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355 pages, Hardcover
First published July 6, 2021
The EOS team viewed her as an ISF snitch, a ladder-climber, a betrayal to her peer group—and also just plain strange. She was also troublingly unavailable as a sexual partner—none of the expedition members were married—and this isolated her even further. There was no comfortable niche for her in the social structure. No connections to anchor her to the community.--------------------------------------
Once, during a patient session, Valentina Hanover asked to be called “Hunter."
“Hunter,” Park repeated, thinking of her file. “That isn’t your middle name.”
Valentina gave her a look of loathing. “It’s called a nickname, you absolute imbecile.”
That about summed up everyone else’s apparent impressions of Park. She barely spoke to them, and when she did, it always seemed like she came off as baffling, primitive: some kind of specimen that one examined with half-disgust, like protozoic ooze. No, they acted like she was an alien sightseer, ogling the most basic human interactions, and in turn, they ogled her, too—squinted at her from behind the glass, whispered and smirked to each other.
“I don’t think,” he said, “that humans can live here, Park.”Grace Park was not the sort of psychologist who sits with patients using talk therapy to unearth and resolve their deep-seated issues. No couch or cushy-chair sessions for her. Removed-from-people analysis was much more her forte. Frankly, she was a lot more comfortable with androids than she’d ever been with people. People lie. But when her boss, more of a traditional, people-skills psychologist, is pulled away onto a very hush-hush special assignment during their mission, Park is stuck as the remaining shrink. As noted above, the crew see her as a spy for the mega-company that is in charge of this expedition to a new planet, Eos. They are not entirely wrong. She had been given this assignment to monitor the mental well-being of the crew and report back, interceding where needed to head off potential morale problems.
“So why are we still here?”
I was sleeping, and then when I woke up—I couldn’t move. There were all these lights flashing in my face. I tried to open my mouth to yell for someone, but—I had no tongue.”And there is some visceral fear inducement, reminiscent of classic sci-fi/horror like Alien.
“In your dream,” Park couldn’t stop herself from saying.
Holt shook his head again, but Park couldn’t tell what it meant. He continued, “My lungs were frozen; I couldn’t breathe. I was cold—so fucking cold. Like I was dead. Like my skin was peeling off. None of my organs were working. And I—I wasn’t in control of myself. I wanted to go outside. Leave the ship. But I was trapped inside my body and couldn’t move. I thought to myself that I’d rather be dead than keep feeling that way. I wanted to be dead.”
It didn’t help that the air was so muggy and damp, as if she were walking into the gullet of something alive.Any good horror tale deals in feelings of isolation, and there is plenty of that here. The insiders on the ship have all the needed intel, and are not eager to share, even those who are not overtly hostile toward her. Grace is certainly outside the inner circle, not privy to operational intel, not allowed to go onto the planet after they land. It does not help that there are no windows on the ship, outside the bridge, so she cannot even see outside. Communication with the home base planet is cut off due to a radiation storm (or is it?) And why are there so many military sorts on this mission? What does it say about your situation when your most trusted allies are not human? But isolation was something with which Grace had had plenty of experience.
Solitude for her was like a religious blessing to others: it was her church of one. Always she closed the doors behind her with the awareness that she was giving herself sanctuary, an opportunity to cleanse and be purified. Fulbreech was like the neighbor who kept her from shutting the door, asking if she was interested in participating in the annual bake sale.The story takes place in three time-lines. First is Grace and her ongoing, present-day experiences. This is augmented by flashbacks to her childhood on Earth. Not an idyllic upbringing. The third piece consists of field reports from another ship, the Wyvern, in which we follow the exploits of its two crewmen, who had landed on a very strange planet, and were seeking to basically claim it. We can expect that the Deucalion and Wyvern stories will eventually connect. The strangeness of the Wyvern crew’s exploration of the planet adds to the general feeling of menace.
Did anyone really have the capacity to care—truly care—beyond the instinct to ally, fuck, and raise their young to breeding age? Were there any decisions guided by pure selflessness? Not in humans, she supposed—in androids, yes. It was too bad no one else could see the beauty in that.
The daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, Lena Nguyen lives with her partner in the alien desert of Arizona. She received her MFA in fiction from Cornell University, where she also taught courses in English, writing, and zombies. Her science fiction and fantasy have won several accolades, and she was a Writers of the Future finalist. When not writing, Lena enjoys editing and game development. We Have Always Been Here is her debut novel.Interview
(Hey, maybe confused is what led to referring to “arctic air” on Antarctica??? 🙄)Oh, and “quantum” is used for explanation of things the author other doesn’t understand or doesn’t bother to plausibly explain the same way “magic” is used in a bad fantasy story.
“Sickness should have been impossible on their ship, she knew. All thirteen members of the Deucalion’s human crew had been rigorously examined, scanned, and tested for disease prior to boarding for the ten-month journey to Eos. And with no foreign microbes in space, the chances of incurring infection en route were vanishingly small.”
— Buuuuut … there are sicknesses that don’t come from infection.
“Reimi was the Deucalion’s lone engineer: the only person with the knowledge to service the ship’s vast governing systems and all thirteen of its androids.”
— And yet you have TWO psychologists for the crew of 13.
“But Dr. Keller was the primary psychologist, and she was utilitarian, machine-based. She’d brought a MAD—a Mood-Altering Device that shot soothing gamma rays into a patient’s eyes—and told Park that it was enough.”
— The job of this psychologist job seems very cushy, no?
Reimi was the ship’s only engineer, roboticist, and mechanic; she had the tri-fold job of attending to the Deucalion’s positronic brain, its mechanical heart, and the robotic crew that serviced it. Park felt a hard stone of fear, way down in her gut, when she thought of what could happen to the crew with Reimi out of commission. What if the ship suffered a catastrophic engine failure, a malfunction somewhere in its entrails, and they had no one on board who knew what to do?”
— Well, if it doesn’t make sense to the author, it doesn’t make sense to me.
“We need to stop the bleeding.”
“It didn’t hit bone,” was all he said in response.
— Ah, the ‘it’s only a flesh wound’ excuse tough guys are supposed to make as they slowly exsanguinate.
The day after they landed on the new planet, Park woke to a pair of strong metal arms pinning her down.
He shook his head. "We've been cut off. There will be no help from that quarter. Not now, not for the foreseeable future. Even if comms were to come back online, it would take, what, over a day to even send a request for help? And we all know how much can happen in a day." He paused again, and this time she couldn't decide if he was threatening her or sharing her fear. His next words were slow and deliberate. "No. It's my belief that, no matter what happens next..." He looked at her. "We are on our own." (p.107)
She was not like a hotel guest, come in safely from the night. She was more like a glacier, alone and adrift on a warming sea. Cold. remote. But shrinking rapidly under the circumstance. (p. 64)