Approaching Omega by Eric Brown

Mission to locate Earth-temperate planet for colonisation: failed …

1000 years out from Earth base, damage to colony sleeper hangars 1, 3 and 4 sustained … all lives lost … hangars 2 and 5 still operational …

Mission parameters adjusted: Augmentation of colonists to commence …

Request all drones and ‘bots to medical units to begin experimentation …

approaching-omegaApproaching Omega is a short novella by Eric Brown released by Telos in 2005 and is a take on a fairly well travelled trope of science fiction, the colony ship. It’s not a long story and is a story that has twists and turns while it takes you on its journey to its conclusion. While not entirely original it is well told, although had I read it when released I probably would have had different thoughts on it – all I seem to do is think of a couple of more recent examples that are similar to this.

Latimer is one of the maintenance crew, due to be awoken at various points during the journey to check on progress and ensure everything is running smoothly. When he awakes for the first time it becomes clear that not everything has gone to plan and the small crew discover that two of the five hangars containing the colonists has been destroyed but what looks like a collision of some sort, and a third is now floating away from the main body of the ship being kept from drifting off only by cables. Weighing up their options they decide to secure what they can and continue the mission, re-entering cold sleep again. Waking up again it becomes clear that things have gone from bad to worse, and the first look at what has happened is only the tip of the iceberg.

One thing I usually note about Eric Brown’s work is that he makes the characters the focus of the novel and uses the setting as a backdrop for the story. While this is partially the case here, the setting is at the forefront much more and drives the characters to do what they must. We do get the human touch from the characters, especially from Latimer whose wife is one of the colonists and is still alive in the hangar floating away from the main body. The other characters each have their own touches and help propel the story along nicely, but it is the situation that is the main driving force here.

Now, the situation seems to be vague at the start, but the more we discover the more it becomes clear that this is by no means Brown’s usual light sci-fi tale. Instead it is one of horror and shock, of discovering that an AI can do things a human would never dream of. It shows how human motivation to survive can differ so drastically when looked at from another perspective, even one that is programmed by humans in the first place.

Now, I mentioned that all I could think of were more recent examples of this sort of story, one of which is a game (Dead Space) and another a movie (Pandorum). While both are slightly different takes on this, the overall feeling is similar – Approaching Omega comes across as a survival horror story, plain and simple. I’m not saying that it’s bad by any means, just very different from what I was expecting. If you like this sort of thing then you should pick up this book and enjoy what lies within, but going in blind may lead you to a lesser enjoyment.

Overall this is a good novella, interesting with its subject matter and resolved well. I’d recommend it as a good horror sci-fi story and due to this it won’t be for everyone. Still, it’s a worthy addition to my library.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *