Salvation Day by Kali Wallace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is for those who like horror in their science fiction, taut suspense and relentless pacing, some very nice character development, and a genuine exploration of the somewhat cliched idea that "one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter." I originally gave it four stars, but after thinking about it I decided to change it to five.
It's a bit reminiscent of Alien, except that the creature is nowhere near as slimy as the Xenomorph. (Or as large.) It takes place during the entirety of one very long, bloody day on the huge research ship House of Wisdom, which was abandoned ten years ago after the crew was killed by an apparent bioengineered virus. This charnel house is still in orbit around Earth, and one of the two main characters, Zahra Lago, is leading a team to kidnap an Earth-to-Moon shuttle and its passengers. She intends to use one of said passengers, Jaswinder Bhattacharya, the only survivor of the House of Wisdom, to gain access to the ship and steal it for the cult she and her team belong to.
But no one has been told the whole story of what happened on House of Wisdom ten years ago. The United Councils of Earth, the government running the planet after this future (presumably climate-change-related) Collapse, has many secrets. And once Zahra and her team gain access to House of Wisdom, they will discover exactly what killed its crew all those years ago...and what is still there, waiting to be awakened.
I'm sure this would make a helluva movie, but it would of necessity gloss over the book's many nuances, particularly in worldbuilding and character development. I didn't expect such character development in what is essentially one frantic action set piece, but it is there, notably in the final two chapters when the full breadth and cost of what has happened is revealed. The author has many plates spinning in the air at once, and the fact that the excellent pacing ratchets up the stakes in an ever-tightening spiral of suspense while balancing all these other things (as well as doling out the bits of worldbuilding without infodumping--well, the first chapter is a bit paragraph-heavy, but the story soon gets past that), adds up to a damn fine read. It's also a bit more hard SF than these types of stories usually are, without dwelling on the momentum-killing details.
I also wouldn't be the least surprised if it's announced that this story is "Coming To A Theatre Near You." It's that exciting. Get in on it early.
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