Sunday, 10 March 2013
Flight 404 by Simon Petrie
Flight 404 by Simon Petrie is a science fictional novella set in the mid-distant future with interplanetary travel possible but not as common and easy as an intercontinental flight now.
The main character, Charmain, is piloting a small ship, one of many sent to investigate and search for the remains of a large, missing passenger liner. The main action of the plot deals with the search for the liner, both Charmain's and others' and the mystery surrounding its disappearance.
We are also treated to a lot of Charmain's backstory. It turns out that Charmain has more of a personal stake in the missing liner than she realised at the outset. And furthermore, her life as a trans person in a conservative society (before she left to become a pilot) wasn't exactly a barrel of laughs. The backstory elements blend well with the main story, particularly since the Epsilon Eridani system where the missing liner is thought to be, contains the planet of her birth.
I enjoyed both the story and the physics in Flight 404. My long-time followers will probably be aware that scientific plausibility is very important to me. There were no gaffes, which made me happy and which is just as well since Petrie works, when not writing speculative fiction, in computational quantum chemistry. It was also nice to see non-trivial sociological issues — Charmain's gender identity — tackled in a hard science fictional setting. (I've seen Bujold do similar, but I don't think it's otherwise very common.)
In my edition of Flight 404 (purchased as a standalone novella from the publisher), there was also a bonus (reprint) story, "Broadwings", about a family living on Titan and the difficulties of doing so. Also enjoyable.
Flight 404 was an excellent read and I highly recommend it to all fans of science fiction. I will definitely be searching out more of Petrie's work in the future.
4.5 / 5 stars
First published: September 2012
Format read: ePub on my iThings and also Kobo (yay lack of DRM)
Source: Purchased from publisher
Challenges: Australian Science Fiction Reading Challenge