It takes guts to kill your heroine before page one, and Fisher has that in spades. Paying special homage to Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris (in particular, the moving Steven Soderbergh/George Clooney film adaptation) and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Fisher’s sci-fi romance debut thoroughly impresses. In Elizabeth’s struggle to reconcile the mystery of her existence as a ghost, Fisher offers a pitch-perfect balance of a cohesive scientific vision with poignant, naked emotion.
Psychologist Elizabeth Cole is ready to get to work as soon as she arrives on Ardagh-1. The planet is greener, cleaner and the air is fresher than on the deteriorating Earth she left behind. Elizabeth’s attractive new supervisor, Murphy, only adds to the appeal of this extraordinary new place. There’s just one catch — each new arrival to the planet has one piece of extra baggage: a ghost who trails meekly in their wake. Taking the form of a deceased person from a colonist’s past, the “ghosts” are actually a form of alien life. But, as one might expect, the psychological effects on early settlers — constantly followed by dead loved ones — was disastrous. Enter the “Ghost Protocol,” Murphy’s own planet-wide policy that colonists never, ever interact with their ghosts. Though this rule had been in place long before she got there, Elizabeth is discomfited by the idea that she’ll have to go cold inside and ignore these non-humans. She gets a lot less comfortable when she and Murphy discover that “Dr. Elizabeth Cole” died in a shuttle crash en route to her new home. After she’s done reeling from the shock, Elizabeth becomes determined to unlock the secrets of her newfound identity — even if Murphy refuses to acknowledge her. (TOR, Nov., 352 pp., $7.99)