With nods to Arthur C. Clarke’s Rama series and the real science of Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, a touch of Hugh Howey’s Wool, and echoes of Octavia Butler’s voice, a powerful tale of space travel, adventure, discovery, and humanity that unfolds through a series of generational vignettes.
In 2088, humankind is at last ready to explore beyond Earth’s solar system. But one uncertainty remains: Where do we go?
Astrophysicist Reggie Straifer has an idea. He’s discovered an anomalous star that appears to defy the laws of physics, and proposes the creation of a deep-space mission to find out whether the star is a weird natural phenomenon, or something manufactured.
The journey will take eons. In order to maintain the genetic talent of the original crew, humankind’s greatest ambition—to explore the furthest reaches of the galaxy— is undertaken by clones. But a clone is not a perfect copy, and each new generation has its own quirks, desires, and neuroses. As the centuries fly by, the society living aboard the nine ships (designated Convoy Seven) changes and evolves, but their mission remains the same: to reach Reggie’s mysterious star and explore its origins—and implications.
A mosaic novel of discovery, Noumenon—in a series of vignettes—examines the dedication, adventure, growth, and fear of having your entire world consist of nine ships in the vacuum of space. The men and women, and even the AI, must learn to work and live together in harmony, as their original DNA is continuously replicated and they are born again and again into a thousand new lives. With the stars their home and the unknown their destination, they are on a voyage of many lifetimes—an odyssey to understand what lies beyond the limits of human knowledge and imagination.
In Lostetter's ambitious and stunning debut, the Planet United Missions of a near-future Earth send a convoy off to investigate an anomalous star. Astronomical observation shows that LQ Pyxidis is variable in a way that suggests it's either a unique opportunity to learn about solar system development or something created by intelligent beings. Convoy Seven travels faster than light, but the journey still takes generations, so it is crewed by clones of Reginald Straifer, the star's discoverer; Akane Nakamura, the principal engineer; and Jamal Kaeden, who creates an artificial intelligence to help maintain the fleet. Given the dizzying timespan of the journey, Convoy Seven itself is in one sense the protagonist. As time passes, grappling with the individuality of different iterations of the various clone lines becomes as vital and necessary to the crew as figuring out what is going on at the star. Lostetter handles a complex and fractured narrative masterfully, never allowing her novel to become confusing or unconvincing. There are no easy answers to the book's questions, but the lingering sense of wonder and discovery thoroughly justifies its title.