Heaven’s Shadow is a near-future science fiction story. The authors must know something about how the American space program and the astronaut office work, or they could not have pulled this off. The details of how mission control drives an Apollo-like mission, from inception, to execution, comes through.
The story plays in the 2010 to 2020 timeframe. A near earth object is discovered. Two separate space missions initially targeted as trips to the moon, one by NASA, the other by a coalition of agencies in Russia, India and Brazil, are quickly refitted to land on the near earth object instead.
The object turns out to be something that was not expected, and alien contact ensues. Much goes wrong.
Cassutt and Goyer tell a nice, fast-paced science fiction story that had me turning the pages, wanting to find out more. It’s the first book of a trilogy, and it was structured with an ending that sets it up for more. Reviewers have likened this to the Rama series of Clarke, and there are indeed parallels.
There are a number of things, however, that got in the way for me. The technique of alternating chapters, one leading a thread of action moving the story forward, and the other giving a background on the astronauts and mission controllers to round out the characters, was awkward for me. The background chapters slowed down the action and I found myself not really caring about what happened several years ago. I wanted to know what was going on now. Why take me back? I kept fast-forwarding. Most of the background exposition really wasn’t needed.
The astronauts also didn’t act like astronauts would. They did dumb things, made silly statements and brought most of their peril about due to their stupid decisions. I understand that was necessary for the story line, otherwise there would have been no story. It just was done in a way that didn’t ring believable and credible.
The aliens also didn’t work for me. The descriptions were vague, the alien mission didn’t make sense, and their entire strategy and objective seemed contrived, especially considering the action of the last quarter of the book.
In summary, it was a good, fast-paced read. The near-future point of view was refreshing. The execution was pedestrian and clumsy. But the subject matter and story kept me engaged. I’ll read the sequel when it comes out.