Recommendation: Sanctuary by Allen Steele

sanctuary_full_xl
illustrated by Gregory Manchess

Written in the form of logbook extracts, the story follows the experiences of the passengers onboard the Exodus Project Starship (EPSS) Lindbergh as colonists on a new world. The author utilises the perspectives of different crew members of the starship, primarily the Commanding Officer (CO), the Chief Engineer, a senior scientist, and a shuttle pilot. Through each subsequent entry, the author balances the initial triumph experienced by the crew and the increasing uneasiness when they encounter a mysterious phenomenon of which they are entirely unfamiliar with and unprepared for.

An excerpt from Tor.com,

10.26.2266 rel/0929 ST/le894/G. [Giovanni] Patini, shuttle pilot

Second survey mission to TC-e scrubbed. Orville control systems not responding to preflight checks. Mechanical difficulty of unknown nature.

Santos-Dumont has scrubbed its second sortie as well. Same reason: Wilbur unable to launch. Spoke to Jake [Moore, Wilbur shuttle pilot]; says the same thing happened to him during preflight checks. Cockpit comp screens went dark, manual controls refused to budge.

Weird.

[Log entries 895–911 lost.]

                                                                       

10.27.2266 rel/1136 ST/le912/Y. Greer, CO

Tonya and Aaron [Willig, Lindbergh astrobiologist] inform me that TC-e’s native civilization may be more advanced than previously believed. This could spell trouble.

Until now, it’s been thought that the inhabitants are at a pretechnological stage of development, with perhaps no more than an agrarian culture. This was the opinion of our science team after studying the coastal settlements on TC-e’s major continents while waiting for technicians on both ships to ascertain the causes for the shuttle breakdowns and effect repairs (ref. Doc. LR2713). However, further telescopic observations confirm the existence of large ocean-going sailcraft, with some appearing to be two- or three-mast catamarans. This is evidence that the “Cetans” (as Tonya calls them) have learned to harness wind power and build seafaring vessels. It is therefore possible that the Cetans may be engaged in fishing and trade, perhaps even at global distances.

The presence of a native civilisation also poses a potential threat to the passengers of the Lindbergh. Their initial assumptions were dismissive but upon stumbling onto the phenomenon that threatens their lives, they realise that their early assumptions may be unfounded.

This short story is highly recommended for fans of the sci-fi genre, and films such as Prometheus or The Martian.

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