Thursday, December 1, 2011

Approaching Omega - familiar plot surprises in the end

Approaching Omega
Eric Brown
e-book, Infinity Plus (September 2011)
Novella, originally published in 2005 by Telos Publishing

Review by Lyda Morehouse

This novella length e-book by award-winning novelist Eric Brown tells the story of Ted Latimer, team leader of the maintenance crew of the Dauntless – a ship filled with thousands of cryogenically frozen colonists, headed to the first suitable Earth-like planet. Their mission: save humanity.

I could have saved Latimer some heartache. After all, cryogenic deep-freeze space travel rarely goes well in these sorts of stories, does it? No one ever wakes up, thousands of years later, arriving in paradise where everything is hunky-dory. Thus, rather predictably, Latimer and his crew are awoken early. First to a possible collision that’s left the ship massively damaged. After they set the autobots to fix things, they go back to sleep.

The second time they wake up, everything has gone from bad to worse – much, much worse.

The plot that follows reminded me a lot of the movie “Pandorum,” including the strangely up-beat ending. If you haven’t seen “Pandorum” (which many people likely haven’t), suffice to say that the autobots fixed a number of things that weren’t broken, including some of the colonists.

I’m a fan of science fiction horror, and Brown is certainly a skilled writer. Yet, for some reason, I never quite connected enough with the main character to get truly emotionally invested in his survival. Perhaps it was Brown’s stylistic choice to refer to the hero by his surname throughout the narrative that kept me at a distance. Or, maybe it was the sheer gruesomeness of the situation they woke up to the second time that left me certain that everyone left alive was utterly doomed that made it hard to connect. Strangely, I think it would have made a better movie in that way. The action was very gripping and well-rendered, but I tend to want something a touch meatier in my fiction.

None of that stopped me from reading all the way to the last page, however. The ending surprised me by pulling back from a full-on horror conclusion to something much more science fictional. Was it more satisfying? I found myself unsure. In some ways, a bleak ending is its own kind of satisfaction. On the flip-side, if you’ve been rooting for these people the whole time…

For the price (Kindle is offering it for $2.99), it may well be worth reading and deciding for yourself.

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