I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Petty criminal Zara Cole has a painful past that’s made her stronger than most, which is why she chose life in New Detroit instead of moving with her family to Mars. In her eyes, living inside a dome isn’t much better than a prison cell.
Still, when Zara commits a crime that has her running scared, jail might be exactly where she’s headed. Instead Zara is recruited into the Honors, an elite team of humans selected by the Leviathan—a race of sentient alien ships—to explore the outer reaches of the universe as their passengers.
Zara seizes the chance to flee Earth’s dangers, but when she meets Nadim, the alien ship she’s assigned, Zara starts to feel at home for the first time. But nothing could have prepared her for the dark, ominous truths that lurk behind the alluring glitter of starlight.
What a treat! I could barely put this book down and was almost late for the family Mothers Day celebration as a result.
The beginning was quite transparent—you have an Earth that has been contacted by aliens known as the Leviathan. Enormous whale-like interplanetary travelers, they can create spaces for humans inside their bodies and a small number of humans are chosen each year to go travel the stars with them. These people are known as the Honors and they are (by and large) star mathematicians and musicians. Into this mix, introduce Zara, someone who hasn’t really adjusted to the new situation on Earth, who is a petty criminal trying to stay one step ahead of the law and her enemies. Of course she’s going to be chosen as one of the new crop of Honors, confounding her and her contemporaries.
The story plays on our notion of what whales are all about—gentle giants, intelligent, worthy of our regard and our love. But are the Leviathan the universe’s equivalent? They’ve rescued Earth from environmental and political disaster, but it that rescue a freebie? It takes a con-woman to ask the questions and to deal with the answers! And of course, I came to love Zara because she wasn’t a bad person, but someone pushed into a bad life by her circumstances. She gets to be the skeptic, who is reluctantly won over by contact with Nadim, the Leviathan that she is matched with.
There are many twists and turns to the story, including a sequence that reminded me of Dave & the computer Hal in 2001, where Zara dons what is called a skinsuit to go make necessary but risky repairs! The tension was fabulous!
I’d be really interested to know about the process of the two authors, who contributed what and how they shared the manuscript! But mostly I’m glad that book two is in the works and I have a chance to see how Zara, her co-pilot Bea, and Nadim progress from here.