Noumenon and Coincidence

Click picture to visit the book on Goodreads

This week Harper Voyager granted me access to an advanced reader copy of Noumenon by Marina J. Lostetter. The first chapter is about – wait for it – a generation ship project, sort of. Part of chapter one has characters discussing a long term space travel project, and I loved it. My blog project for the summer is to exercise my creative muscles in regards to generation ships. It’s a series that I’ve been working on since the end of April and have only recently begun uploading. It’s grown larger than I expected with so much more stuff to cover. As a fan of science fiction, I wanted to explore what could make these ships workable. I’ve started the project for the love of generation ships, and by sheer coincidence, I was given a chance to read about a generation ship. This book is good motivation to continue my own series because it shows why generation ships work in stories.

Once I read the description, I put in a request for Noumenon. A mosaic novel about a journey to an anomalous star is always going to be right up my alley. Ms. Lostetter’s innovative idea to have the ship crewed by clones put it right on top of the to-be-read pile. Clones as crew didn’t occur to me as an option, but I’m looking forward to how it plays out over the course of the book. It makes sense, but how will the clones differ as the ships progress further from the home planet?

I started it this morning. If chapter one is typical of the rest of the book, then there will be many interesting parts to savor. I imagine that I will get side-tracked during my reading because the book has interesting ideas worth contemplating. For example, in chapter one the main character has an Intelligent Personal Assistant (IPA) that is essentially artificial intelligence on his phone. Over the course of the chapter, the IPA has fallen out of favor in society at large but is still preferred by the main character. That’s an interesting bit of world building, and what does it say about a character who is pushing the technological bounds of his society but is still attached to unpopular and potentially outdated technology? Is that just the way of things? As we age, do we hang onto what we are comfortable with, or does he see a use for it that society is missing? After all, it was the main character’s discovery that sets the Noumenon journey in motion. Or maybe I’m overthinking things.

So far Noumenon has captured me and my imagination. The mystery – what is going on at the anomalous star – is a good hook, but the characterization is driving the story. It’s always risky to praise a book based on the first chapter, but I’m willing to take that risk here. Harper Voyager has published some books that I really enjoy, like Dan Koboldt’s Island Deception, and this publisher has earned my trust. Noumenon has set a grand stage. There are big ideas here, and I look forward to seeing how they play out.

Here is a description from the Publisher:

With nods to Arthur C. Clarke’s Rama series and the real science of Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, a touch of Hugh Howey’s Wool, and echoes of Octavia Butler’s voice, a powerful tale of space travel, adventure, discovery, and humanity that unfolds through a series of generational vignettes.

In 2088, humankind is at last ready to explore beyond Earth’s solar system. But one uncertainty remains: Where do we go?

Astrophysicist Reggie Straifer has an idea. He’s discovered an anomalous star that appears to defy the laws of physics, and proposes the creation of a deep-space mission to find out whether the star is a weird natural phenomenon, or something manufactured.

The journey will take eons. In order to maintain the genetic talent of the original crew, humankind’s greatest ambition—to explore the furthest reaches of the galaxy— is undertaken by clones. But a clone is not a perfect copy, and each new generation has its own quirks, desires, and neuroses. As the centuries fly by, the society living aboard the nine ships (designated Convoy Seven) changes and evolves, but their mission remains the same: to reach Reggie’s mysterious star and explore its origins—and implications.

A mosaic novel of discovery, Noumenon—in a series of vignettes—examines the dedication, adventure, growth, and fear of having your entire world consist of nine ships in the vacuum of space. The men and women, and even the AI, must learn to work and live together in harmony, as their original DNA is continuously replicated and they are born again and again into a thousand new lives. With the stars their home and the unknown their destination, they are on a voyage of many lifetimes—an odyssey to understand what lies beyond the limits of human knowledge and imagination.

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