In Space, Can They Hear You Scream?

Author: David Wellington

Paradise-1 is Earth’s first deep space colony. It’s a new start, a new opportunity for many. Firewatch inspector Alexandra Petrova, Captain Parker, and Doctor Lei Zheng all think that they are a part of a routine mission to check-in on the planet. This mission is either a demotion or a warning. Or so they think.

When they are awoken from cryo-sleep by the ship’s sentient robot, Rapscallion, to discover that the Artificial Intelligence has gone insane and a bevy of ships orbiting Paradise-1 are attacking, it quickly becomes obvious that this was never a routine mission. It’s a suicide mission. And they’re not the first, nor will they be the last, that Firewatch sends to the desolate, uncommunicative, barricaded planet.

In a thrilling fight for life, Petrova, Parker, Rapscallion, and Zheng, fight for their lives and to understand a mysterious parasite, the Basilisk, and why it is infecting everyone who gets near the planet with an obsessive, killing thought. What emerges from the darkness and silence of space is both more complicated and more horrifying than they ever could have expected.

This purgatorial inter-planetary trip is an epic in and of itself, starting with a literal bang as the ship’s passengers wake to catastrophe. Those first few confusing moments are filled with fire and wreckage, a crazed AI, confusion, and adrenaline-pumping seconds to make life and death decisions. It’s a good omen of how the book intends to continue. Paradise-1 weighs in at over 700 pages, yet it is a constant edge-of-the-seat ride, expertly juxtaposing mystery with survival and lots of horror images.

The Basilisk is a fantastic enemy. It corrupts crews and their ship’s AIs with an obsessive thought, yet each thought is different, the situation on each ship disturbing and inventive, a constant maze for our beleaguered protagonists to hack and slash their way towards the planet – towards the supposed answer and meaning for the mission. One crew thinks they are starving and must eat, eat whatever they can, even their own bodies, to stay alive. Another crew is obsessed by the idea that they are infected and that to remove the parasite they must keep operating, keep looking. Another crew thinks that safety can only be found in the dark and that all light, and all light-bearers, must be destroyed. It’s a perverted funhouse of insanity, a constant obstacle course for our barely surviving characters. It’s brilliant.

Alongside the inventive and dreadful ideas implanted by the Basilisk, author David Wellington creates a crew to die for – literarily. The story soon focuses on the triumvirate: Petrova, who is haunted by her abusive childhood and the Basilisk’s unique attempts to contact her; Zheng, who is also haunted, remembering the Red Strangler on Titian and how he lost everyone, slowly, to the disease; and finally, and perhaps my personal favorite, Rapscallion, the foul-mouthed ship’s robot who slowly but surely starts to care about the humans around him (think Bender from Futurama). Together, the three work through their own issues and fears, bond throughout the trauma, and accept death and defeat while continuing to push forward, to fight to the bloody end.

What we get is an end worth all the build-up (and more!). We do get a bit of an answer about the Basilisk in a gorgeous, almost poetical sequence, and then we get a cliff hanger that literarily left me in bed at 3 in the morning, desperately prowling the Kindle shop for the next in the series. I am still deeply hurt that it’s release is a year in the future, and immediately bought another David Wellington space story to tide me over.

I went into Paradise-1 with high hopes – this is exactly the sort of paranoia and action filled horror/space thriller that I adore. What I got was even better, even more robust, emotionally unsettling, and intellectually stimulating than my highest anticipations. I cannot let go of these characters, I cannot stop imagining that brown planet with its lava tubes and hidden secrets. I must have more! Highly, highly recommended. Now, to go replace my Kindle version with a print version because this deserves a place in my overflowing library, and I will be reading it again. Highly recommended.

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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