cover image Plastic Space House

Plastic Space House

John F. D. Taff. Trepidatio, $17.95 trade paper (250p) ISBN 978-1-68510-096-4

Taff (the Fearing series) starts more strongly than he finishes in this uneven space horror novel. In the near-future, humanity has begun dispatching spaceships to colonize planets and thus insure the species’ future. Harlan Nickerson, a member of the engineering crew on one such vessel, Promise, responds to an emergency alarm, and manages to make her way to a lifeboat, ominously named after Charon, the mythological ferryman of the dead. Surprisingly, she doesn’t encounter anyone else along the way. Before she can blast off, however, she’s joined by another passenger, Jaime Escondido, who is also fleeing the alarms. After Charon launches, the two are devastated to witness the Promise explode in their wake, taking with it thousands of colonists. Nickerson and Escondido grapple with how to survive light years away from “even the barest frontiers of human-explored space.” The mysteries of what happened to Promise and what to do next deepen when a woman named El suddenly appears aboard Charon, and identifies herself as a panpsychist, who believes “in a universe suffused with consciousness.” While Taff has a knack for depicting his protagonists’ growing panic at the baffling and life-threatening situation they find themselves in, the resolution is neither innovative nor well-executed. Others have done better with similar story lines. (Dec.)