This psychological sci-fi thriller from a debut author follows one doctor who must discover the source of her crew’s madness… or risk succumbing to it herself.
Misanthropic psychologist Dr. Grace Park is placed on the Deucalion, a survey ship headed to an icy planet in an unexplored galaxy. Her purpose is to observe the thirteen human crew members aboard the ship—all specialists in their own fields—as they assess the colonization potential of the planet, Eos. But frictions develop as Park befriends the androids of the ship, preferring their company over the baffling complexity of humans, while the rest of the crew treats them with suspicion and even outright hostility.
Shortly after landing, the crew finds themselves trapped on the ship by a radiation storm, with no means of communication or escape until it passes—and that’s when things begin to fall apart. Park’s patients are falling prey to waking nightmares of helpless, tongueless insanity. The androids are behaving strangely. There are no windows aboard the ship. Paranoia is closing in, and soon Park is forced to confront the fact that nothing—neither her crew, nor their mission, nor the mysterious Eos itself—is as it seems.
Title: We Have Always Been Here | Author: Lena Nguyen | Publisher: DAW Books | Pub. Date: 2021-July-6 | Pages: 368 | ISBN13: 9780756417291 | Language: English | Source: We received a copy from Netgalley for review consideration | Unstarred Review
Lena Nguyen’s debut novel, We Have Always Been Here, has some beautiful language in it and the robots/androids/synthetics are easy to root for. Unfortunately, in terms of nice things I have to say about the novel, that’s about it. I was frustrated to the point I considered DNFing it within the first ten percent, but I hung in there because I thought I was judging too hastily. I wanted to give the author time to pull everything together. To see if that mental switch would flip and suddenly I would enjoy what I was reading. It never happened.
Warning: This review contains minor spoilers past this point.
First, let’s acknowledge (yet again) that I am extremely picky and little details that most people wouldn’t be bothered by will annoy me to no end. So, when the author tries to get me to believe that a spaceship to an unknown planet will have only a SINGLE person on board capable of fixing any engineering/mechanical problems and the androids, I’m going to give the stink-eye. If your ship breaks down, you dead. Why would you risk being dead on a single person getting injured/taken out of action/dead? It makes absolutely no sense and is not believable.
Unfortunately, that ‘this makes no sense’ was something that I found myself thinking at more than one point throughout We Have Always Been Here, in terms of just the basic set-up. The actual action itself was decent, and the writing is not bad, but the logic behind the set up gave me a headache. Like, for example, the author goes out of their way to make sure that the main character is very isolated from what’s going on. I mean, it’s legit a big deal. No one wants her to know anything, until at around the sixty percent mark, someone decides ‘Screw it, let’s tell her everything.’ Why spend all that time emphasizing how isolated the character is only to do that?
Side note: I’m honestly not sure if the ‘twist’ involving the main character is supposed to be a surprise at the end or not. I felt like it was telegraphed so plainly that it would be impossible not to have figured out what was going on well before the end, but I also read a lot so your mileage may vary there.
Ultimately, We Have Always Been Here failed to thrill or surprise me. The dual timeline really didn’t help anything in the story (though I will note that I did like the flashbacks to when Park was a child more than I liked the current timeline stuff.) I felt like bandaids were slapped over problems with the story rather than actually fixing them, and I never was able to get past that “this doesn’t make sense” to be able to connect to the story in any fashion.
Still, if you like your sci-fi so soft it’s squishy and you haven’t consumed a lot of media dealing with robot development, this may be a perfectly enjoyable read.
You can purchase this book at most major retailers; however, in the interest of supporting small businesses, we recommend purchasing this book through an indie seller. You can do this at indiebound.org, or through our Bookshop (disclaimer, we do get a small cut of the proceeds that help fund the site.)
Lilyn G is the founder of Sci-Fi & Scary, and leader of the Kali Krew. She does book and film reviews for both genres the site focuses on. Her tastes run towards creature features, hard science fiction, and lots and lots of action. She also has a soft spot for middle-grade fiction that rears its head frequently.
Though no longer involved with Ladies of Horror Fiction due to other responsibilities and a too-full plate, she was one of the original 4 co-founders.
Feel free to chat her up on Twitter as long as you aren’t hitting her up to review your book.
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