Title: In the Blackness of Space by Robert Kuntz
Publisher: Harbourlight Books
In the Blackness of Space is a quasi-hard science fiction novel with a hefty sting in the tail. One should not enter the reading of this book thinking this is a straight up science fiction, as I made the mistake of doing. This is a christian fiction book masquerading as a science fiction novel. I accept that I probably should have been aware of this, and so I will confine my remarks largely to an obvious section. I will try to avoid spoilers as much as possible, which means largely ignoring the second half of the novel.
The main character in the novel (Grant) is a scientist who, as a result of years of childhood abuse, suffers from a wide range of what might be considered crippling phobias and insecurities, including agoraphobia. So naturally the scientist’s best friends drug him, kidnap him, and fire him off into space on a years-long voyage… because that’s what friends do, right?
No, that sounds like a horrible idea!
Grant is left to his own devices when – in a horrible accident – all of his fellow kidnappers die in an industrial accident due to a radiation leak. When he awakes, he has to undertake a series of tasks at the direction of a sentient computer system to survive. He is helped, and sometimes hindered, by a pair of dogs, who seem to be puppies, but strangely fall pregnant within a few months of going into space.
The novel tries to be a mix of The Martian, Alien, and a few other well-known science fiction works. While it feels like it hits all of the right notes, it feels like this territory has been covered before. The science is questionable at best, and there are serious plotholes. I really had no idea of the size of the spaceship the story takes place on – aside from some mentions of an ocean. And that is without mentioning the big reveal at the end. It just felt utterly contrived.
I was trying to think of what this reminded me of, and it felt like back in the 1990s when a bunch of Christian game developers took christianised versions of Doom and other games that looked, and at first glance felt like the real thing, until you start to look under the covers.
I am not a christian, and I guess this isn’t really aimed at me. But I think there is no reason why a book should not try to work as both a piece of christian fiction, as well as having mainstream legitimacy. It got preachy, and really quite annoying. Fortunately, for the most part I was able to skip over the Christiany mumbo jumbo, because I really didn’t need to read about it. Sadly, I felt like this was Christianity trying to be cool, and it really didn’t work for me. I would have been okay with christian characters, as long as they kept it to themselves, and didn’t start preaching to the reader.
The problem is that – at the end of the day – I don’t think this is going to appeal to any serious readers of science fiction, and the balance between the story and the actual underlying message is just too out of whack. I totally get that I’m probably not the intended audience, but I was still disappointed. I think for Christians who are looking for reinforcement of the idea that science and religion can co-exist… this might appeal.
I received a review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
In the blackness of space, no one can make you give a damn.