Similar to it’s lighthouse predecessors, a 23rd century network of beacons allows space ships to traverse the Milky Way galaxy faster than light speed. Despite the advancement in technology, NASA stations one person per beacon, for the one-in-a-million chance something goes wrong. A battle-scarred war hero, haunted by his past, escapes the ongoing war in a beacon on the fringe. Hanging above the best porthole, a faded picture of a man stands outside of an actual, Earth-based lighthouse, completely unconcerned about the twenty-meter-high wave about to engulf him.
This intimate first-person narrative of a man alone in space explores the psychological and emotional struggles of an empathetic antihero. It’s touching and funny, which is difficult to do in combination, and Howey brings the reader along for the ride, until you feel the isolation closing in and your hold on reality start to loosen. There’s also a pet rock, bounty hunters, some romance, and aliens called the Ryph that look like sharks.
Howey excels at writing about being trapped — in the system, in yourself, or literally trapped in an underground bunker, which results in a viscerally claustrophobic reading experience. But Howey’s characters are ultimately resilient, and this protagonist’s struggle widens quickly from a personal story to “the needs of the many”. I prefer a slightly more ambiguous ending (and wish the epilogue was edited out), as well as more time in each of the five short stories, but that’s only because I don’t want them to end.
Recommended as a short and easy read for scifi fans who love a character story!
“I also very purposefully employ the caps button, because they can, in this way, hear us scream in space:”