Erik Wecks sent me this by way of apology for having sent me the wrong file when I came to review the novel he sent me for review last year: Aetna Rising. I gave it a rave review so when I finally had time in my schedule I eagerly dived straight into this one. It’s a novella / novelette perhaps in the region of 15,000 words. Helena and her husband Roger are on a long deep-space voyage on a gate building project deep in uncharted space when they discover that Helena is pregnant.
With a heavy heart they decide that termination of the pregnancy is the only course of action… but they are unable to do so meaning that a vital mission with equipment and food for two adults will have an extra mouth to feed and there are no facilities suitable for bringing up a new-born baby.
In flashback form, we follow them through the early stages of the programme, including the inevitable problems and these are interspersed with the immediacy of the problems in the here and now: how do we cope with limited resources and the stresses and strains having a baby will put on us at the same time? The fact that 47 years will have passed due to relativity when for them it will be less than a year adds an extra burden.
It’s a logistical nightmare and painstaking time and detail is devoted to working out how they are going to cope. This is sci fi being at its most pragmatic especially when Brody (the child) is a toddler! Then there’s those scary dreams that new mothers have about the danger to their child – when an apparent deliberate act of sabotage affects the mission, it seems they are alone not just on the mission, but in the universe. We also keep flashing back to an accident ten years before the mission even started. What relevance does that have? And is it linked to the accident that takes place during the mission? There are so many questions to pose in this short piece but at no point does it feel bloated with ideas
This is another finely written piece of prose from Erik Wecks. I flew through this in less than a couple of hours. There is such a wealth of information here that you have to keep reminding yourself that it is only a novella. The depth of thought that has gone into it is very reminiscent of Alastair Reynolds collections such as Galactic North. There is a lot to work with here and though it could have been longer, it is paced rather nicely and at no point do you feel thrown in at the deep end.
A short read for these post-Christmas long, dark nights!
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