Title: Forever Curious
Author: Jetse de Vries
Genre: Science Fiction
Na-Yeli Maya has been chosen as humanity’s representative explorer into the Enigmatic Object, a multi-layered puzzle in space. Various aliens have taken their turns inside the impenetrable, perfectly black sphere which features only one way in and presumably one way out. Forever Curious shares the first part of a duology that promises to cover her solitary journey and share her findings and the challenges she faces along the way.
In some respects, this story is reminiscent of works like Gulliver’s Travels or The Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis, as it shares one person’s experiences in strange new worlds with new aliens and only her own resources to help her through it. Na-Yeli is helped by her digital assistant, who has the same snobbish, standoffish view of life that frequently is adopted by AIs in science fiction stories, but more often, Na-Yeli finds help in the form of her “other personalities,” an adrenaline-fueled warrior and an artistic dreamer who can come up with very creative solutions whenever Na-Yeli asks for help.
The exploration of the Enigmatic Object reveals many layers, each with their own atmospheric conditions, lifeforms, and difficulties, giving readers seven worlds to vicariously explore. The author provides beautifully evocative details as Na-Yeli flies, glides, walks, and swims on her way to completing her mission, and while the narrative tone is primarily factual, it nicely reflects the scientific focus of Na-Yeli’s primary personality.
The story offers a very narrow range of characters, as Na-Yeli rarely has the opportunity to interact with any alien in a truly relational way, and even when she discovers a traveling companion, the communication is restricted to nonverbal signals pertaining to survival rather than any discussion of their respective missions, backgrounds, and feelings. Still, this allows the novel to remain focused on the Enigmatic Object and Na-Yeli’s discoveries in a way that might otherwise be lost in dialogue and exposition.
The author does manage to smuggle in some information about Na-Yeli’s past through her dreams as she rests along the way, offering some ideas as to her hopes, dreams, and regrets as well as her backstory, and while some readers would prefer to know more about her life before the mission and what she’ll likely find if she survives and returns “home,” the author includes enough to keep the story balanced and the main character relatable.
This work could benefit from some editorial polish, as there were times when the wrong spelling or a missing word somewhat marred the reading experience, but the science deployed seemed strong and very effective, to where it’s quite possible the author knows and understands the concepts more than most readers.
Adventurous in a thoughtful, scientifically-complex way, this book will appeal to fans of hard science fiction and those who enjoy a futuristic tale of exploration full of conundrums to solve. The pacing gives readers plenty of time to analyze the various layers and understand Na-Yeli’s predicament, and the descriptions provide a clear, illuminative explanation of what she’s witnessing, capturing the unadorned facts and her own sense of wonder at the same time.
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