Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Goldilocks by Laura Lam

’ve never read anything before by Laura Lam, but Goldilocks had shown up on several “upcoming 2020 SF releases to look out for” lists at the end of 2019.  I’m often a sucker for “Earth is failing, lets get off planet now” stories, so I thought this would be right up my alley.  I didn’t realize until I started reading it just how many things this book was going to try to do at once.  The prologue asks more questions than it answers, setting the reader up for the idea that there will be some surprising revelations and all is not as it seems.  I didn’t realize at first exactly what the prologue wa# trying to accomplish; halfway through the novel I skipped back and reread it, and I appreciated what the author was trying to accomplish more at that point.  Chapter one begins 30 years before the prologue, starting out in an imminent climate apocalypse near future, which quickly reveals itself to also be an all too possible super misogynistic America, as if All of Mike Pence’s dream came true.  5 women heist Earth’s only interstellar-capable spacecraft to try to colonize a habitable planet.  The narrator is a scientist whose adoptive mother designed and bankrolled the spacecraft project. Sadly, the book sometimes feels like a bit of a bait-and -switch, because the characters never do get to the planet in the so-called Goldilocks zone.  The book tries to achieve a Martian-like feel of “science people sciencing in space” but it never quite achieves it - the scientific problems are solved a little too easily and don’t really further the plot very much.  Instead the book pivots into mystery and intrigue.  The mother-figure starts out as an Elon Musk type, but eventually reveals herself to be a full on Lex Luthor type.  Maybe I’m just more cynical than the average reader, but her villainy was not too big of a surprise for me - it felt very telegraphed.  What was a surprise was the extent of her villainous plot - not just trying to seize control of a new world, but mass murder through an engineered viral pandemic back on Earth was unexpected.  When written, the book was not meant to be tone-deaf, but as I am sequestered at home in the midst of the Covid19 crisis as I read the book and write this review, the virus plot probably came off much differently than it might have if I had read this a few months ago.  That was also the weakest link plot wise in the book - it is just glossed over that of course the Mother-figure has a virologist on staff who was perfectly happy to engineer a virus she knew would murder 90% of humanity.  That felt a tad too cartoonish.

I don’t want it to come off that I didn’t like this book.  I did! It was well written and enjoyable and I would seek out another book by this author In the future.  I guess I just took the virus plot end a little hard and I am still miffed that this was not the planetary exploration book I had envisioned it being from the cover and blurb.  Which is not the author’s fault at all.  

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