On our first trip to Mars I hope that they send the best equipped, those with the skills and temperament to handle any situation that may occur. If disaster struck I would hope that these men and women would tackle the challenge dispassionately in an attempt to survive the oncoming end with as little wasted energy as possible. This is great for the real world, but a little dull for a book. Why not send someone up who has more personal demons than that bloke who mistakenly signed 4 Faustian Pacts?
Commander May Knox is the best pilot that NASA has. Her exemplary record makes her the ideal candidate to lead the first manned mission to Mars on a new type of spaceship that will house not only pilots, but scientists too. Knox soon cottons on that things have gone badly when she wakes up from a coma on a stranded ship with seemingly no other crew on board. Can Knox contact NASA on Earth to patch up the ship and get home?
Across the Void by S.K. Vaughn is already being touted as one of the books of 2019 and ripe for a big screen adaptation. You can feel this when reading the book as it has the touch of a hammy blockbuster that is a little underwritten. The book is all about Knox’s journey and as a black female she makes for an interesting protagonist whose perspective is different from the countless Bruce Willis types of this world. To develop her character Vaughn uses a split time narrative that takes us from the disaster on the ship back to Knox’s life before the launch. This adds some depth, but also melodrama.
Your interest in Void will depend on whether you like you science fiction hard or a little softer. Vaughn tries to span both worlds and at points the science fiction is riveting, but at the book’s worst some of the personal drama going on is riper than a bag of oranges left out in the sun. I admit to being a traditionalist when it comes to my sci fi – ships, space guns, aliens etc. and I don’t always care for the characters internal monologue. As vast parts of Void are internal murmurings, this does prove an issue.
During the thrilling moments this books works. It evokes the likes of Aliens and The Martian with plenty of jeopardy to keep the reader hooked. It is just that you have to revert back to the angst ridden Earth days between the action. I was unable to truly believe that so many talented and intelligent people could be so emotionally daft. Give me futuristic space ships travelling to Mars and I will suspend my belief, but give me a characters trait that is off and I am taken out of the book. There are moments of unprofessionalism in Void that boggled my mind. Surely the crème dela crème of NASA would have been vigorously physically and psychologically tested before launch?
Perhaps I am overthinking this novel. It is being sold as a potential popcorn movie of the future and the reader should read the book thus. If you are able to embrace the melodrama that is occurring then you may become wrapped up in the drama of it all. For the more ardent science fiction fan I suspect that the people element will actually detract from what are some good sci fi thrills. Void is a slight hodgepodge of a book that may have been written with a more mainstream audience in mind and caters truly to neither them nor the pure science fiction lover.
Written on 4th January 2019 by Sam Tyler.
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