This book was such a pleasant surprise. I am back after a long hiatus from reading science fiction- just in time for SciFi Month - and this was a great way to get started. At any rate, this one is its own thing and has a neat premise- humanity has discovered the stars and is exploring, but every civilization found is dead. Ruins but no bodies- just missing societies and occasionally caches of data.
But what happened? Nobody knows but Scout and his brother (and Pumpkin, their cat) are seekers after this knowledge, and they have a solitary existence. Their own ship and a loss that each deals with in their own way. This is a debut novel and while in some ways it felt like one, it also got more assured as it progressed, and there were some amazing emotional beats. But I'll get to that in just a moment. There is trans rep here too, and it's very much in the background, as it should be- not a big deal, just a realization occasionally.
They discover a cache on an abandoned world, and one cache leads to maybe another- and something else. Could there be an answer to the galaxy- wide doom that has destroyed, to this point, every other civilization they encounter? But there is a personal discovery too- Scout finds a holograph personal journal that belonged to one of the dead others- and this becomes the heart of the story.
This is that emotional beat I was referencing. I like the premise here- archaeologist in space, data caches- a spacesuited cat- the journal though. I won't lie, I shed a tear towards the end. This is where I'm so impressed at how a debut author could make this story be, at the same time, fun and yet heartfelt. They also run afoul of a team from the big bad villainous company- who are out to retrieve the caches for- surprise- profit. Was I expecting to like the leader of that team the way I did by the end? That would be a no!
I have to ask, though- why take the cat on the dangerous missions???