Last Chance for Redemption, Last Hope for Earth

Author: David Wellington

Sally Jansen is haunted by a dead dream. Once upon a time, she imagined being the first women to walk on Mars, but when that mission went bad and her actions left another astronaut dead, both her ambition and her career were in ruins. Imagine her surprise then, when several decades later, NASA recalls her to lead a dangerous mission. She is the only person with the requisite training. Trapped between NASA’s desperation and her own desire for redemption, Jansen accepts the command.

The mission? To intercept a giant alien vessel, heading straight in a collision course with earth. If it hits, humanity is over, and the preferred option is to make contact instead of starting a war that humans could never win. Along for the ride, Jansen is joined by a much younger crew; one who trained with virtual reality instead of actual space missions. There’s Parminder Rao, an astrobiologist, Sunny Stevens, an astrophysicist, and Windson Hawkins, a military pilot with a secret mission. But the space race is far from over, and a leading company, KSpace, has sent their own ship first. The problem? That ship made contact, the astronauts went into the alien ship (nicknamed 2I), and they were never heard from again. Is this a contact mission? A last-ditch rescue mission? A military investigation?

The Last Astronaut starts slow. The chapters fracture and split, back and forth between earth and space, between and among the NASA and KSpace astronauts. It becomes tedious, but then David Wellington introduces us to the freakish insides of 2I and the story is running, capturing our imaginations, evoking primordial fears, breaking down the barriers between what we pretend and what we are, and pitting the surviving astronauts against a limitless, dangerous alienness that is just as disquieting as it is relentless. There is gore and tentacles (of course), but there is so much more here. It’s the best of horror: bleak surroundings, inhospitable space, and the fragility of humanity, forced to display our best and worst in extreme situations. You’ll have nightmares and waking dreams about 2I and all the questions it evokes long after the final page of The Last Astronaut rustles shut. Just exactly what is out there, floating light years away from us, stirring out of hibernation and unconcerned with our little blue planet?

As we get further into the narrative, earth takes a backseat, and we only get pieces of the panic and ongoing shenanigans. Space becomes our frontier, and here we get to learn about our imperfect yet highly relatable characters. Jansen gets the most screen time as it were, and her complex ambition and shame intermix well. She feels real, at times weak and at other times strong, haunted by a past she cannot escape and the ongoing stigma.

The second character who shines is Paraminder, who finally unravels the secret of 2I, but along the way gets her heart broken and gets a front-row seat to the devolution of her team and the breakdown in command.

It’s all very emotive, very eerie, very edge-of-the-seat. I soon forgot about the less than stellar, slow beginning as the story took form and shaped around me. The ideas are pure fire, and I found myself ignoring my other books and racing through this story, breathless. Even when nothing was happening, there was that sense of waiting, that tension and paranoia that only the best horror books can create, those endless questions and bigger than life fears. The ending is powerful, all together unlikely in the one good thing we get, and ultimately, endlessly satisfying. I started my obsession with author David Wellington when I read Paradise I and The Last Astronaut has continued to leave me wanting more. Onto the next Wellington book, looking forward to this author’s ability to create real people in extraordinary, imaginative, terrifying, and futuristic contexts.

– Frances Carden

Follow my reviews on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/xombie_mistress

Follow my reviews on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/FrancesReviews

Frances Carden
Latest posts by Frances Carden (see all)