In my opinon well written science fiction should contain these four elements: a sympathetic protagonist, an unbelievable monster or a deathly external element of danger, a world that is still relatable to our own and that all important technology versus humans theme.
Catherine Jinks, author of the Evil Genius series, has certainly paid attention to her science fiction writings because she provides all those elements and does it with a bang worthy of an exploding star.
Cheney is one of the most sympathetic characters I’ve read this year. He is a seventeen-year-old born on the Plexus, which is a pioneering space ship in search of a new planet to call home. For me, this is a sci-fi trope that never grows old.
And Catherine does a wonderful job describing the predictability of the setting. Every day, it’s the same people, same jobs, same processes keeping them alive. It had the feel of a small town where everyone knows everyone’s business and what happens next is already plotted out for them. As you read those first few chapters, you get a suffocating feeling that nothing new has happened on the Plexus for a long time.
That’s when the element of external danger hits. An unpredictable magnetic wave which is right in the ship’s path. The Plexus can’t outrun it and the best it can do is skim the outer rim of the wave. No one can predict what the outcome will be and all they can do is brace themselves for impact. I have to admit that as I raced through these pages, my heart was beating rapidly because even though I could figure out what would happen the writing was so good it kept me going.
Let’s face it, when a cataclysmic event occurs it not only changes our world, it changes us. Catherine does a beautiful job in describing how her characters literally struggle for survival in an ever changing environment. The theme of man versus machine versus nature is definitely explored in the latter half of the book as the highly technological Plexus turns into an organic being, consuming everything it identifies as a threat – including the human survivors left inside it.
If you love a well told science fiction story, I encourage you to pick up Living Hell. You won’t be disappointed. Now when you look up at the sky tonight, are you going to wonder with me if a twinkling star up there could be a ship similar to the Plexus?