Exceedingly Well-Written with Great Pacing
5 out of 5 stars
There is always a special place in my heart for story that expertly weaves a gripping thriller with a horror slant and a strong thread of psychological tension. They sadly don’t come along very often, and when they do they’re usually plagued with some form of detraction. It could be a plot hole that is never filled, or cheesy dialogue at a critical moment, or a scene that takes away from the narrative. It can be safely said that The Last Astronaut does not suffer from any of these detractors, or in my opinion, any at all.
Set a few years in our future, we open on the first ever crewed mission to Mars. One where the protagonist, Sally Janson, is the Mission Commander and is set to make history. Unfortunately, their voyage is cut short due to a freak accident and the death of a crew member, which is ultimately blamed on the Commander. She takes this guilt with her as she leaves NASA and the space race to others. The ensuing years see the once great space organization sold, broken, and nearly defunct. Fast forward a couple decades and a new threat is discovered. A large object has entered our solar system and is slowing down, which can only mean control, which then can only mean…come on class… What does it mean? That’s right:
Now, a new, smaller, poorer NASA pulls together a mission to send an envoy out to meet this object and establish communication. Unfortunately, so is a multi-billion dollar corporation and they have the means to get there first. Our beleaguered astronaut, long since retired, is called in to lead the new mission, and she discovers that there are genuinely no more like her. She is the last of the trained astronauts. So, along with her one U.S. Space Force officer and two scientists, they make their way to the object. Once there, they realize they are not prepared for anything they will discover. Lost crew members, rapidly growing vines, impossible construction, and a discovery of the object that sends all preconceived notions into the ether.
The story is exceedingly well-written with great pacing. We follow along with this crew as they embark on this journey, their discoveries, and their obstacles, all the while knowing that there is more around the corner. Deep psychological terror is the name of the game in this and it is so pervasive and strong that there were a few times I found myself getting impatient that their flashlights in the story weren’t illuminating the dark well enough to make me feel better. That’s a strong bit of evidence for me that the story led me into it and surrounded me with the atmosphere. Dialogue is believable and character appropriate. So much so that when the characters are experiencing their own mental breaks and hurdles, it can easily be conveyed in what they are saying without the need for messy descriptors or speech modifiers.
David Wellington is a fantastic author who I’ve been reading for quite some time. His zombies, werewolves, vampires, and genetic experiments across multiple books have never failed to hook me and keep me wanting more. This book is an excellent example of the growth and experience he has cultivated and honed over the years as he created a story that is easily one of my top five of the year. He can also be read writing as D. Nolan Clark for his epic space faring sci-fi novels.
Narration by Megan Tusing was well-delivered. She brought the words to the listener is an easy cadence that made the story simple to follow. Her delivery of the dialogue and how it wove into the narrative was impressive. Accompanying her words, the production added occasional noise and tones that lent the power of her descriptions an even better weight.
The Last Astronaut by David Wellington
Narrator: Megan Tusing
Length: 12 hrs and 47 mins
Published by Hachette Audio on July 23rd 2019
Genres: Science Fiction
Mission Commander Sally Jansen is Earth's last astronaut - and last hope - in this gripping near-future thriller where a mission to make first contact becomes a terrifying struggle for survival in the depths of space.
Sally Jansen was NASA's leading astronaut, until a mission to Mars ended in disaster. Haunted by her failure, she lives in quiet anonymity, convinced her days in space are over.
A large alien object has entered the solar system on a straight course toward Earth. It has made no attempt to communicate and is ignoring all incoming transmissions.
Out of time and out of options, NASA turns to Jansen. For all the dangers of the mission, it's the shot at redemption she always longed for.
But as the object slowly begins to reveal its secrets, one thing becomes horribly clear: The future of humanity lies in Jansen's hands.
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