COMMANDER MARTIN Atkins of the Confederation Navy is grounded after an Earth orbit rescue attempt goes bad. As he’s sitting around, cooling his heels, he’s approached by a civilian entrepreneur about a secret mission to create a starship, and travel to Alpha Centauri. Who could say no to that? Certainly not a pilot and explorer like Atkins.
Edward Harlen and his sister have their own reasons for joining the project, but as the days get closer to launch, everyone begins to wonder about the super siblings’ motives. The lines are drawn when people start to die, but Edward and Martin are inexplicably pulled closer together. Both men say that they are willing to risk love for the good of humanity… but are they?
When I finished this book, I put it down, and did a dance—seriously—it was that awesome. My first impressions were that this novel had a Star Trek feel to it. It’s the twenty-second century, and humanity is just starting to explore space and the stars, but unlike in the world of Star Trek, major corporations are leading the way.
The novel is divided into five or so parts, which felt like episodes of a TV series. The plot played out almost as a mystery, with layers being peeled back after each “episode”. I was also impressed by the scientific discussion—most science fiction doesn’t give this level of attention to technical details. For example, oftentimes I can become irritated with the theory of paradoxes, but Ahsanuddin approached the matter frankly and concisely, and didn’t sacrifice the science for the story. That level of respect for the reader quickly soothed me of my normal reaction.
Besides the fantastic plot and worldbuilding, each character was unique, complex, and had a slew of motivations, which made them feel so real I could reach out and touch them. I labeled this work “bisexual”, because Martin, our Riker-esque character, is authentically bi, and even though we don’t see any girl parts in this novel, I didn’t want to mislabel him as gay and be responsible for bi-erasure. I can’t even express how thankful I am of authentic bisexual characters in gay fiction. Yes, they do exist. One of these days I wouldn’t be surprised if bisexual identities surpassed those of heterosexual or homosexual identities. The fact that this story is set in the future—I felt—payed that theory some credit.
This book was pretty much everything I wanted in a novel, or a Star Trek series, growing up. If I had seen works like this, I can only imagine how that would have helped my self-esteem and identity struggles. Reading this novel now is sort of bittersweet. On one hand I am so grateful I can recommend stories like these, and you can bet your bottom dollar I will be recommending Zenith for years to come, to all science fiction fans, everywhere. On the other hand, I am disappointed that we didn’t have works like these sooner. Recently I read an article on how much science fiction has been censored of gay characters throughout the years. What I wouldn’t have given to see characters like Riker, representing truer versions of themselves. I feel the loss for those past characters, and the loss for us by their absence.
Thank you, Martin. Thank you, Ahsanuddin—for your authenticity, and your message of hope for the future. To boldly go.
Ahsanuddin’s website: http://pactarcanum.com/
Buy the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Zenith-Interscission-Project-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00IXUF11C
This Review was originally posted to Queer SciFi: