Book review: The USS Primus – The First starship by M.H. Altis (@Altis)  #rbrt #science fiction

An ill-advised thermonuclear war has resulted in a direct effect on the sun, destabilizing it irreparably. Recognizing that Earth will eventually end as a home to humanity, a manned mission is sent to find a plant that humans can colonize.

Told from the view point of the commander of the mission and captain of the Universal Solar Spaceship Primus, David Davis describes the ship, the first spaceship to be powered by star light, to be sent to Kepler-186f, called Nova. This planet is 10.5 times bigger than Earth but with similar gravity and within its star’s habitable zone. All of this is detailed in his first log entries. There are eleven crew members and AI to run the ship while they are in hypersleep, along with lots and lots of embryos which should grow into super children. The members of the crew are chosen carefully to have no families. Half are veterans of space travel and for half, this is their first mission. They spend a two month isolation period with each other to determine if they are compatible and if they can accept a mission from which they will not return nor hear from Earth again.

The author describes each of the crew member’s strengths and how the jobs they were trained for overlap. There is only one about whom the captain admits to having some doubts, Osa Williams, the life specialist who is in charge of the hypersleep pods and the embryos.

The mission begins successfully, but only makes it halfway before Osa awakens, hundreds of years from the ship’s destination, due to something that was her fault. She rouses Captain Davis, who soon realizes there is something terribly wrong and that she is being deceptive about where they are on the journey, resulting in an ensuing twisted game of cat and mouse. Davis has to fight not only for his own life, but for those of the crew and the embryos, and indeed for humanity, as Osa descends into madness.

I loved the plot line of this novel and also the thoughtful consideration of various topics: Would the crew survive the centuries-long voyage with a ship and equipment never before tested? If they did, what would be the effects on them of the journey? How successful would they be at populating Nova and developing it into an Earth-like planet?

However, the set-up to the mission is a series of long and detailed log entries, including minutia about the ship and crew and thoughts of Davis about the future of humanity. This lasts until chapter 9, when the real action begins. From there forward, the point of view is shared between Osa and Davis, and the rest of the story is laced with tension, and tragedy.

The ending is practical and interesting, and I leave readers to discover what happens.

My feeling about the book are mixed – loved the concept and enjoyed the science (fiction) of the ship and the mission, but it took a long time to get out of Davis’s head and into the action. The author writes well, and the details of the ship and the mission are well-wrought. They eventually pull the reader into the story, build the tension and do justice to the ending. But I am left wondering if so much detail is necessary, especially about the crew, since there are truly only two characters.

Nevertheless, the author impressed me with their first full-length outing and look forward to the next book. I think readers into serious sci-fi will like this book.

About the author (from Goodreads):

Martin H. Altis, nicknamed ‘The Human Resource’ by their friends due to their penchant for pulling random facts out of thin air, they wrote their first short story when they were young, scribbling away with a stubby pencil and a dollar store spiral-bound notebook. Ever since then, they’ve been hooked.

M.H. writes to express themself, their thoughts, ideas, and emotions. They also have a deep interest in how fiction connects to reality and how character arcs mirror our own lives.

M.H. Altis has written several books, from 250,000-word epics to 50,000-word dashes. With a growing and unreleased catalog, they decided it was finally time to share their creations with the world.

With curiosities and creations ranging from medieval times to outer space, alternate universes to the one we inhabit, and everything in between, readers will be sure to find something to enjoy.



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