What if John F. Kennedy survived? President Nixon, with the help of former president JFK, has just green-lit NASA’s first manned expedition to Mars. Aboard, Natalie York, a geologist who risks everything she loves for the chance to go to space; Phil Stone, former X-15 test pilot; and Ralph Gershon, a Vietnam War hero intent on being the first African American to reach another planet. Exploring mankind’s presence in the extra-terrestrial expanse.
I have to start this review by saying sorry, if at any point I write Voyager instead of Voyage during this review, it’s because I have Voyager on the brain and literally can’t stop myself from writing that final ‘y’. I’m not even joking, it’s like it’s automatic now. So yeah my apologies.
Voyage is one of those books that take a while to get into. I didn’t truly start enjoying it till nearly 200 pages in. But when I did finally get it, it was like one of those moments where you realise you are in love with a book and it just takes a while for your brain to catch it. It actually got to the point where I wanted to take my time and just enjoy the experience. I think we’re now at the point where this is my favourite book of the year.
Voyage is an alternate history, to be more specific it asks what might have happened to NASA if Kennedy survived the assassination attempt in 1963. In fact you could almost read Voyage as a sequel to 22/11/63 by Stephen King (I will admit I haven’t finished that book yet but I’m assuming it ends with Kennedy not dying). The result of Kennedy not dying is he encourages NASA to continue on after landing a man on the moon and send a mission to Mars.
The thing I love about this is that sending a crew to Mars isn’t easy, and Baxter makes it quite clear how not easy this is. And I don’t mean just the science and technological advancements that need to be made. I mean the whole politics and stuff that happens back on Earth. In fact I would say that the parts of the story which take place on Earth is more fascinating than the parts in space. Because you get to see all the behind the scenes details of what it’s like to work at NASA.
I love that Baxter went into the tiniest details of what would have changed because NASA went to Mars. Even even noted at one point how Gene Roddenberry was working on The Next Generation and decided to go in a whole new direction because of what was happening at NASA (hey any authors reading this, one sure fire way for me to love your book is to mention Star Trek, just saying).
But I think the best thing about this book is the main character. It is a female Geologist who joins NASA to become an astronaut. And this is important because it sort of blew my mind when I realised this book (and it only took my 95% of the book to realise this) is really about all the changes that had to happen as NASA for a female astronaut to become the first human on Mars.
I have read a lot of science-fiction and even now sci-fi is really a male dominated genre and the books are mostly about male protagonists and it was so refreshing to finally find a book about a female scientist. And not just that but it details all the misogyny that she had to overcome to be allowed on that mission. And it wasn’t even like she was put on the mission because she was a female, in fact at one point she is told she won’t be on it specifically because she is a female, but eventually through hard work she gets it and yeah. I liked that.
I want to point out this isn’t a spoiler, in fact you find out very early on that York is put on the mission. The book is just written in a very strange order (and this is one of the things I didn’t like about it), where the story from leaving earth to standing on mars is told at the same time as going from landing on the moon to setting out to Mars. It gets really confusing at some points especially because there are no true chapters which means the story feels like it jumps around quite a bit. It’s still enjoyable but you really need to pay attention. My other complaint about this book is the large number of characters and yet again that may be my fault rather than the books (I’m not good with names).
Basically if you like hard sci-fi read this book.