Paradise-1 by David Wellington
Publication Date: April 4th, 2023
Paperback. 688 pages.
"When Special Agent Petrov and Dr. Lei Zhang are woken up from cryogenic sleep, dragged freezing and dripping wet out of their pods with the ship's alarms blaring in the background, they know something is very wrong. Warned by the Captain that they're under attack, they have no choice but to investigate.
It doesn't take much time to learn that they've been met by another vessel—a vessel from Paradis-One, Earth's first deep-space colony, and their final destination.
Worse still, the vessel is empty. And it carries with it the message that all communications from the 150,000 souls inhabiting the Paradis-One has completely ceased.
Petrov and Zhang must board the empty ship and delve further into deep space to discover the truth of the colony's disappearance—but the further they go, the more dangers loom."
Paradise-1 is an action-packed sci-fi horror/thriller that throws you almost immediately into the action and never really lets up. I read David Wellington's The Last Astronaut a couple years ago and since I had such a great time with his brand of sci-fi horror/thriller, I was thrilled that a brand new 700 page sci-fi from Wellington was in my hands.
Special Agent Petrov and Dr. Lei Zhang are sent on a mission to visit the deep-space colony of Paradise-1–which is also, coincidentally, the colony in which Petrov's mother has been retired to–and check on its status and the people living there and things don't end up going quite as they should. Not too long into their cryogenic sleep, Petrov and Zhang are awoken early only to discover that things have started going terribly wrong on their ship, which seems to have been attacked by something in space, and to find that their ship's AI has gone offline. The only other beings on the ship include Sam Parker, the pilot, and Rapscallion, the ship's robot who is meant to take care of general duties around the ship while its passengers are sleeping. From the moment Petrov and Zhang wake up, the action begins and does not stop for pretty much the entire rest of the book.
Petrov and Zhang make for a very odd team, as Petrov is a Firewatch agent with a bold and determined personality, whereas Zhang is a much quieter and more troubled character who doesn't really seem to care for much human company. Petrov was not a character that I found myself very connected to, and some of this is because of some exceptionally poor choices she makes in the beginning of the story, but she grew on me more as the story progressed. I found Zhang compelling from the start because he has what seems to be a very complex backstory that is slowly unveiled as the story progresses. Both of these character showcase a lot of resilience given the fact that they are pummeled almost constantly with obstacle after obstacle for 700 pages. I also enjoyed getting to know Rapscallion and found him to be a great source of comic relief throughout the book.
One of my favorite aspects of Paradise-1 is Wellington's exploration of deep space, future technology, and alien life. With regard to alien life, I appreciated the thoughtfulness that was put into considering the different ways in which alien life form may manifest itself, something that plays a vital role in this book. Wellington really touches on the fact that an alien life form could be so completely different from humanity that we might not even be able to fully understand their motivations or means for survival (or are they even trying to find survival?), all of which may be drastically different from our own motivations or even so different that we can't even fully fathom what they are. I really loved getting to explore these ideas and it always make me excited both for the future of space exploration in general, and of course for future books that may explore these ideas even further. As mentioned, I also liked Wellington's use of future technology, including the AIs and robots on the ships as well as the usage of holograms to explore some news ways in which they could be used. These were all done extremely well in this book.
The action-packed, fast-paced nature of the book has both positives and negatives to it. On the one hand, it made this very long book fly by and it didn't take me nearly as long as I expected to read it. In addition, the chapters are all fairly short, which really makes you feel as if you're making good progress through the story and makes things feel like they're moving even faster than they are, which in turn makes it easy to just keep flipping the pages to find out what's going to happen next. On the other hand, I think this book probably could have used a little bit of downtime at the expense of some of the other more repetitive action. It's undoubtedly clear that Wellington can write a strong story with scenes that are fully gripping, and because of this I almost think that there were too many scenes where out characters stumble onto something shocking or have to quickly get out of a bind to where I almost felt a little bit of fatigue by the end of the book. I get it, because if I were an editor it'd be hard for me to decide what to cut since it all felt so exciting and hard to look away from, but something in the latter portion of the novel just dragged ever so slightly because of this.
There are a lot of general plot points in this book that are relatively commonly done in sci-fi horror/thrillers and can end up seeming overdone, such as the idea of a unknown "virus" affecting crew members and passengers, but I think Wellington brings enough spice and intrigue to these ideas to really make them his own and still feel exciting and like you don't really know what's going to happen. There were moments in this book that felt a little too convenient or had an exceptionally high level of suspended disbelief required, but I also understand that that's sort of necessary in a sci-fi thriller, so I wasn't too mad about it.
Lastly, I will warn you all that this has a pretty extreme cliffhanger. If you do not like cliffhangers or if they really bother you, I would just keep that in mind so you aren't surprised by the ending. But if you don't mind waiting, or maybe if you just don't mind a very open ending until we get the sequel, then I would absolutely recommend Paradise-1.
Overall, I've given Paradise-1 four stars! Wellington clearly knows how to write an incredible sci-fi novel and I cannot wait for the sequel–and it's also apparent to me that I need to check out some of his other work as well, now so I can get more of his captivating stories.