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WesternSFA
Heaven's Shadow
by David S. Goyer & Michael Cassutt
Ace, $25.95, 399pp
Release Date: July 5, 2011

This is the first in a series and the second book just came out so this is a very good time to jump into it.  It is a planned trilogy.

This is hard SF with nary a fairy or vampire in sight.  The earth is being approached by an unidentified object, named Keanu, and the few nations still engaged in a ‘space race’ are eager to investigate it for resources.  The US reroutes a vehicle to land but they are in a race with a similar vehicle launched by India , who seem to know a bit more about the object than the Americans.

Things go wrong almost immediately when one of the Americans is critically injured; however, the incident is a revelation that the object is more than an asteroid – it is actually maneuvering into near-Earth orbit.  The American team’s mission then critically changed – it was now a First Contact mission.  And it became a joint mission when the injured American had to be rescued and cared for by the Indian team.  Things continue to go very wrong when the joint teams finally do make First Contact; however, they may not have met the right alien because this one murders one of the astronauts.  And things get really weird when the American lead astronaut finds his dead wife – quite alive.  And she’s not the only one who’s resurrected.

Zach’s resurrected wife, Megan, appears to be a communication device – she can communicate, after a fashion, with the Architect of the spaceship.  But the communication is spotty and vague.  The one message that Zach could clearly understand was that the aliens needed help and they needed it from humans.

It seemed obvious that while the Architects were deliberately altering the environment inside the spaceship to accommodate humans, they didn’t really understand them.  Or, it might just be that that the mechanisms were set to automatic; so that when the murdered astronaut, Pogo, was resurrected, there was no real purpose to it.  But the volatile Pogo, now even more unstable, caused a tragic accident that killed more astronauts, stranded all the rest, and apparently annoyed the aliens who decided to attack Earth in retaliation.  But that wasn’t all they did – they also scooped up almost 200 more humans, half an RV, a monkey and a dog and brought them to Keanu.

In the meantime, the stranded astronauts, from both teams, are rescued and returned to Earth with the exception of Zach, who missed the ride.  So he is there to greet the new arrivals; among them is his daughter.  They are now on a one-way trip to the alien’s world and it will be their descendants who fulfill the purpose unless there are more of the other aliens onboard – the murdering kind.

A good story – well-plotted, good characterizations and sufficient suspense.  It was well worth my time.~~ Catherine Book

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