Genesis Earth by Joe Vasicek (2011)
Michael Anderson is a teenage planetologist haunted by the fear that he will never live up to the legacy of his astrophysicist parents. Terra Beck is the outcast child of a bitter divorce, who only wants to run away and immerse herself in her one true passion: astronomy. Raised on a distant space station by the scientists who constructed mankind’s first artificial wormhole, neither has set foot on Earth.
When the scientists detect a mysterious signal from an Earthlike planet on the other side of the wormhole, Michael and Terra find themselves alone on an exploration mission to discover the signal’s source. They no sooner arrive at the system, however, than a mysterious alien ghost ship appears out of nowhere and begins to hunt them down. Alone, twenty light years from the nearest human being, they must learn to open up and trust each other—but how can they do that when one or both of them may be insane?
As Michael struggles to keep the mission from falling apart, he is forced to reexamine his deepest, most unquestioned beliefs about the universe—and about what it means to be human.
Genesis Earth is a space opera coming of age story. Michael and Terra are two young adults raised on Heinlein space station, and they’re charged with an important mission that could usher in a new era of space exploration. While they face the unknown, an innocent romance blooms between the two.
This book has a wonderful start. The conflict and paranoia between the two characters while they’re isolated in space is brilliantly done. I liked how they aren’t hyper-competent protagonists, but very flawed young people who happen to be on the most important mission for mankind. They take different approaches towards their obligations to the mission: while Terra considers herself free from expectations, Michael nearly collapses from the weight of his responsibilities. Their characterization and interactions are a strength of this book.
Vasicek’s prose and exposition are excellent. The pacing is slow, but it works in the story’s favour because it sets the mood and it makes the build-up fairly intense. The scene where the protagonists thaw from cryogenic sleep is particularly memorable. It’s heart-pounding and it really shows how fragile humans are out in the cold void of space.
While the first half is great, the book changes focus to something I couldn’t care much about. The big questions developed early on were meaty stuff: where should humanity go and what is the future of mankind? But instead of fully exploring those questions, the protagonist decides to shelve them and focus on carving out a life for himself.
The personal conflict of Michael deciding between what’s best for the mission and for his own life is actually good, and it’s not a conflict I often see in sci-fi. The problem is that Michael himself is uninteresting compared to the big questions that the story decides to ignore. I was willing to put up with Michael to see what he’d discover, but when he decides to focus on himself and his budding relationship with Terra, it’s hard to stifle the yawns. They’re the space equivalents of two young adults that have never left their small town: they’re boring. Do I care if they’d settle down and find a happily ever after? Not really. And it’s hard to take their romance seriously when there’s half a dozen unused Chekov’s guns littering the landscape.
I was also incredulous at Michael’s priorities. He finds a terrifying answer to the “future of mankind” question, and instead of pursuing it and possibly changing humanity’s fate, he decides to stick to the mission. I understand that he’s a strict-rule-abiding kind of guy, but I’m sure the folks back on Heinlein station would rather have him investigate that lead. I was surprised that Terra didn’t consider that a priority either. To be blunt, I thought that their subsequent accomplishments amounted to rearranging the furniture while the house burned down. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it bothered me that they didn’t recognize the weight of their decision.
Genesis Earth explores big sci-fi questions, but they eventually fade into the background as the puppy love between the two protagonists takes centre stage. Vasicek is a competent prose writer, he establishes the space setting really well, and he has good ideas. I’d like to see him tackle a concept-driven science fiction story. If you’re looking for a sci-fi adventure or one that thoroughly explores big questions, this isn’t it. But if you just want a coming of age story with a bit of romance set in space, this might be up your alley.
Other reviews of this book: Science Fiction Addiction
You might like this if you like…
The terrifying loneliness of the universe; innocent romance between two young adults in space
If you’re interested in more free ebooks, it’s neat to know that Vasicek has several on Smashwords. There’s a novel and a handful of short stories mostly in the genre of science fiction, so those may be worth a look.
Posted on September 12, 2011, in 3 stars, Ebook Reviews, Frida Reviewed, Genesis Earth, Joe Vasicek, Science fiction, Space opera and tagged generation ships, naming your colony world, our wormholes are different. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.