cover image Vessel


Lisa A. Nichols. Atria, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-5011-6877-2

In this tense, character-driven debut, an astronaut’s miraculous return to Earth after an interstellar mission gone awry sparks questions about the disastrous events that left her the voyage’s only survivor. As Catherine Wells struggles to reconnect with her family after nine years away, she’s haunted by missing memories regarding the mission, occasional blackout episodes, and terrifying violent urges. Her personal life and career spiral out of control. Meanwhile, Cal Morganson, responsible for an upcoming follow-up mission, investigates Catherine, convinced she’s hiding something. Together, they must unlock her lost memories to discover what happened to the Sagittarius’s crew before tragedy strikes again. By focusing on the emotional impact of Catherine’s long absence and inability to return to her old life, and by maintaining ambiguity regarding her psychological stability, Nichols keeps this story relatively down-to-earth, only gradually revealing the truth behind the disaster and Catherine’s increasingly unpredictable behavior. The scientific component is kept plausible but light in favor of character drama, interpersonal relationships, and the underlying mystery. The story’s overall strength is undermined by insufficient worldbuilding and a rushed final act leading into an open-ended conclusion, but there’s still a lot here to appeal to fans of near-future drama. Agent: Jennifer Udden, Barry Goldblatt Literary. (May)