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Review: Endurance – Elaine Burnes

Endurance - Elaine Burnes

Genre: Sci-Fi

Reviewer: Beáta

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About The Book

Winner—2023 GCLS Award for Science Fiction/Fantasy
Finalist—2023 GCLS Ann Bannon Popular Choice Award

“Imagine Star Trek Voyager, but done right” — nerds of a feather, flock together

What if you were stranded. On a spaceship. Four light years from Earth. With a hundred tourists. And you are the captain. Then things start to go wrong. Welcome aboard the Endurance. It’ll be the trip of a lifetime.

For five years, Captain Lyn Randall of the Endurance has ferried tourists around the solar system for Omara Tours. Now, as she takes in the rings of Saturn for the last time, she’s looking forward to indulging in simpler pleasures like flying antique airplanes over her childhood home in Montana.

The routine tour becomes anything but when a mysterious phenomenon flings Endurance and two other ships into the Rigil Kentaurus system, four light years from Earth. Stranded, with no way to get back.

Lyn’s first duty is to rescue survivors from the other ships before she faces the most daunting task of her life, much less her career. She has to control her fears and grief to lead an untested crew and panicked guests on a quest for a new home planet or risk a return to their solar system that could kill them all. Unfortunately, Lyn’s past with a clandestine military mission gone wrong doesn’t sit well with some guests and crew members, and they don’t quite trust her.

Diana Squires, rescued from another stranded vessel, grudgingly reveals her identity as the daughter of scientists who researched traversable wormholes. To complicate everything, Lyn develops an affection for Diana, something at odds with her responsibilities as captain and her unhealed grief over her own lost loved ones.

Feelings aside, suspicions aside, her own doubts about her ability to lead aside, Lyn has to fight to protect her passengers, her ship, and her heart.

The Review

December, 2178: The planets of the Solar system are aligning, and tourist ships go out on special tours to visit all of them. One of these ships is the Endurance under Captain Lyn Randall, who is planning for this to be her last tour before retiring. While just leaving Saturn, the ship experiences a mysterious anomaly that throws them across space to the Rigil Kentaurus (Alpha Centauri) system. Completely cut off from Earth, the people on board of the Endurance must find a way home – or a safe place to settle in the depths of space.

It’s a thinly veiled Star Trek Voyager fanfic. I am being completely objective here, the Amazon page literally lists nerds of a feather, flock together’s critique: “Imagine Star Trek Voyager, but done right”. This is also what got my interest, as I love Star Trek Voyager, I love the premise of a ship being lost in space, and I love the idea of doing this story with a lesbian romance involving the captain. Unfortunately, I didn’t love this book as much as I hoped I would.

The Star Trek connection is one of the reasons. Burnes did a good job changing the world her story is set in, so that it can completely stand on its own. I especially liked that the utopia aspect is much more stilted than in Star Trek, and the horrible things that happen before things get somewhat better is in the very recent past for the characters. This makes is feel more realistic and grounded than Voyager ever could hope to be. However, she didn’t manage to make her world feel different enough, so that at every turn, I could feel the spirit of Voyager lurking just beneath the surface. It was a bit distracting, and I definitely would have enjoyed this book more, had I not known the show.

As an adventure novel, this book didn’t really work for me. Yes, they explore a new system and deal with vital questions like “how to keep machines running without updates to the software”, but the suspense isn’t really there, nor are the spectacular discoveries.

As a romance novel, it didn’t work well for me either. Lyn is doing the same “I am the captain and should keep my distance” thing as all Star Trek captains do, and she and her love interest agree quickly to stay away from one another until they get home safe. This is not really accompanied by any kind of significant drama, no over-the-top pining or anything.

I also felt that many of the characters were underused. Lyn is the protagonist and only POV character, and the only people who get to really take part in the action are the members of her crew. What I would have found the most interesting in this story were exactly the interactions of the different people on the ship, and how they slowly come (or don’t come) to adapt to the thought of never getting back to Earth. As such, making the ship a cruiser for tourists instead of a quasi-military vessel like Voyager, was a brilliant move. I just wish that the book had gone more in-depth about it. 

All in all, this book to me has all the ingredients for being great. Unfortunately, since it didn’t commit enough to any of those, it never quite got there. The best way of enjoying this story is if you don’t know the show that inspired it.

The Reviewer

Beáta Fülöp is an aspiring filmmaker and writer. She identifies as aromantic and asexual, and has an autistic Special Interest in the representation of minorities. One day, she will use this knowledge in her own stories. Until then, she is happy to sit here and give her opinion on other people’s hard work.

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