The Frozen Sky by Jeff Carlson, bestselling author of the Plague Year trilogy, began as a novelette of the same name that went on to win Carlson the Writers of the Future award. Carlson knew he had a good story, something deep and complex, and decided to expand it into a full length scifi novel, and the result is well worth the upgrade.
Alexis Vonderach is part of the science team sent to find out what there is exactly on Jupiter’s moon, Europa. More colonizers and ships are coming from Earth, but they’re the first inspection team and aren’t really sure what they’re going to find. It’s a couple centuries into the future and humanity has good space travel and great tech. The crew uses advanced spacesuits that are essentially adaptive machines with intelligent computer systems in them that can be used and controlled by the person in the suit.
As they begin to cut into the ice and go below the harsh outer skin of the moon, they encounter aliens for the first time, first through carvings and pictograms in the stone and ice that seem fairly advanced, and then encountering the actual alien beings: strange, many-tentacled creatures that are incredibly fast and seem to only want to attack when seen by humans. Before the team knows it, they’re on the run, and then a short while later Von is all who is left, the rest of the team killed. She continues to flee, going deeper into the ice where it is getting warmer, letting her suit do most of the work, but still sustaining injury as she thwarts the attacking alien creatures. She discovers the frozen sky of the title to be the roof of the ice, covering the world beneath.
After a long, nail-biting section that lasts for a third of the book, Von eventually makes it back to the ship and her people, where she is healed and repaired in multiple ways. And the second part of the book begins, as the different people and nations decide what exactly to do with Europa. It can be used to generate wealth for those back on Earth, but at the expense of killing these alien creatures. Even after everything that Von has suffered, she is the loudest voice in support of the creatures, claiming they are intelligent and deserve respect and the right to live.
The Frozen Sky is part action-packed chase scene that pushes you to the very edge of your seat, and part political piece on what could possibly happen if and when we find other intelligent life out there: will we come through and kill much like the white man has done in history, or will we try to communicate and connect with it. The novel does what all good science fiction should, providing some great description and action on an alien world, as well as making the reader contemplate on what it exactly means to be on another planet, especially where there is intelligent life there already.
Originally written on February 21, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.
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