The Last Astronaut is a rollercoaster of emotions, flying through excitement, wonder, and sheer terror with the turn of a page. This is first contact fiction as it should be, filled with the doubts of mankind who thought we knew everything, only to discover we’re as insignificant as a spec of dust. By mixing the hard science, first contact, and horror genres, Wellington has created an incredibly compelling look at a being too epic and terrifying to fully comprehend.
The gradual progression of the novel is key in its epic ability to draw you into the narrative. Wellington has mastered the effect of switching between characters while sprinkling in a few after-the-fact narrative moments that leave you compelled to figure out how the characters made it to a survivable future. What starts as a simple journey to a perceived alien craft becomes a marvel of biology and an examination of the limitations of humanity’s perception of life. It’s breathtaking to watch these characters slowly uncover what they’ve found, and terrifying once you realize the endgame.
The titular character is a fascinating character study. Sally Jansen is the most well-known astronaut on Earth for her part in a Mars mission that ended in disaster. She begins this new journey mired in self-doubt, convinced she doesn’t deserve to live. Every step of the way, she only considers saving those who are lost, often at the detriment to her living crew and the mission. Her entire life has been in pursuit of moving beyond human life to discover the beyond and, by the end of the book, it’s astounding what she becomes.
Without giving any spoilers, the conclusion of the book is truly breathtaking. It’s infused with fear until the barriers of understanding are broken down to reveal an extremely complex conversation. Expect to find deep introspection about our place within this vast and unknowable universe.
Overall, The Last Astronaut is impossible to put down. Prepare to journey along with these flawed yet brilliant characters as the travel through the darkness, attempting to discover the light.
NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.