This is a novella narrated by an astronaut waking from suspended animation, called torpor here, or more accurately delayed animation, which as we find out is the more accurate way to describe the very slowed down effects of the state, as opposed to pure sleep or stoppage. This is an exploratory spacecraft whose purpose to look into a series of different planets (with very different sets of factors) and see about them. But this is like playing Mass Effect or another planet jumping game or story, while also having to fully contend with the effects of long-term space travel that can’t rely on the aid of wormholes or light speed or ancibles or any other kind of sci fi trickery to not make the infinites of space time and distance into shortcuts.
I think this is a really strong example of what a good novella can be. It’s not connected to a further series (so far as I know) or at least it’s not dependent on another series. And it explores a set of ideas that are intriguing and interesting, without it feeling like this is an epic in search of a more fully realized novel, or filling in a gap of a series, or something that feels like a purely capital product. And in that way it feels like some of the great novellas from especially the 1970s sci fi from writers like James Tiptree or Joanna Russ or Ursula Le Guin or Samuel Delaney. It reads more like a mix between the Arkadys or Jeff Vandermeer and Octavia Butler, to solid effect.