Novella: Dream Houses by Genevieve Valentine

December 24, 2015

‘Tis the season for deep-space voyages fraught with peril and calamity…in the wake of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora and Alastair Reynolds’ Slow Bullets comes Dream Houses (2014) by the ever-versatile Genevieve Valentine. This attractively produced novella from WSFA Press adds a literary spin to a conventional hard SF scenario, and the results are powerful.

Amadis Reyes is an auxiliary crew member on the Menkilinan, a ship that makes deep-space supply runs between Earth and the colony world Gliese. Typically the crew sleeps through the long middle years of the journey, but something’s gone wrong, and Amadis is awakened early. Her crewmates are dead, and she’s years away from her destination without enough food to last the trip. With only the ship’s AI to keep her company, Amadis struggles to stay alive and uncover the mysterious reason for her dire predicament.

Dream Houses opens compellingly, building a dark, cold atmosphere to emphasize Amadis’ isolation and distance. But later it grows more internal and emotionally penetrating, the narrative flashing back to illuminate the protagonist’s past and how that informs the scenario. The external crisis and internal exploration make this a unique and effective blend of conventional problem-solving SF and finely nuanced character study. It’s a gripping, intense, and haunting read.