Delta-v - Daniel Suarez

[I received a copy of this book through Penguin’s “First To Read” program, in exchange for an honest review.]

Quite an interesting novel, with parts that definitely made me want to keep reading in spite of my better judgment (read: “maybe it’s time to sleep it’s past midnight and I’m supposed to get up at 5:30 to go to work oh my”). Considering the stakes and the setting, obviously things couldn’t go perfectly, and the characters were bound to run into all sorts of trouble. Although there could have been more trouble than there was, but then, they’d have ended up all dead, because you can’t very well weather ten asteroid showers and the likes without any damage (not a spoiler, I’m just using some generic example here). So all in all, the ratio of suspense vs. things that work vs. things that turn to crap more quickly than you can blink was fairly good.

I also really enjoyed the science and the research behind the space technology presented throughout the novel. I wasn’t always on board (see what I did there) with absolutely everything in terms of medical impact on the astronauts’ bodies—but then, considering what our current astronauts already have to go through just after 6 months on the ISS, going for 100% accuracy may just have led, here too, to a bunch of very dead characters, very quickly. I guess we can use some suspension of disbelief on the grounds of “it’s 2030-ish and the consequences are better known, so they’re better prepared, too”. So, in general, I pretty much liked reading the explanations, how the ship was meant to function.

The geopolitical side was interesting, too. It is clearly grounded in our present, where corporations invest in space travel and research, and some of the investors/CEOs we meet in the story are definitely parallel descendants of people like Musk and Bezos—although in that regard, Nathan Joyce is probably closer to those, in terms of investing and betting everything on a very daring scheme.

The reason I’m not rating “Delta-v” higher is because, like other books of the same type, I found it too ambitious for just one volume. There are two very distinct parts in it: the training and the actual mission, and I kept feeling that each would have warranted a novel of its own. Because of length constraints (I suppose), the author had to go with storytelling shortcuts, which made for a choppy rhythm all along. For instance, one chapter shows what’s happening on the first day of training, and then two chapters later we’re at “a few weeks later”, and so on.

My other problem likely resulted from this “shortening an ambitious story into one book”: I found the characters too one-dimensional, and at the end, I didn’t get to know them well enough to really, fully care about them. Tighe is probably the one we know most about, but not so much the others (we get glimpses about Dave, Isabel and Han, but Nicole, Amy and Adisa remained rather a trio of unknowns, apart from a couple of defining feature such as “he’s a genius with computers and hacking” and “she needs to escape Earth because she can hear the movement of tectonics and it drives her bonkers”). And let’s be honest, in a story like this one, we need to care about the characters; we need to be much more invested about them.

Conclusion: 2.5 to 3 stars. Enjoyable and exciting technology, but too ambitious for just one book.