I have read two previous books by Michael Siemsen, A Warm Place to Call Home and The Many Lives of Samuel Beauchamp, both part of his (a demon's story) trilogy and have recommended them several times, they are both fantastic reads. I've been eagerly awaiting the third book in the series but while I have to carry on looking forward to that one, I was immediately tempted by this new book but also intrigued - the previous books are both urban fantasies, despite the presence of demons they are set in our world, with its familiar surroundings. Exigency however, is a science fiction, set mostly on an alien planet in the future. Would I enjoy this different style as much?
The book opens with the crew on board a space station orbiting an Earth like planet. They are on a no return mission from Earth - they embarked on the mission knowing they would never go home and after travelling nineteen years to reach their destination are now in their eighth year of orbit. This immediately creates an interesting dynamic between the characters, they are colleagues but living under such conditions and away from the rest of the world, for the rest of their lives, means they have also become like a family. Naturally there are conflicts to be resolved and relationships are formed. The principal character, Minnie is in a relatively new relationship with Aether but this is awkward as Aether was previously the wife of mission commander, John. As the story progresses it is the changing relationship between these three characters that forms a large and important part of the story. The rest of the crew however, are still well-rounded and interesting in their own right, I felt this was a novel that could have worked equally well as a different story had it concentrated more on the secondary characters.
Exigency is, as I said, science-fiction and so naturally there is the advanced technology you'd expect on board a spacecraft of the future and it's done very well. The tech is beyond what we have currently yet still completely believable. I particularly liked the references to what people on Earth are doing with the technology, it isn't just available to those in space, mankind as a whole are using and benefiting from it. The story at this point was involving enough that I'd have been happy if it was solely based on the craft. However, a sudden catastrophe means the crew are forced to evacuate to the planet they have been studying. This planet, Epsilon C is divided into two hemispheres, one inhabited by the more advanced Threck, the other by the savage and primitive Hynka.
What follows is an exciting and tense tale of adaptation and survival. Both the humans and aliens are multidimensional characters who make surprising, often seemingly irrational decisions and as the reader I found my emotions were pulled one way, then another. The planet too is a completely believable yet still strange, different and often dangerous world.
I'm happy then, to say that the answer to my question about whether I'd enjoy this sci-fi novel as much as the previous books by this author is a resounding yes. Exigency is one of the most enjoyable books I've read this year, it's an easy cliché but I genuinely couldn't put it down. It treads a difficult line between creating a world that is alien both in term of its inhabitants and the technology available and one that is still believable and relatable, and it does so with great skill. I cared about the characters, loved the twists and can easily imagine further stories set in this compelling world. I will certainly be reading more by Michael Siemsen very soon.
Exigency is published by Fantome Publishing.