WSFA Press, 2014, 127 pages
It takes a certain type to crew a ship that drops you seven years at a time into the Deep. Kite-class cargo ships like Menkalinan get burned-out veterans, techs who’ve been warned off-planet, medics who weren’t much good on the ground. The Gliese-D run isn’t quite the end of the line, but it’s getting there. No cachet, no rewards, no future; their trading posts get Kites full of cargo that the crew never ask questions about, because if it’s headed for Gliese-D, it’s probably something nobody wanted.
A year into the Deep, Amadis Reyes wakes up. Menkalinan is sounding the alarm; something’s wrong. The rest of the crew are dead.
That’s not even what’s wrong.
Dream Houses is a limited edition novella published by the Washington Science Fiction Association.
Thematically, this story had a lot in common with another book I read recently, Mur Lafferty's Six Wakes. A survivor wakes up aboard a spaceship after something terrible happened to the rest of the crew. In this case, however, Amadis is all alone, except for the creepy, unreliable AI (there was one of those in Six Wakes also). What follows is a psychic battle between Amadis and the ship's computer, which alternates between being cheerfully servile and making opaque, ominous threats. Meanwhile, the ship is inching slowly towards the colony world of Gliese-D, but Amadis doesn't have enough rations to make the entire trip, forcing her to make some gruesome decisions.
I like creepy horror in space novels, but as it turns out, that's not quite what this novella is. There are creepy and horrific elements, but Amadis's predicament, and the hints of something else on board with her, keep getting eclipsed by flashbacks, to her childhood, her relationship with her difficult, remote brother back on Earth, and her meeting with other crew. The weird things happening on board the ship might or might not be her imagination. Genevieve Valentine tries a little too hard to make this a psychological story, but the mental meandering replaced the initial feeling of threat and urgency. The ending sort of... limps to a conclusion.
While well written, Dream Houses did not quite connect with me. It's a good story, but not a great and memorable one.
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