Despite increasing restrictions on the freedoms of women on Earth, Valerie Black is spearheading the first all-female mission to a planet in the Goldilocks Zone, where conditions are just right for human habitation.
The team is humanity’s last hope for survival, and Valerie has gathered the best women for the mission: an ace pilot who is one of the only astronauts ever to have gone to Mars; a brilliant engineer tasked with keeping the ship fully operational; and an experienced doctor to keep the crew alive. And then there’s Naomi Lovelace, Valerie’s surrogate daughter and the ship’s botanist, who has been waiting her whole life for an opportunity to step out of Valerie’s shadow and make a difference.
The problem is that they’re not the authorized crew, even if Valerie was the one to fully plan the voyage. When their mission is stolen from them, they steal the ship bound for the new planet.
But when things start going wrong on board, Naomi begins to suspect that someone is concealing a terrible secret — and realizes time for life on Earth may be running out faster than they feared . . .
This book hit a little too close to home. Set in a post global warming world where the human race is in a race for survival. People have to wear protective masks outside, the sea is kept at bay with huge concrete walls and terrible weather systems affect what little survivable land is left. Valerie Black has long since decided that Earth and the human race cannot survive much longer and found ‘Cavendish’ a planet in the ‘Goldilocks zone’ of a Gas giant. Neither too hot nor too cold, the right temperature for water to be liquid and the right atmospheric pressure for life to grow. With her company Hawthorne and NASA working together they were able to build the Alcubierre drive, a literal portal through space, and the Atlanta the ship that would carry Valerie, her adopted daughter Naomi, Hixon, Hart and Lebedeva, 5 women all with their own specialities to Cavendish to see if humans could survive there. A hiccup arises when a new President is elected. One who believes that a woman’s place isn’t in the workplace and the five women are removed from the mission stating it as too dangerous. Valerie Black is not a woman to be told what to do. She enlists the other women and hours before the men are supposed to depart they launch a rocket from a long ago abandoned Russian space centre. All seems to be going well until Naomi Lovelace, Valeries adopted daughter and resident botanist has to communicate with their only contact on Earth, Evan Valerie’s son. After talking with him she realises that Valerie maybe withholding information from the crew, information that could put their lives and the mission at risk. Only Naomi has no idea the true secret Valerie is keeping and how it wont affect just them but the whole human race.
When I saw that the book was described as The Martian meets The Handmaids Tale I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect but, honestly, it couldn’t have been described better. There are quite a few bits of the book that talk about the Science behind space travel, growing plants in space etc and though I grasped most of it, some definitely went over my head, though I was able to grasp the concept thanks to the context of the plot. The present in this book doesn’t seem to be that different from where our future is heading, and a big theme of the book is what happens if we don’t stop killing the planet now. It didn’t paint a pretty picture of the world environmentally, but what really hit me was the attitude towards women. In this future they are gradually being weaned out of the workplace, families are only allowed one child, and if they have more they have to pay a tax that would nearly bankrupt the ‘regular’ population. Though this is stated as more prevalent in the US we can also see parts of it being implemented all around the world.
I loved that this was a nearly all female cast, in fact the only man we really get any insight from is Evan, Valerie’s son but even then it is all told from another perspective. This book is Naomi Lovelace’s story. We find out right at the start that she refuses to tell anyone what happened on the Atlanta, and it is only one night when she sneaks into her daughters room and said she’d tell her everything. Naomi was a really intriguing perspective to read the book from. As Valerie’s adopted daughter, she has an almost blind spot when it comes to the woman who raised her. However, she is also the only person who knows her tells and can see through her lies. Without Naomi on that ship the mission would have gone completely differently. I found her quite a likeable character and someone I could easily empathise with. The book jumps back and forth to before the mission and during with each chapter, which gave you a great insight into how the mission and them inevitably taking over it came about.
A big theme in this book is ‘hard decisions.’ Who should make them, who has the right to make them, and will our morality let us? We see this play out through Valerie and Naomi’s characters and interactions. Valerie is not a likeable character, and I would guess that was intended. She is anti patriarchy almost to the point of anti the human race and though her decision making was horrendous there is a little part of you, a teeny tiny part that thinks she may just have a point. She seems to completely lack morality, which is the thing that would stop us from making such a decision. I really enjoyed seeing the crews reactions to her plan, at first resigning themselves to it and then gradually realising the depth of what she has done and their desperation to try and stop it.
This was such a brilliantly written book. I was hooked from the first page, and though I have read some reviews stating it was slow paced, I flew through the pages. I think having the chapters flit between the past and present were a massive help in this, you got some great insight into Naomi and Valerie’s past, which helps you understand their current relationship. The themes brought up in the book were on point for today’s society, and had me asking myself a lot of question’s by the end. I panicked a bit, coming to the end, that the author wouldn’t have time to give us a deserved ending but I needn’t have worried. The ending was beautifully done, and though I wouldn’t class it as happy, it left me with feeling content.
An easy 4.5/5 read, and one that leaves me eager and willing to pick up the authors other works.