cover image Fractal Noise: A Fractalverse Novel

Fractal Noise: A Fractalverse Novel

Christopher Paolini. Tor, $28.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-86248-8

Bestseller Paolini’s standalone prequel to 2020’s To Sleep in a Sea of Stars breathes new life into the classic first encounter narrative through a sophisticated examination of the grieving narrator’s psyche. In 2234, after a predator kills xenobiologist Alex Crichton’s wife, Layla, on the colonized planet of Eidolon, Alex joins up with a survey expedition to get off-world, but his heart isn’t in his work. He’s wracked with guilt over his failure to protect Layla and barely able to do the minimum necessary for his job. His feeling that nothing matters anymore is challenged when the spaceship’s cartographer detects something unprecedented on unexplored planet Talos VII: a huge, perfectly circular hole. Though the planet is believed to be devoid of life, the hole’s dimensions and neatness suggest that it’s artificial, and thus, potentially, “the first concrete proof of intelligent, self-aware aliens.” Crichton joins the small team dispatched to Talos VII’s surface to investigate, but that effort proves hazardous—and the greatest threats are those the team members pose to each other. Paolini makes the experiences of his well-shaded explorers vivid and gripping through smart worldbuilding and believable stakes. James S.A. Corey fans will be especially riveted. (May)