Which is why I understand what motivates a character like Dana Sinclair to sign up to be part of mankind’s first journey outside Earth’s solar system in the first volume of A. B. Gayle’s Saa’ar Chronicles, Isolation.
In real life, one would expect exploring uncharted space to be a rough trip. One might not expect the kind of pre-flight corporate machinations to spillover into in-flight betrayal that helps make Dana’s story so compelling. On the other hand, the nastier bits of Dana’s adventure do turn out to have their…compensations.
Although this story takes place aboard a space ship, there’s a reason for that title. Most of the story takes place in isolation. Different kinds of isolation.
The ship sets out from Earth for the planet Sa’ar, with a mostly human crew and a few Saa’arians. Nearly everyone spends three months in suspended animation for a high-speed trip to Neptune.
When Dana wakes up, the situation has gone to crap in the recycling unit. Instead of being the second-in-command of the medical team, she’s in charge. Her chief is dead. It seems to have been a heart attack. But he wasn’t ill, and she’s not permitted to do an autopsy. All the Saa’arians are dead, and again, no autopsy is permitted.
The woman in charge of the expedition is a corporate bigwig, with no experience running an exploration mission or for that matter a diplomatic mission. Or much experience motivating people. The crew call her “the ice queen” for a reason.
But the second-in-commend, now there’s a man Dana wants to get to know better, if he could stand to spend two minutes in a doctor’s company ever again. But that’s a problem for Ethan Reilly. He was a bona fide war hero, until he deliberately stepped on a landmine to save his men. Now he has prosthetics from below the knee on both legs, and scars on half his face that he refuses to have healed. The prosthetic joints work so well, people forget he has them, but Ethan never does. And he’s had his fill of doctors in white coats. After months of rehab, he’d be happy to never see another one again.
Until he meets Dana Sinclair. And discovers there’s a smart, funny and sexy woman under that coat. One who doesn’t care about any of his scars, because as a doctor, she’s seen it all before. She only cares about the man inside. Not the hero on the Army recruiting posters that he used to be.
The ship is stranded near the planet Nebula, waiting for help to come from the planet Saa’ar to pick them up. The expedition leader wants Dana to declare that all the Saa’ ar on board the ship died of natural causes, by exposure to an Earth disease, and that the problem is solved. Dana’s not so sure. There’s too much pressure to rush to judgment, and too little data.
And there’s a whole lot of the antidote for Sarin gas on board.
Only one person is willing to help her investigate. Ethan Reilly. Or so it seems. Until he turns on her, and gets her locked up. In isolation.
But not until after he’s gotten her to fall in love with him. Has Ethan betrayed her, or is he keeping her safe? Can he find the answers to all the problems without her?
Escape Rating A-: I couldn’t put this down once I picked it up. It was easy for me to get sucked into Dana’s point of view.
The story here is really about how the crew bands together to solve the mystery much more than it is about the space travel or anything else. There is kind of a locked-room aspect to the story, since the ship is out by Neptune and they can’t go anywhere.
I want the next book now. I have to know what happens when they reach the Saa’ar planet.