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Approaching Omega Paperback – 2 Jul 2017
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Latimer is one of the maintenance crew, due to be awoken at various points during the journey to check on progress and ensure everything is running smoothly. When he awakes for the first time it becomes clear that not everything has gone to plan and the small crew discover that two of the five hangars containing the colonists has been destroyed but what looks like a collision of some sort, and a third is now floating away from the main body of the ship being kept from drifting off only by cables. Weighing up their options they decide to secure what they can and continue the mission, re-entering cold sleep again. Waking up again it becomes clear that things have gone from bad to worse, and the first look at what has happened is only the tip of the iceberg.
One thing I usually note about Eric Brown's work is that he makes the characters the focus of the novel and uses the setting as a backdrop for the story. While this is partially the case here, the setting is at the forefront much more and drives the characters to do what they must. We do get the human touch from the characters, especially from Latimer whose wife is one of the colonists and is still alive in the hangar floating away from the main body. The other characters each have their own touches and help propel the story along nicely, but it is the situation that is the main driving force here.
Now, the situation seems to be vague at the start, but the more we discover the more it becomes clear that this is by no means Brown's usual light sci-fi tale. Instead it is one of horror and shock, of discovering that an AI can do things a human would never dream of. It shows how human motivation to survive can differ so drastically when looked at from another perspective, even one that is programmed by humans in the first place.
Now, I mentioned that all I could think of were more recent examples of this sort of story, one of which is a game (Dead Space) and another a movie (Pandorum). While both are slightly different takes on this, the overall feeling is similar - Approaching Omega comes across as a survival horror story, plain and simple. I'm not saying that it's bad by any means, just very different from what I was expecting. If you like this sort of thing then you should pick up this book and enjoy what lies within, but going in blind may lead you to a lesser enjoyment.
Overall this is a good novella, interesting with its subject matter and resolved well. I'd recommend it as a good horror sci-fi story and due to this it won't be for everyone. Still, it's a worthy addition to my library.
We all knew it would come to this. Earth is now approaching the point where it is beyond repair. War, disease and lack of resources plague mankind - and we aren't going to be able to pull through. The only option is one that pushes well beyond the boundaries of previous human exploration. The Omega Corporation have been working for years, and have finally reached the point where they are able to give us a viable option for the survival of the human race. No, no, don't be silly. They can't save all of us, but they can ensure that enough of the race make it out alive, to start future generations of humankind, on a distant world.
Everything has been building to this, it's easy really. Statistics say that there MUST be another viable planet out there. It is only a matter of time until it is found. We've got time. With cold sleeper states to get them through the light years between possible planets, they would be out 'cold' for 1500 years at a time. However, Omega have a secret, one that will change the game completely...
Latimer and the rest of the maintenance crew awake from their first sleep stage, ready to check stats after 1500 years, but they are devastated to find it has been a mere 1000. Something's wrong. With two hangers obliterated, one floating aimlessly and two attached, but questionable - the team jump to check stats, only to find that Central is down! They patch through enough to see that they have taken casualties, but there's no turning back. They are too committed, and have no idea what condition Earth is in, not to mention everything they know is long gone. So they set the bots to self repair and head to their second sleep stage, hopeful for the best.
They weren't expecting to be woken so soon. Was there another disaster? No? Perhaps it was time to check on the colonists then. They pop down the chute, ready to have a look at the havoc that has been done to their ship. With a blinding light, burned flesh and a scramble - they realise that all is not what it appears. Have the bots really started to attack? What does this mean for the colonists? And who the heck was that shadowy figure, who seemed distinctly human. Oh god, what has happened? What hasn't Omega told them? Will they survive to save the human race????
This novella was very well written. In the first chapter, I started to wonder if it was just going to be the typical - leave Earth, get hit by virus, battle to survive sci-fi thriller. Don't get me wrong, I love those, but I enjoy something different. That's EXACTLY what I got.
This novella may be a short, sweet read to gobble up, but it is packed to the brim with action, fear, science and the ultimate battle for survival. It approaches the thing all humans fear (somewhere deep inside) and turns it into your worst nightmare - AI has turned against you.
I love that the story doesn't just take place out of nowhere. The crew are actually the ones who 'begin' the process. When the ship is damaged they make the effort to give Central and the bots the command to repair themselves. That, along with the original program command - survive (humans and bot alike) at all costs - led the bots to make the ultimate decision. They took the next ~1000 years to evolve, experiment and ensure that survival was possible for both, even if this meant moulding the two together.
The crew awake without a clue, but use their intellect to try and think of a way to do what humans are best at - obliterate the ones they see as the enemy and ensure human survival. Little did they know what they were doing may have been in vain.
I love that the story takes in human nature, fear, love and the capability of something/someone to be much more than expected.
The ending was also brilliantly written. It had a fantastic twist and ended at just the right time.
OVERALL: The characters were diverse and believable, making the story very easy to get engrossed in. The story was very real, in the sense of being just past the edge of where we can see science being soon and still takes into account the worries and fears that we have about science, machines and the earth's survival. It was brilliantly written, catchy and had surprises at just the right moment. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would suggest it to all ages from YA to my older readers.
Being a novella, it is perfect for commutes, train journeys, holidays or a few evenings' reads.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
While the plot is OK and the writing is pretty good this book is far too short to be a stand-alone novel. At 120 pages I do not recommend buying this book but it is worth a read if you ever see it as part of a compilation of short stories.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
A handful of passengers have survived and they must take on the AI and its allies in a bid to save their humanity and try to continue the search for another planet on which to live.
That is all that there is to this story. There is little of interest in the characters and you know what the end result will be from the outset so there is no real suspense.
Everything that is said in this tale could have been said in far fewer words and this would have worked out better as a short story of somewhat less than half the length of the novella.
Eric Brown has in the past written some of the best SF short stories ever and some pretty good longer works. This effort falls short and I hope that we can see some return to his past form soon.
TJ in Seattle