whole thing sound like a crap move? Or, like the old soap operas, right?

So May isn't feeling great, and despite the ship's AI having run blood tests, it takes her ex-husband to deduce that she's pregnant! All the way across space, when May had no idea. And conveniently this NASA spaceship stocks pregnancy tests...and abortion pills. But tough, no nonsense May decides that it would be a great idea to keep the baby... whilst alone in space on a badly damaged ship.

I mean, I'd be interested in a book exploring pregnancy in space, if done well, with research and consideration for all the dangers. But this is then used as a vehicle for the men back on Earth to start fighting over her. And one of them just happens to have their own space programme! Oh yeah, didn't I mention the people in charge of NASA have gone rogue because there was an alien virus that never gets mentioned again.

The only character I liked was Eve, the AI. All the humans come across as jerks, trying hard be tough and making terrible jokes. I think the writer was trying to add little comments that might appeal to liberals but they come across as disingenuous. The next quote is just an example of the attitude of the whole thing:

In the past, she had battled anxiety, a side effect of having to maintain a relentlessly tough outer appearance.

The cynic in me feels like this was written in an attempt to cash in on the popularity of The Martian and they intend to make it into a film. Maybe it's faults wouldn't be so bad in a film either. I suppose I was kinda gripped towards the end, what crazy thing would happen next? But I will admit to skim-reading some of it.

Across the Void is published by Little, Brown and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 6th June 2019. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 20. A book set in space

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