he Bottom Line: A terrifying and fast-paced sci-fi thriller that imagines an unprecedented threat to Earth and humanity’s attempts to save itself.
From the outside, it seems that Salin, the 33-year-old mother of two and co-pilot of the spaceship Seven Oceans, is living in a dream. Her latest promotion has her next-in-line to the Captain. But in actuality, she’s filled with anxiety over hidden secrets from her past as well as her family and professional responsibilities.
When the Seven Oceans is sent to investigate a mysterious object near Pluto, Salin realizes the mission could last six months or more. Her children are already being raised by her sister most of the time. And while she loves flying in the unlimited expanse of space, she knows the lives of the 100-strong ship’s crew are in her hands.
Salin has good reason to worry. The object near Pluto, which scientists on Earth call Big Marble, is a perfectly spherical object 26-kilometers wide. Just recently, it was projected to reach Earth in 80 years. But the object appears to be growing and picking up speed, with its estimated time of arrival already cut in half. While debates within the scientific community continue, plans to detonate a fusion bomb are not far off.
Meanwhile, emotionally vulnerable Auria Sadler (who has an old-school job title of “radar operator”) appears to be growing more anxious by the moment. The presence of so many scientists tells her that the mission must be serious, and to help her deal with her father’s death, she’s under the care of a psychologist. But as the crew begin to vanish, the relationship between Salin and Auria will become far more important – and far stranger – than either can imagine.
Among the vast canon of sci-fi stories in which humanity is threatened by a seemingly unstoppable force, Symmetry uniquely blends scientific theory, fear of the unknown and myth. In the book’s first few chapters, time devoted to developing the book’s core cast of characters – including the moody Dr. Daniel Yipuro – pays dividends as the plot progresses. That’s especially true when the stakes for humanity itself are raised toward the book’s midpoint and the chips are down.
In terms of world-building, Symmetry maintains a classic sci-fi feel by omitting most of the politics, technologies and space-related private industries prevalent in today’s headlines. The story instead imagines a world where space travel is controlled by the United Nations. Written largely in short, terse sentences, Symmetry’s sentence-level prose is occasionally jarring. But what the book lacks in cinematic description is largely made up for in a fast-paced plot and fascinating scientific musings.