By Lucy Kissick

Plutoshine, a novel by Lucy Kissick
Book details

The concept of humankind travelling to other planets to colonise has been a staple of science fiction for decades and as the world in which we inhabit becomes increasingly tricky for humans to live on, the novels are set to keep on rolling. Some are action pieces, some concentrate on the colonists themselves, while others focus on the science. Plutoshine by Lucy Kissick looks at all three and throws some xenobiology and terraforming into the mix.  

Humans have expanded across the Solar System, slowly terraforming planets so they can withstand human life. Pluto is one of the last to be tackled. The distance from the Sun makes it a complicated candidate with temperatures at almost absolute zero. Lucian brings with him a team and innovative technology that will use giant mirrors to reflect and intensify the Sun’s rays. Pluto looks like it may become a successful human habitat, but is everyone on board? Acts of sabotage are taking place. Could it be a disgruntled colonist or a local that no one has yet seen? 

Plutoshine is what I consider hard science fiction. This means that it leans into the science to try and explain in a real-world way how a science fiction future could happen. Kissick is a scientist who has worked on the theory of terraforming planets, and you can tell. The use of science and engineering in this book sounds plausible to me and gives it a realistic feel, even if it is set on the ice planet of Pluto. 

There is a worry that Kissick will lean too much into the science, but this is also a very character driven story. Lucian is at the core, but you also have Nou and her family. Nou is a young mute girl who helps Lucian with his tests. The relationship between the two begins to develop into a proxy father and daughter, but what happened to Nou’s actual father? He is a coma after a mysterious accident. It is mystery that becomes the final tentpole that the book rests on. What happened to Nou and her family on their visit to an underground cave? 

Living on Pluto is inherently dangerous, and this leads to some great action set pieces. When things go wrong the scientists and engineers remain calm, but the pace is frantic. They must act fast to save lives and the colonies. It is not until one accident too many that you come to understand that someone may be responsible for them, and another mystery is added to the tale. 

There is a lot going on in Plutoshine so it prefers a reader who likes their stories that have an intensity. It rewards those that take their time to digest the science and understand the relationships. The colony on Pluto feels like it could be a contemporary group, but there are subtleties that determine these are people of the future. Their willingness to trust, share and collaborate is almost utopian in places, especially when it appears at least one member is more interested in the dystopian. 

Plutoshine is a book that pushes both bold science and bold characterisation, one is often lost in favour of the other, but not here. There is also action and a couple of mysteries to uncover. It is a book packed with ideas, many of which you feel could happen. Overall, the in-depth use of believable science makes this a book for the harder science fiction reader who also likes to have some meat on the character’s personalities. 

Written on 21st March 2022 by .

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