Review: Starship Alchemon by Christopher Hinz

48840858._sy475_I’ve been in sort of a sci-fi mood lately, and so when this book appeared on my radar as a review request I couldn’t help but accept.

So, thanks to the author, as well as Angry Robot for the review copy!

Nine explorers aboard a powerful AI vessel, Alchemon, are sent to investigate an “anomalous biosignature” on a distant planet. But they soon realize their mission has gone to hell as deadly freakish incidents threaten their lives. Are these events caused by the tormented psychic mysteriously put aboard at the last minute? Has the crew been targeted by a vengeful corporate psychopath? Are they part of some cruel experiment by the ship’s ruthless owners? Or do their troubles originate with the strange alien lifeform retrieved from the planet? A creature that might possess an intelligence beyond human understanding or may perhaps be the spawn of some terrifying supernatural force… Either way, as their desperation and panic sets in, one thing becomes clear: they’re fighting not only for their own survival, but for the fate of all humanity. 

Any telepathic messages, LeaMarsa? Do you detect something, LeaMarsa? Are there superluminal impulses dancing in your head, parading through your body, tickling your spirit?

This is the story of the Starship Alchemon (duh) which is a research vessel that has been sent by one of the ‘megas’ (giant corporations that more or less govern Earth) to a planet far, far away to investigate a biological creature found on an entirely dead planet.

At the very last minute, the corporation running the show have put a strange psychic woman on the ship and sent them on their way. They get to the perhaps not-so-aptly named planet Sycamore and find a seemingly intelligent gooey blob with… a fetus inside it? So, they bring it on board, because of course they do.

And that’s when all the freaky incidents start happening. Everyone’s having nightmares. People are randomly lashing out at other people. What is the cause of these abnormalities? Is it the organism? The psychic? The ship, which is itself a powerful, sentient AI?

I quite liked this one. It was a quick, fun read that was easy to pick up and put down when needed. It’s fairly hard sci-fi, in that the jargon and acronyms are rather hard to follow in the beginning (and the included list of acronyms didn’t help as much as I had hoped), but, I picked up on it eventually, and the story just flew on by.

LeaMarsa de Host (the freaky ghost) was an interesting character, who had quite a complex backstory. It made sense and was explained pretty well in the end. I also really enjoyed the character of Jonomy, who is a genetically engineered human known as a lytic. They are bred to interface with the AI ships through an umbilical cable connected right to their brain. He reminded me of Data from Star Trek: TNG, in many ways, though with more emotion.

All told, I quite enjoyed it. I’m a sucker for the ‘monster on a spaceship’ kind of story, and so this one sated that craving pretty well. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes a pretty hard sci-fi with dangerous aliens mixed with dangerous (and not super well-adjusted) humans. 4/5 stars!

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