I have a weakness for science fiction novels that not only foretell the end of the world but promise untold wonders within the pages courtesy of an evocative cover. Strangely, even if I read the book in kindle format, coverless, as I did with Exodus, just the thought of the front image makes me want to read it still.
Exodus is the first in a planned trilogy and it is a labour of love. It is self-published and, while that might make one a little wary, its sample pages, its premise and that cover made me want to read on and on. At just over 200 pages Exodus is also a short and fast read. I lapped it up in a couple of sessions, leaving me with just the one regret – I wished it were longer. It also reminded me that sometimes you need to take a chance.
Set in the near future, Exodus places us within an authoritarian North America. The Constitution of the United States has been rewritten following a number of large terrorist attacks. Rights have been restricted and options for self-expression have been reduced. But then a runaway, fast rogue planet crashes into Mars, destroying it and almost annihilating itself, leaving only a fragment to continue its race through space. Unfortunately, although greatly reduced in size, this missile in space is more than big enough to threaten an extinction level event on Earth, should it hit. And after a period of relief that the planet fragment will miss, reality shifts into focus and it becomes clear that there will be no escape in the end. The planet will orbit the Earth, pulled closer and closer on each circle, upsetting weather and causing seismic activity, until finally, after just a very few years, it will hit and all life will die. Maybe not immediately but certainly soon.
The nations of the world, barely speaking to one another, search for habitable planets while scientists develop feasible ways for starships to travel across lightyears. Meanwhile crews are selected. They will represent the entire human race and, one hopes, ensure the survival of humanity.
This novel follows the development of the starship Exodus and the formation of its crew as it sets its sights on newly discovered Aurora, a habitable planet one hundred plus years away. We follow the stories of engineers, young adventurers, pilots and politicians, all with a vested interest in the success of the mission. Parallel with the story of Exodus is that of the conspiracy – not everyone wants to see humanity reborn on a distant planet in the new shape of America. Lines are drawn. As the time of apocalypse draws nearer, the crew and passengers are increasingly threatened by the desperate and doomed population. With life on earth measured in such short days, the lucky few bear a great responsibility. While the President has a very clear idea about the type of person that will be saved, the reality is far less fixed.
Exodus is a short novel and the first of three. This means, inevitably, that it ends on a cliffhanger. It also means, however, that the novel is a race through the end of the Earth. Characters come and they go with barely time to take a breath. This speeds up the drama and raises the temperature but it does mean that the characters are less developed than I would have liked or they deserved. I would have also liked to have been given a glimpse of what was going on around the world during these final years, months, days. Time regularly takes a leap to move on the development of the starship but it does mean that we skim over the increasing fear of those outside the compound and outside the country. What we have are fascinating little glimpses that I would have loved to have seen developed.
Exodus is a taster of what we will be given, hopefully, in the next two novels. If Andreas Christensen allows us to take our time with his human survivors and the world that they discover then I will be very happy indeed. Sometimes it pays to take a chance.
This review is from the first edition. A second edition is now available which may be even better!