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Geek-o-Rama

Caretaker

Ethan Bryant thought he would be in stasis with his beloved wife, Aria for the 50 year long trip from Earth to the colony planet of Minea. Little did he realize as the last one to go to sleep that the caretaker of the vessel would drop dead of an aneurysm and he would be left as the sole person to keep the ship running during its decades long trip to their new home. By the time his wife awakens from her deep sleep, he would be a wizened old man.

Eventually he resigns himself to his dreary fate and takes to his job as caretaker, but then the unexpected happens. The computer awakens a female engineer who doesn’t seem at all pleased to see him. Worse yet, the pair soon discover the their ship isn’t headed where they thought. What awaits them at this unknown location and why have they been sent there?

Despite getting off to a slightly plodding start, this book is wonderfully paced. I simply could not put this novel down until I was finished. Ethan is a deeply complicated character that continually struggles with his commitment to a wife even though he’ll be an old man by the time she awakens. The complication of the beautiful engineer and his growing feelings for her just adds sincerity to an already interesting character. Just when it seems like this is going to be an odd love triangle in space, the reader gets walloped by a curious plot twist.

I also enjoyed the use of the visual representations of the dead alien language that are interspersed throughout the book. I loved trying to picture what kind of hand the aliens must have had to use such interesting designs as letters. Ethan’s counterpart on the ship Kaia, is also a well developed and challenging character for him to deal with and eventually fall in love with. Her terse technical nature was the perfect balance to his more artistic mindset.

The utter alien nature to the race they eventually meet was well cultivated. Through it all Russell maintains a clear sense of conflict both emotionally and physically for her harried protagonists. I also applaud the fact that Josi Russell does not humanize the aliens as we learn more about them which is an overused and trite approach to making them more accessible to the reader.

I found myself in a continual sense of tug of war over Ethan’s devotion to his wife and the increasing feelings he has for Kaia. This was such a great story on so many levels. Rarely do I see a writer that can marry a good human interest story with a good science fiction plot.  Russell really shined in bringing this story to print.

There were a few points that seemed a little coincidental during the story but given how well the book was written I can easily overlook them. Overall one of the best sci-fi books I’ve read this year.

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