Noumenon by Marina J. Lostetter

Noumenon

With nods to Arthur C. Clarke’s Rama series, the real science of Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, a touch of Hugh Howey’s Wool, and told through echoes of Octavia Butler’s voice, this is a powerful tale of space travel, adventure, discovery, and humanity that unfolds through a series of generational vignettesIn 2088, humankind is at last ready to explore beyond Earth’s solar s...

Title:Noumenon
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0062497847
Number of Pages:432 pages

Noumenon Reviews

  • Nicky Drayden

    I got my hands on an ARC of Marina J. Lostetter’s Noumenon recently after working on an article about Artificial Intelligence with her. I had no idea I was in for such an expansive and mesmerizing adventure. Noumenon features a super-intelligent, sentient AI charged with overseeing the many needs of an interstellar convoy traveling to an anomalous star that appears to deny the laws of physics.

    The story is easily comparable to Neal Stephenson's Seveneves (which I loved, and fans of that book wil

    I got my hands on an ARC of Marina J. Lostetter’s Noumenon recently after working on an article about Artificial Intelligence with her. I had no idea I was in for such an expansive and mesmerizing adventure. Noumenon features a super-intelligent, sentient AI charged with overseeing the many needs of an interstellar convoy traveling to an anomalous star that appears to deny the laws of physics.

    The story is easily comparable to Neal Stephenson's Seveneves (which I loved, and fans of that book will love this one, too), but Noumenon felt more like Snow Crash at its heart...a more youthful, vibrant, emotionally charged story, where Hiro is a clone, and Y.T. is an A.I., and the raft is a convoy of ships in space, and the Metaverse is...well, I won't give that one away, but this novel starts strong and ends strong, and also manages to delve into some serious issues surrounding our humanity. Highly Recommended.

  • Eric

    Sometimes, a book or song or movie will come along at just the right time and strike a resounding chord.

    hit that sweet spot for me. On my blog, I’ve been thinking about generation ships. Suddenly, the stars aligned, and Harper Voyager gave me the opportunity to review

    . It was SF love at first read. Seriously, halfway through chapter one, I knew this book would be at least an eight out of ten for me unless things went terribly, terribly wrong. Marina J. Lostetter, however, kept

    Sometimes, a book or song or movie will come along at just the right time and strike a resounding chord.

    hit that sweet spot for me. On my blog, I’ve been thinking about generation ships. Suddenly, the stars aligned, and Harper Voyager gave me the opportunity to review

    . It was SF love at first read. Seriously, halfway through chapter one, I knew this book would be at least an eight out of ten for me unless things went terribly, terribly wrong. Marina J. Lostetter, however, kept her bearings and delivered on the promises made in chapter one. Fans of

    should check out this debut.

    In

    , a united Earth creates seven generation ship convoys for scientific missions. This book follows the final convoy, which is tasked to investigate a variable star a long, long way from Earth. Ms. Lostetter tells the tale of that journey in an impressive debut novel. Harper Voyager provided me an ARC in exchange for an honest review, and I came out the big winner in this deal.

    TL;DR: Entertaining mosaic novel filled with memorable characters will have you eagerly awaiting a sequel. Highly recommended.

    Comparisons to

    (

    ) are apt but also a bit reductive. Plot-wise, this book is relatively straight forward. A convoy of ships is built to travel to an object to investigate and learn. The plot is the journey, but it’s not the point. Exploring Big Questions about humanity confined to buildings flying through the void for centuries is the point. And if we are ever to actually attempt a generation ship project, these are questions that need to be asked. Covering subjective millennia on Earth and subjective centuries on the ship, the linear plot and mosaic structure reinforce the time span. As readers, we dip into significant moments along the way.

    Unlike

    , the characters in

    are not constant. Sort of. Since the ships’ journey lasts much longer than a single human lifetime, the characters that start the journey will not see the end. A significant amount of passengers’ entire lifespan take place between earth and the star. Therefore, if the reader wants to see the end of the journey, the author has to make a choice to have character lifetimes extended by some means or have different characters at the end of the novel from those at the beginning. Ms. Lostetter chose to use clones that stick with the name of their original but add a version number. There are excellent in-world explanations for this, and I loved that the author thought through these details. To care this much about world-building, the author shows her love for this story but runs a risk of world-building-itis. If you’re an SFF fan, I’m sure you’ve run across the author who is so much in love with his/her own world that everything else falls to the wayside. This is not the case with

    . World-building serves the story, not vice versa. While the characters are not the same chapter to chapter, they are at once familiar enough to maintain continuity of the plot but distinct enough to be their own individual. They are genetic clones but not cloned personalities.

    The setting for most of the novel is interior of the ships. I didn’t get a clear view of the ships interior. Setting wasn’t a strong point for this story, but it doesn’t suffer for it. There are multiple ships in each convoy, but I couldn’t tell you the difference between them outside of their function. One of the distinct parts of the ship that I remember is that each passenger cabin has a window thanks to tubes and mirrors. This little bit of world building was a speed bump because it seems unnecessarily complicated for the ship’s engineers and builders, but also due to their mode of travel, it serves no purpose. They travel through inky blackness, no stars even. This led me to pay attention of the practicality of the ships, and they don’t seem entirely practical. Why multiple ships? It isn’t a redundancy because each ship serves a purpose. One is a storage ship; one is a medical ship; one is the biome ship; and one is where most of the living is done. I like the idea of multiple ships as a way to maintain the sanity of the crew because it gives them someplace to go. But the impracticality of unattached shuttles between the ships was a hitch. None of my concerns affect the story; nor do they stop me from enjoying it.

    In a time where grimdark fantasy is popular and somehow considered realistic, this novel goes against the flow in that it is inherently optimistic. We don’t get much about Earth during the time of launch, but it’s utopian. Multiple societies come together to create an amazing project dedicated to advancing scientific knowledge. As others have said, utopian doesn’t mean without conflict. Humans are still human, and drama, conflict, and misunderstanding are part of the whole deal. There’s plenty of that here to make a compelling read.

    For a novel with only one character that makes it from start to finish, the strength of

    is the characters. Each part of the mosaic has to introduce, get the reader to connect to, and tell a story with new characters. Not an easy task, but add to the fact that each chapter has to add to and support the larger overall narrative.

    does this. I cared about these characters, and I wanted to see them succeed on their mission. Their journey – in world – is one of advancing knowledge, but in our world, their journey is a thought experiment of a closed civilization evolving over the years. Both the best and the worst of humanity is present, which makes for great stories. I loved this book.

    Highly recommended.

  • Sarah

    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. My honest thoughts and opinions are below.

    This book was absolutely amazing! I honestly wasn't expecting to like this book as much as o did. Normally, I don't like books that jump time or perspectives, but with this book, it keeps everything flowing and helps the surprise. Lostetter's writing is absolutely beautiful and so smooth that even reading the technical aspects were pleasant. I loved I.C.C. and how the author contributed such a strong emotional be

    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. My honest thoughts and opinions are below.

    This book was absolutely amazing! I honestly wasn't expecting to like this book as much as o did. Normally, I don't like books that jump time or perspectives, but with this book, it keeps everything flowing and helps the surprise. Lostetter's writing is absolutely beautiful and so smooth that even reading the technical aspects were pleasant. I loved I.C.C. and how the author contributed such a strong emotional being to a A.I. unit. All in all, o really have no cons about this book and would highly recommend it for an amazing futuristic sci-fi read!

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