Orbit Books takes the reader to a far-distant solar system and exposes them to fear in the new novel, the first in a series, by best-selling author David Wellington. An officer of the Firewatch, Petrova, and a doctor, Zhang, who may not be all there, are shipped off on an AI-controlled ship, accompanied by a pilot, Parker, and a self-aware robot named Rapscallion.
They are headed to the Paradise system to check in on a colony that has been established on Paradise-1. But moments after entering the system, they discover things aren’t going to be that easy. Something has corrupted their AI, there are over a hundred ships in planetary orbit around Paradise-1, and something terrible is happening on all of them.
Is it a disease, a program, or could it be a form of alien life? Why is it corrupting AIs and turning crews into terrifying shadows of themselves? And why is it focused on Petrova?
Paradise-1, the first novel in this new trilogy, is a huge story taking its time with both the characters and introducing us to the variety of horrors that await Petrova and her crew. Wellington doles out his stories in quick, rapid-fire chapters delivering one cliffhanger after another, alternating between horror and tension, and keeping the reader turning pages by thinking ‘just one more chapter.’
I found myself swept up in his characters and the way he writes. The characters that inhabit this universe are engaging, and Rapscallion quickly became one of my favourites. What’s not to like about a self-aware robot?
Both Petrova and Zhang are going to have to confront their pasts if they hope to move forward in uncovering the mystery of what is going on in the Paradise system, and it ends up being a fantastic ride. Wellington walks a wonderful balancing act between science fiction and horror, combining familiar tropes for both, allowing readers touchstones that they understand, and then twisting them into new, exciting and horrifying ways.
As the story unfurls, the reveals that happen in the final chapters of the book, as discoveries are made tease what may be on the horizon for the series. I’m very intrigued by what it means for the characters, this terrifying variation on a first contact story.
If you’re looking for all the answers to be delivered by the end of the book, this is not the story for you. Paradise-1 plunges the reader into a universe that we’re just getting a glimpse of in this first book, setting things up for what is to come.
And honestly, if it’s anything like we’ve glimpsed in the first book, there are wonderous and horrific things on the horizon. Paradise-1 is a fun, delightfully scary read, and it’s available now from Orbit Books!