Discovery takes place in the near-future, as humanity is pushing out into the Solar System, has established major habitats in Earth orbit, on the Moon and on Mars, and has begun commercial mining operations in the Asteroid Belt. Zero-gee is a great equalizer for workers in space, where coordination and balance often trump physical strength. So, it’s not so great a stretch to imagine religious communities, including the Catholic Church, would find their niche in the Belt, with both men and women doing the sorts of things those communities have done throughout history. Occupying an important role at the center of this particular story is a society of women religious, the Order of Our Lady of the Rescue, colloquially known as the “Rescue Sisters,” who provide search and rescue services for the miners and transporters working the Belt.
A research scientist poring over space telescope observations of the Kuiper Belt, that nursery of comets at the edge of our planetary neighborhood, makes an astonishing discovery: an alien spacecraft is embedded in one of the icy asteroids and appears to have been so for some time. A private expedition is quickly cobbled together under tight secrecy with the goal of traveling to the asteroid and recovering part or all of the spacecraft and its contents. Three of the Rescue Sisters, Ann, Rita, and Thomas, are contracted to provide technical training and safety oversight for the mission, shepherding the composite crew of scientists, engineers, and “rockjack” Belters. Whipping this diverse collection of people into a cohesive team is challenging, but it all seems straightforward enough until they reach the site and discover that a dangerous secret lurks within the alien craft they thought was cold and dead.
They soon realize they’ve also brought a few secrets of their own along with them on this expedition—secrets that may prove to be lethal.
I have a bit of history with this story. Karina Fabian asked me for feedback on an early draft several years ago, which I provided. I heard nothing further about it, other than she was still working on the story and was searching for a publisher. I loved it then, and it’s even better now. It is both engaging and absorbing. It’s a great adventure tale, and can be enjoyed thoroughly on that level alone, but it’s also permeated with a depth and richness of faith that is organic to the story and doesn’t feel forced or artificial.
I also love that this is classic science fiction adventure with fun, memorable characters set in a plausible and optimistic future. What a concept. I am so over bleak dystopias.
The central characters are Catholic, and unabashedly so. If you prefer novels whose characters affect a veneer of religious faith but don’t actually believe it or live it as truth, I advise you to look elsewhere, though you will be poorer for doing so. This isn’t to say that Ms. Fabian has arrayed an ensemble of plaster space-saints here for us to adore. Quite the contrary. Everybody in this story is broken and imperfect in some way, and that’s the point. Even the enigmatic Sister Ann, who seems to dwell quite comfortably in the twilit land between spiritual and physical worlds, bears a hidden wound whose healing carries its own peril.
There’s an old saying that there are no atheists in foxholes, and I think it’s safe to say that there will also be few who strike out into the void to live and work on the ragged frontiers of interplanetary space. Frontiers have a way of organizing our priorities and revealing our limitations in uncomfortable detail.
Discovery is, at its heart, about what it means for human beings to voyage into a mysterious universe of unimaginable vastness, probe the impenetrable darkness within their own souls, and discover that they are not, and have never been, alone. It’s a journey worth taking.
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.
Discovery is available on Kindle from Amazon.com, and soon in hardcopy from Full Quiver Publishing. You can find Karina Fabian, and her many other works of science fiction and fantasy, at http://karinafabian.com/