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Paradise 1

Paradise 1 by David Wellington from @orbitbooks #BookReview #SciFi #Horror

Paradise 1 by David Wellington

Orbit, pb, £8.99

Reviewed by John Dodd

The front cover for Paradise 1 by David Wellington. The page is black and there is a space helmet in the middle. There is a crack in the middle of the helmets visor.

A colony has gone dark, and a rescue ship is sent to find out what has happened there; it’s an age-old trope and for a good reason.  No one wants to be out in the dark without any help, and certainly, no one wants to be stuck out there.  I’ve been a long-term fan of stories like this for years, we don’t know what’s out there, and we have no way of preparing for it.

When Alexandra Petrova, a member of Firewatch, is sent out into the darkness to investigate, she takes with her three companions, Zhang Lei, a doctor of questionable mental integrity; Sam Parker, a pilot who was once more to her than just a pilot, and Rapscallion, an AI that has the ability to build and rebuild itself again and again into many different forms.  What they find out there is a corruption, darkness within the void beyond the comprehension of mortals, and it has the power to twist others to suit its purpose; both biological and non-biological things serve its will.  What does it want?

I still don’t know.

Paradise 1 is a vast and sprawling space opera, but it’s only the first part of a far larger story, and in the setting up of that, it’s posed a number of questions that really needed answering before the book closed.  There are stronger forces at work, and they keep sending ships to find out what has happened to Paradise 1, but they don’t tell anyone what’s going on there; they allow each ship to turn up and be ambushed.

Why?  What purpose does it serve?

There’s plenty to puzzle at and much vivid imagery along the way.  Shades of Pandorum and Event Horizon, biological beings twisted into a monstrosity, AI’s corrupted in ways that cannot be explained away, and a sense of the maniacal in both the heroine and villain of the piece. 

This isn’t a short book, there are nearly 700 pages here, but it still feels like the opening act; a lot of it takes place in space, and the colony that they’re sent to investigate only really comes into it in the last pages of the book, and then to be continued…

Given the propensity of everything to be done in multiple parts these days, I can understand why, but for you to want to see the second part, you have to be engaged by the first parts, and I just wasn’t.

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