Science fiction is best when it does what we least expect, when it transforms narrative into something you don’t see coming. Smythe guides this tale with a sure hand, leading readers along a non-linear path where anything might happen and what does happen will make you reconsider all that happened before. It’s a trick not every writer can master, but Smythe makes a marvel of this world, and these characters, and makes this reader want the sequel now.
Cormac Easton is a journalist and astronaut both, sent to document the first manned mission into deep space. Naturally, nothing on the journey seems to go according to plan: When the crew wakes from hypersleep, they find their captain dead — in an allegedly fail-proof capsule. Mission Control tells the crew that the mission must continue, no matter what, but when the body count begins to rise, Cormac knows the mission won’t possibly be able to advance if he’s the only survivor. (HARPER VOYAGER, Jan., 400 pp., $14.99)