Audiobook Review: The Last Astronaut by David Wellington
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Horror
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Hachette Audio (July 23, 2019)
Length: 12 hrs and 47 mins
Narrator: Megan Tusing
For years there has been a moratorium on manned space flight, and Sally Jensen can’t help but feel she’s responsible, after a decision of hers led to the death of crew mate on her last mission. It didn’t matter that her quick thinking also saved lives, the space programs of the world decided that it was too great a risk. But now, a mysterious object has been sighted entering our solar system, slowing makings its way towards Earth. No one knows what it is or what it wants, but everyone wants to find out whether it will be a threat to the planet. Scrambling to put together a team to investigate, NASA seeks out the now retired Jensen because no other astronaut has the wealth of knowledge and experience that she does.
But NASA isn’t the only ones interested in what might be humanity’s first alien contact. KSpace, a private sector aerospace company, also wants in on the action. This means that Jensen only has mere months to get ready for the mission of a lifetime, making the most out of her limited resources and an inexperienced crew that she hardly knows. Everyone has also heard about the ignominious way her career ended, so she’s determined to prove herself and not let any harm come to her people. Unfortunately for her though, the aliens didn’t get the memo. Immediately upon reaching the mysterious object, Jensen and her team realize just how unprepared they all were to handle what they find inside.
For readers who love movies like Alien or The Thing, The Last Astronaut will likely scratch a particular itch. David Wellington is also a well-known horror writer, so it’s not surprising that after a while the story takes a sudden and drastic turn down this path. If you’re seeking a more traditional tale of alien first contact, this book might not be for you, but on the other hand, readers looking for a skin-crawling, claustrophobic and eerie journey through some psychologically dark and disturbing places will probably want to check this one out. Stepping into unknown territory, the characters will encounter sights both strange and nightmarish, some of which have clear signs of influence from sci-fi horror cinema.
I also enjoyed the way this story was structured, with Wellington going for a rather cheeky approach to its presentation. Namely, he has injected himself into the book, playing the role of dutiful chronicler writing about Jensen’s mission as if it has actually happened, hence why we sometimes get the occasional “interruption” from a few of the characters themselves, wishing to expand upon something in the writing or to clarify a point. It was a little distracting at first (especially when you’re doing this book in audio) and admittedly I think these brief snippets took a bit away from the horror tone and atmosphere. However, after a while I grew used to them, and even started to appreciate the levity they added.
For all the efforts put into developing this story and the characters though, ultimately this was a pretty superficial novel. That said, I wouldn’t say I was too disappointed, considering how everything I got out of it was in line with my expectations. Still, I wouldn’t have minded seeing more character development, getting more a feeling that their lives and motivations mattered. Like a TV movie, The Last Astronaut delivered the entertainment and thrills, which was great because it was what I wanted, but there was also potential for it to be so much more.
Bottom line, I think The Last Astronaut just missed its mark to be truly great, but it was still a very compulsive read which employed some unique narrative devices and interesting ideas. The overall atmosphere was delicious, and I found parts of quite immersive and at times downright terrifying. Nothing too earthshattering, but it’s a good choice if you’re lookina sci-fi novel with a strong undercurrent of macabre horror.
Audiobook Comments: Smoothly narrated by Megan Tusing, the audiobook of The Last Astronaut was pretty awesome to listen to, especially with all the creative sound effects. At times, some of these were a little intrusive, breaking my concentration, but in general they made for an immersive audio experience.