Noumenon is a new science fiction book written by Marina J. Lostetter. With nods to Rama by Arthur C Clarke, it is about a fleet of generational ships, manned by clones, travelling to a far-off star.
Astrophysicist Reggie Straifer has an idea. He’s discovered an anomalous star that appears to defy the laws of physics and proposes the creation of a deep-space mission to find out whether the star is a weird natural phenomenon or something manufactured.
The journey will take aeons. In order to maintain the genetic talent of the original crew, humankind’s greatest ambition—to explore the furthest reaches of the galaxy—is undertaken by clones. But a clone is not a perfect copy, and each new generation has its own quirks, desires, and neuroses. As the centuries fly by, the society living aboard the nine ships changes and evolves, but their mission remains the same: to reach Reggie’s mysterious star and explore its origins—and implications.
MY THOUGHTS ON NOUMENON
Imagine a book which starts out like Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson. The middle is a little like the start of Red Rising by Pierce Brown. The end is somewhere between Children of Time and The Freeze-Frame Revolution. That is sort of where Noumenon lies.
I wouldn’t say I loved Noumenon. But it also wasn’t terrible. The premise is that a scientist finds a star, and humans decide to send a fleet of ships to investigate this star. Its a story set on a generational ship, so there are going to be some predictable elements. The strange thing is that this book features all the plot points you would expect from a book like this.
Losing contact with earth, revolutionaries trying to take over the ship, reaching the goal of the mission, mechanical problems, then getting back to earth. It almost felt like the author had a list of items which needed to be featured in the story. But the result was it felt like they had been shoehorned in.
Problems with the characterisation
What made it harder to enjoy the book was the characters. The story is told through a series of short stories. All told from the point of view of different characters on the fleet. With a good amount of time between these stories. The result was that it was hard to feel for the characters. Because you’re only with them for a short while.
But the fleet is staffed by clones, so you have different generations of the same clone appearing. It’s almost like you’re to think of the character is the same, though they are on a different version of the clone. But that doesn’t work because a huge plot point of the book is showing how clones are different, even though their DNA is the same.
It probably didn’t help that I read Noumenon immediately after Record of A Spaceborn Few so it was hard to no compare the two. Both are about a fleet of generational ships, on a journey for one reason or other. But where the Becky Chambers book excelled is that it’s a little story, with the setting in the background. Yes, it’s on a ship travelling somewhere, but it’s not about that.
Noumenon wasn’t terrible. But it was the sort of book where I wanted to read it as fast as possible just to find out how it ends. It’s sad because it started out very good. But as the story continued it lost focus. There is a sequel to Neoumnon being released sometime this year and I don’t think I’m going to read it. I think the story would have worked better as one book.