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VESSEL by Lisa A. Nichols

After a 113-page marathon Sunday and Monday evenings, I finished my first book read of 2020. VESSEL (published in 2019) was a very enjoyable debut novel by Lisa A. Nichols. Her prose is fluid and very efficient (not too much, not too little) and her sense of mystery, suspense and storytelling structure are impressive for a first-time novelist; from a storytelling and craft standpoint I thought I was reading a veteran writer. I think the big reveal at the heart of the mystery was compelling enough. As a page-turner just under 300 pages, it has an open-ended ending that’s totally begging for a sequel, one  I eagerly await. Apparently the marketing team did the book a disservice by comparing it to THE MARTIAN or DARK MATTER because I’ve seen some grumblings on Goodreads citing the lack of hard sci-fi, leaving that particular kind of SF reader a little underwhelmed by the somewhat ‘lite’ sci-fi content the story offers. That did not bother me at all, as I don’t need all the technical jargon to get me into a sci-fi story. There was plenty of astronaut and NASA info and intrigue to ground the story in that world. Yet it is fair to say the story is more character-driven than the you’d probably expect from a typical science fiction novel. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

The summary follows:

An astronaut returns to Earth after losing her entire crew to an inexplicable disaster, but is her version of what happened in space the truth? Or is there more to the story…A tense, psychological thriller perfect for fans of Dark Matter and The Martian.

After Catherine Wells’s ship experiences a deadly incident in deep space and loses contact with NASA, the entire world believes her dead. Miraculously—and mysteriously—she survived, but with little memory of what happened. Her reentry after a decade away is a turbulent one: her husband has moved on with another woman and the young daughter she left behind has grown into a teenager she barely recognizes. Catherine, too, is different. The long years alone changed her, and as she readjusts to being home, sometimes she feels disconnected and even, at times, deep rage toward her family and colleagues. There are periods of time she can’t account for, too, and she begins waking up in increasingly strange and worrisome locations, like restricted areas of NASA. Suddenly she’s questioning everything that happened up in space: how her crewmates died, how she survived, and now, what’s happening to her back on Earth.

Smart, gripping, and compelling, this page-turning sci-fi thriller will leave you breathless.

via Simonandschuster.com

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My Nightstand Tonight

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THE LONELIEST GIRL IN THE UNIVERSE

by Lauren James

(sample/buy)

No chapter numbers but I’m on page 187, beginning the chapter titled “99 Days Until The Eternity Arrives.” Pretty much entering the final third of the book where things have gone very wonky on The Infinity, the ship that protagonist Romy Silvers has been on all her life en route to “Earth II” in a neighboring galaxy to our own. It’s basically a 40-year trip but past events aboard the old ship have left our girl Romy as the lone survivor and she’s been alone in desolate space for several years now and recently lost contact with her mission counselor at NASA back on Earth because apparently a third global war has occurred and the victors have taken over politically as well as operations at NASA. What’s more is another ship, The Eternity, which is younger, faster and more advanced, is on a course to rendezvous with Romy’s ship. She’s struck up a pen-pal like relationship with the lone young man aboard the ship and he being her first real contact with a prospect of the opposite sex has led to a crush with great anticipation! BUT all is not what it seems and the suspense (and the summary) suggests that once they finally meet things may take an unexpected and rather nefarious turn for hopeful young Romy. I hope I get to that part tonight or tomorrow night at the latest. This has been a great speculation/impulse buy for me so far.