Horizon is Keith Stevenson’s
debut novel and what a debut it turns out to be. As a fairly prolific reader
and slightly (read: lots) less prolific book reviewer, the frustrated author
inside me wishes that my first book will be this slick… err.. if
I ever get around to writing one that is.
Set in the relatively near future as human kind is just starting to explore interstellar space we are introduced to the crew of the deep space exploration ship the Magellan. The ship is crewed by a multinational team of seven scientists and is on a fifty year mission to the planet Horizon, a planet which just could be the saviour to the human race as Earth more and more quickly descends into environmental and political chaos.
Our introduction is not a gentle one, Cait the mission commander is jolted violently out of deep sleep early to discover Sharpe, her second in command dead. The ship’s all powerful A.I. offline along with most of the rest of the ships systems and Bren a “bio-jack” an augmented human with a chip inside her heads that talks directly to the A.I. in a unexplained coma.
Cait has no clues as to what happened, no idea if she can get her ship back on course, whether she can trust what’s left of her crew, or even herself.
With the world they left behind 45 years ago now a very different place, the crew has to come to terms with new personal and political alliances. Can they stay on their mission, was Sharpe’s death accidental, or is there a killer aboard, can they even keep from killing each other as tensions and accusations rise on board.
Horizon is much more than just a murder mystery in space. Stevenson starts us off in the confined environment of the disabled spaceship, which really does feel quite claustrophobic. There’s a good amount of hard science to show just how precarious hurtling along in an out of control experimental space ship 45 years away from Earth really is.
We’re gradually introduced to more and more influences from outside the ship and it’s this drip feed of information makes really makes us feel a bit like the crew. Just as the crew copes with a new crisis, or piece of information, we know that something else is just around the corner, and that keeps everyone, including the reader on edge. It’s a technique that is carried off with great precision and makes this book a real page turner.
Horizon is a very assured debut, tightly woven, genuinely suspenseful and builds to a great finish. The characters are well rounded and the world in which they inhabit is fresh and new. I wonder if there will be a sequel, it’s a setting that I would like to revisit… soon.
Source: Supplied in e-book format via Netgalley
IBR Rating: ★★★★
Recommendation: Great science fiction debut, just enough hard science to satisfy the most hard core sci-fi fan, and plenty of tense thriller action to satisfy everyone else. One for the library and an author to look out for in the future.