Machine: A White Space Novel by Elizabeth Bear

“The second novel set in Bear’s sprawling White Space universe—after Ancestral Night (2018)—is an intricately plotted fusion of science-fiction adventure and conspiratorial mystery that revolves around a space station that begins to experience critical mishaps after a rescue mission returns with humans who have been in cryogenic suspension for centuries.

When rescue specialist Dr. Brookllyn Jens—who has dedicated her life to saving and treating any and all species of beings—finds more than 10,000 humans in cryo-containers onboard a derelict generation ship that has been in space for 600 years, she is faced with numerous unanswered questions. How did the ship get to its current location? Why were the passengers turned into “corpsicles”? Why was an android named Helen Alloy left to protect them? Why is a modern vessel docked on the generation ship, and where is the methane-breathing crew? What is the purpose of the crablike machine in the vessel? With these mysteries, and more, unsolved, Jens returns as many rescued passengers as she can to Core General, a state-of-the-art hospital and largest constructed biosphere in the galaxy. Once there, however, Jens begins uncovering some chilling revelations about the purpose of the frozen passengers, the strange craboid walker, and a mysterious virus impacting shipmind AIs. While there are a few sequences in which the momentum flags, Bear’s ability to keep the reader immersed in the various characters’ individual stories and the dynamism among the human and alien characters of the Synarche (the interstellar government that joins together multiple alien races for a collective good) more than compensates. The character arc of Jens—who has a debilitating pain syndrome and is struggling to come to grips with her lack of connection with her daughter—is done with insight and sensitivity.

A page-turning fusion of science fiction and mystery—hopefully Bear will revisit her White Space universe soon.” — Kirkus