In which a convent of nuns of the Holy Order, aboard an organically grown and living spaceship, travel across the far reaches of space, and respond to a distress beacon that will challenge their beliefs and promises.
In a lot of ways, this novella is really interesting, and certainly the central conceit is one that is ripe for exploration. In other ways, this would have been a lot more successful as part of a larger collection of stories where its limitations, weakness, and mostly derivative plot wouldn’t stand out as much. But that would make it a Ted Chiang story, and not a novella.
The territory explored in this novel has already been addressed what I think are three significantly superior novels: Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow in which we slowly come to understand the disastrous mission funded by the Catholic Church and headed up by a charismatic priest and its effects on intergalactic space travel, Walter M Miller’s A Canticle for Liebowitz in which our 20th century ahumanistic mechanical life is interrogated through the eyes of a future sect of Catholicism in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, and Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things, in which an evangelical minister leaves a dying Earth to witness Christ to an alien civilization through a kind of ancilible. And of course the various Catholic novels this novel draws from like Black Narcissus and others dealing with nuns in Catholicism. It’s not a bad novella at all, but like I said, it’s solitary printing helps to highlight its weaknesses.