Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Book Review: 'Suddenly Astronaut' by Andrew J. Morgan

British author Andrew J. Morgan writes science-fiction (NOAH’S ARK, VESSEL, NEW DAWN, NEW YORK DEEP), is a journalist and photographer. Trained and employed as a civil engineer, he set that aside to pursue his love of writing, working his way to editing a small horology magazine (for those unaware of this term, horology is the study and measurement of time). And from the photograph in his brief bio section it seems likely that this handsome young man could easily step into the role of modeling or movies! Now he offers his fifth novel SUDDENLY ASTRONAUT, about a 13-year-old living on board a space station orbiting Jupiter, who's thrown on an unexpected adventure with station computer and best friend, Tom. It may just be his finest yet!

This is a rather short novel, directed at the reading group of Young Adults (ages 10 – 18) and is one that once started pleads to be read to the end. That is a compliment. What makes a story so seductive? Many reasons. A heady opening such as the one Andrew offers for this book is successful on every level – well written, enough information to demand answers, and a comfortable manner in which to sink back into the chair and soak it in. ‘It was an exciting day for Jane and Adam Forrest. It was the crescendo of a chain of all the exciting days that had lead to this one, a journey of hard work, dedication— and a whole lot of chance, they'd be the first to admit. They'd met at university, class of 2032, where they'd been sitting next to each other for first-year Elements of Astromechanics. He'd noticed her, but she hadn't noticed him. Not until he'd spilled his drink on her. After a small, volatile blip right at the very beginning, they'd been inseparable. Their wedding day was described by close friends as "the nerdiest thing on planet Earth." Costumes were involved. That was the first in the chain of exciting days that led Jane and Adam to today. Another exciting day was when not one but two letters arrived from Helios Technologies Corporation, the most esteemed private aerospace manufacturer and developer in the world. They tore them open at the same time, hearts in their throats. They'd both been awarded an internship in the interplanetary division, starting at the end of the final semester. They tried not to be smug about it with their friends and classmates, but it was hard. Their friends and classmates let them have their moment. The third most exciting day of their lives was the acceptance onto Project Jove, the largest off-Earth research station ever built. They had committed themselves to a life orbiting the gas giant Jupiter to study the composition and history of it and its moons— and when they said life, they meant life. They would live there and die there.’ Science fiction, yes – but obviously much more. Andrew’s characters are palpably real, making the weird sci-fi shenanigans credible!

Andrew offers his own synopsis; ‘Ben sat in the single seat at the front of the craft. Beyond it was the instrument panel, and beyond that, thick windows that looked out into the blackness of space." Benjamin Forrest is about to celebrate his 13th birthday 365 million miles from Earth. He lives on board the Jove orbital research platform circling Jupiter with his parents and forty-nine other families. He's lived there his entire life. But this birthday will be no ordinary birthday, because Ben will finally get to fulfil his dream of flying free of the station, on an external tour in a service tug with best friend and station computer, Tom. What Ben doesn't know is that his dream of flying free is about to become a lot more real than he ever expected. An incredible journey is about to begin!’

The man has talent, solid talent, the kind that makes you reach back for previous books and anticipate the next one. Grady Harp, December 17

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.