In 2016 I read more than I reviewed so the challenge for 2017 is to write and publish reviews faster. To that end I’m going to attempt to post one or two more reviews to finish the year. At this point in the year I can no longer recall how I first heard about Margaret Fortune’s debut novel “Nova”. However it happened, when “Nova” was the recommended pick of the month at my favorite bookstore I was already aware of and interested in the title. It came home and then sat on the “to be read” shelf for months.
“Nova” starts off with a fairly simple premise. Humanity has expanded to the point where there are now two human factions (Tellurians and Celestians) squabbling over newly discovered planets and the resources they contain. A particularly resource rich planet has been found and interstellar conflict has resulted. Lia Johansen is a genetically created bomb that has been implanted with the memories of a 16 year old prisoner of war. These false memories allow her to full fill her mission to infiltrate the New Sol space station and explode, or as the title says, go Nova.
Things get off to a rough start for Lia. Early on the shuttle trip to New Sol station with the other war prisoners, she is electrically shocked by a malfunctioning door. Upon arrival Lia waits in the cargo bay to be processed, only to discover that Psych Corp are vetting the prisoners. Paranoid that physical contact with a psychic will blow her cover and reveal her to be a bomb she begins to panic, which is of course when her timer begins to count down, 36 hours remaining until nova. With a bit of luck Lia gets through her interview, is assigned a bed, given her kit and sent on her way. But because one harrowing encounter a day is not enough she immediately runs into Michael, a childhood friend of the Lia who’s memories have been in implanted in her head.
At first running into Michael is no big deal, after all Lia will be blowing him up along with everyone else on the station in a matter of hours. Lia deceives Michael about her quarters to be able to avoid him while the timer runs out and patiently waits for her nova event. Then the plot thickens. Lia’s timer malfunctions and stops with only minutes remaining. With no instructions for what to do if her timer fails and no way to reach those who sent her for new instructions, Lia is stuck and left without a purpose.
Determined to not lose his friend a second time Michael tracks Lia down. Michael’s attention both pleases and upsets her as she struggles with her identity. She isn’t the real Lia, she just has Lia’s memories. So Michael must not really be attracted to her, he’s attracted to the real Lia. As time goes by Lia becomes highly conflicted about her purpose as she doesn’t want to hurt Michael and his family but she was created specifically to go nova. To add to the complications Lia’s clock starts up for a few seconds here and there and then stops again. Despite the malfunction is her going nova just a matter of time, and if so, when?
While shelved in the main section of the bookstore, “Nova” felt a bit like a young adult novel. There is no bad language and the teen romance between Michael and Lia seems aimed at a younger audience. I was pleasantly surprised by the turn the book took in the final third as more and more information about Lia and her mission were revealed. Hardcore space opera fans may want to pass on “Nova”. However, if you enjoy sci-fi with themes of identity and enjoy a dose of teen romance with the associated drama that goes with it, “Nova” is an entertaining read.
While writing this review I discovered that “Nova” is actually the first book in what is to be a five part series called the Spectre War. Now I’m curious as to where Margaret Fortune will be taking this world after the stunning conclusion of “Nova”.