When they receive a distress signal on their last voyage in space, Claire Kovalik and her crew respond, finding the Aurora, a luxury space-liner that disappeared without a trace twenty years ago. Recognizing the wealth on board, Claire and her team board the ship to salvage materials but they find a gruesome scene that reveals that something went horribly wrong on this ship years ago. As the crew spends time on the ship, they struggle to hang onto their sanity. Can the crew avoid the grisly fate that doomed the passengers of the Aurora?
The Titanic meets The Shining meets space in this creepy and atmospheric science fiction novel. I never read horror because I am a giant scaredy cat, but I really liked this one! It was the perfect balance of science fiction, mystery, and horror.
The world building in the book was quite exciting to me. Taking place 128 years in the future, it shows a world in which mankind is living among the stars but all interstellar travel is controlled by megacorporations. Claire and her team work for Verux which was the leading competitor of the now defunct CitiFutura, the corporation that built the Aurora. Verux has a vested interest in the Aurora which becomes clearer as the story progresses.
I thought the book built up tension really well, mainly through Claire’s perspective as an unreliable narrator. Even before setting foot on the Aurora, Claire was seeing visions of people who weren’t there. Whether she’s seeing ghosts or having hallucinations is debatable, but she’d been seeing these visions since she was a young child, the sole survivor of a colony on Mars that died out due to plague. The book is told through her perspective and once she boards the Aurora it’s hard to tell what is real and what is a hallucination. She’s also telling her story to Verux investigators in a hospital so we know she escapes, but we don’t know how she did it. There was a nice amount of suspense that made the book a fast read.
I was able to guess what was really happening in the story pretty early on, but that didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book. I still wanted to get to the heart of the mystery and I felt invested in the survival of Claire and the salvage crew.
This was a fast-paced, creepy, and compelling read. I thought it was well written and a fun mashup of genres. I would definitely read another book by S.A. Barnes.
CW: murder, hallucinations, graphic injuries, gore, suicide