The human race has sent the first generational colony ship, the Armenia, to the stars. On board this ship are 100 individuals, all of whom were chosen for the mission and are aware of how life will be: one where they live and die upon the ship, where breeding is strictly controlled to ensure that the rationing will last and that genetic diversity is always present. With information stored with it, the ship’s computer, there is nothing that can’t be known and there is constant surveillance of all.
August and Celeste are two of the first children born on the ship, closely related through blood and with interests that differ from the rest of the crew. While the crew continue with their lives August and Celeste meet at the abandoned tennis courts and dream of a world where only they exist. It is through these descriptions and their relationship that the seed is sown to forever change to future of the Armenia and its crew.
Journey Into Space is split into five sections, four large and one small epilogue-type. With the first focusing on August and Celeste and the remaining ones then following their descendants, we have a story that covers a long period in the life of the Armenia.
My first impression of Journey Into Space was that it was a very descriptive novel, one where you could feel yourself getting lost in the images it bought. This was very much to do with August and Celeste and the way their exchanges and daydream-like sections separated them from the reality of life on board a never-changing colony ship. Their relationship – two blood relatives of the same age – is not unusual in one sense, but because of the situation they are in they become ever closer which leads to the inevitable sexual attraction. This whole build up is done effectively, but when it gets to the pay off we switch to the next part of the story, that of their son, Orphan.
It is this switch, and the way in which Toby Litt passes years in sentences, that really affected the flow of the story and, ultimately, my enjoyment. While Journey Into Space isn’t a huge book by any means (just over 240 pages), it covers a lot of things and more than one change in the society on board the Armenia. While this in itself isn’t a bad thing, it never feels like we get fully to grips with each section and the characters we follow. Speaking of the characters, Litt is more than capable of creating some very interesting ones, although this is more to do with the effect on society they have rather than being genuinely enjoyable to read.
Despite how much I wanted to enjoy this book, I just couldn’t settle into it enough – it felt much like a half told story in respect to the characters. Looking at the complete novel only draws me to one conclusion – this is an examination of what could happen on a colony ship rather than a story about the journey, which is a real shame because Toby Litt shows so many times throughout this novel just how good a writer he is.