Orion Lost- Alastair Chisholm

Stories set predominantly on a Starship in Space tend to come down to one of two concepts for me; meet the aliens pew-pew Earth Huzzah! sort of thing; or exploration of human endeavour and spirit within the medium & character itself of space.

I was overjoyed to find Orion Lost is one of the latter, furthermore evoking the claustrophobic Classic whodunnit Murder or increasing calamitous mysteries of being cut off awaiting rescue whilst the microsociety on board unwittingly descends into folly and chaos.

However it is worth noting there are also plenty of alien encounters, worker droids, space welding and space pirates to keep interest for fans of the space adventures too.

Orion Lost Alastair Chisholm

Beth and her family are space pioneers, leaving Earth on a one way ticket to set up a human colony on a far away planet. The destination is many light years away so ‘jumps’ are necessary to speed the journey, but they come at a price, everyone must be in hyper sleep or significant brain damage will occur.

On the journey Beth has been indicated as command material and must study alongside other students for their future roles, but she feels woefully inadequate.

One day an emergency jump occurs and when Beth wakes up she finds thanks to failures to secure hyper sleep in time she is the designated Captain of the ship and must assign a crew from the other children, repair the ship, and get to a safety point. The only problem is the ship is on fire, and as the hours tick past more and more seems terribly wrong.

We will be fine, She thought.We will be fine. We will be fine

Reading Orion Lost you get this uneasy sense of malevolent energy on the ship, lies, Time has been manipulated, useful items disappeared. A deep sense of claustrophobia and inability to trust anyone completely and in this way you get a sense of a classic isolation mystery, a whodunnit mystery where the inhabitants are ‘cut off’ coupled with a Space saga.

Trust is central to the plot on several levels, trust in the captain, each other, the ship, data and what is being presented.

I love the mash up of recognisable hints of things like Star Wars, Lost in Space, Alien, 2001 Space Odyssey, Sunshine, Passengers, Live; Die; Repeat and a dash of Avatar but totally twisting in a fantastic new way where you can’t quite predict what’s going to happen because whilst evoking those cinematic ideas the writing refuses to be defined or limited by them! This further explores those themes of trust as we cannot trust the tropes and outcomes we have internalised to strictly apply in this novel, so flipping that one may ask; can our characters trust the story they are being told?

Perhaps I should let Vihaan take over. It was only a half percentage between us after all. It was a mistake. He is better at command

I find it also interesting that the theme of Trust is further developed as contemporary perceptions of gender in leadership are explored particularly through our protagonist as she embarks on her Command Education path. Beth both does not trust this assessment if her potential, feeling strong imposter syndrome especially when she expresses care for her crew as a priority over the mission, yet her wider skills and knowledge brings her out top of the class against Vihaan, the cool, methodical son of the captain who has been clearly drilled for and encouraged as worthy for command since birth.

Whilst not expressing that Beth’s are strictly feminine traits, it is interesting to see where and how her leadership is met on the whole with a lack of trust; how she is questioned and challenged by the crew which reflects contemporary experiences and struggles of women in STEM careers. It’s not all doom and gloom but it does make us ask questions about our own and society’s preconceptions and values of leadership to consider why Beth and certain others feels she is unworthy of trust in leadership. And that is a very interesting thing to tease out.

Overall this is an exciting exploration of very relatable human reactions to a Sci-Fi experience with a real sense of claustrophobia and constant questioning. I read this in one sitting, determined to discover the truth and I hope others enjoy this marvellous starship journey.

Orion Lost by Alastair Chisholm is published by Nosy Crow

8 thoughts on “Orion Lost- Alastair Chisholm

  1. This came into work today and it’s been, as ever, really useful to read your thoughts on it as it’s not one I’ll squeeze into reading myself but it is one I’d like to see do well as it feels quite different abd as you say has the whole women in STEM thing going on too. Thanks for this!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If I didn’t have such a huge amount waiting to be read I’d probably give it a read, and I might at some point but realistically I know it’s one that at the moment would just keep getting put to the back of the queue! I do like the sound of the way they’ve brought the mystery element in though!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m glad you enjoyed this too. Sci-fi is a genre that I normally prefer to watch rather than read, but I really liked this character-driver story, especially the exploration of leadership and power.

    Liked by 1 person

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