It takes a certain type to crew a ship that drops you seven years at a time into the Deep. Kite-class cargo ships like Menkalinan get burned-out veterans, techs who’ve been warned off-planet, medics who weren’t much good on the ground. The Gliese-D run isn’t quite the end of the line, but it’s getting there. No cachet, no rewards, no future; their trading posts get Kites full of cargo that the crew never ask questions about, because if it’s headed for Gliese-D, it’s probably something nobody wanted.
A year into the Deep, Amadis Reyes wakes up. Menkalinan is sounding the alarm; something’s wrong. The rest of the crew are dead.
That’s not even what’s wrong.
Valentine, a 2012 Crawford Award winner for Mechanique, spins an effectively brooding novella out of familiar hard SF elements. Amadis Reyes is one of five crewmembers on the cargo ship Menkalinan headed from Earth to the dwarf star Gliese; the job is the latest in a series with minimal human contact. Amadis and her colleagues are supposed to be asleep for much of the six-year journey, but for some reason she's awakened soon after blastoff to find herself the sole survivor of the crew. With only the ship's AI as company, and supplies that won't last her until Gliese, Amadis struggles to maintain some degree of physical and mental health, a challenge exacerbated by her suspicions that the four deaths were murders. Valentine neatly offers tantalizing dollops of backstory for the likable protagonist, accompanied by both noir-like prose and subtle construction of a dystopian future.