By M D Lachlan

Celestial, a novel by M D Lachlan
Book details

There are many roads to enlightenment. You can spend decades mastering the art of meditation, becoming one with the universe. You can seek to achieve the divine through the depraved, in acts so vial that you push through what is acceptable into the other. Any of the routes take commitment and none of them are found on the Moon, but for the American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts in M D Lachlan’s Celestial, the secret to Life, the Universe and Everything may just be on the strange craft discovered on our very own satellite, but who will get their first? 

Dr Ziggy Da Luca is not a typical NASA candidate with a speciality in antient languages, but her place on the program begins to make sense when she is called into the Project Managers Office, not to be fired, but for a mission. A unique craft has been discovered on the Moon that has inscriptions like the languages Ziggy studied. Did antient people live on the Moon, or did aliens visit humans in the past? Ziggy and her fellow American crew are in a space race against the Russians to uncover the secrets of the mysterious craft. 

The Space Race may feel old hat now, but at the time it was of international importance to nations looking to place themselves on the superpower playlist. Even by 1977 and the setting of this story the race was losing steam, but the Cold War still raged. Lachlan quickly builds up a feel of the time with the unconventional lead in Ziggy, a woman of colour. Not someone who would have been earmarked for important things in NASA during the 70s. However, her personality, education and experience become key to the story as it progresses. 

As well as having the feel of the time, Celestial is also a book that feels like a 60/70s science fiction book. As the astronauts enter the ship the book becomes a trip. It has the stylings of the LSD fusion coloured science fiction of the time. What is up is down, left is right. The book becomes as much about the mind as it does the science. As a Buddhist, Ziggy becomes vital member of the crew is they hope to survive. 

Celestial is a book that could have been set in the present day, but the late 70s makes it an evocative read. The ship uses the minds of the crews, both American and Russian, to create a surrounding. Flashbacks to Eastern European folklore and the Vietnam War are both present. The book questions both sides of the Cold War and neither come out well. Ziggy’s balanced way of meditation will be the key to survival. 

With the internals of the alien craft being so undulating, it is difficult for a reader to know where the book is going, but there are clues in the way that Ziggy interacts with the Russian commander. The ship’s fluid nature also makes the book thrilling as you are unsure what danger is coming next. 

For a science fiction reader looking for a modern feeling novel, but with a nod to some classic sci fi pondering, Celestial is a book that will scratch that itch. It starts off feeling like it could be a pulpy alt history book or thriller but evolves into being a cerebral tale about the nature of enlightenment. Even with some high-end thinking, Lachlan keeps the pace up and the book does not become bogged down or overlong.  

Written on 8th November 2022 by .

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