Colonizing Trappist is the first volume in an exciting new sci-fi trilogy by Chris Shockowitz. The novel opens with Eugene Hamilton awakening aboard the ship Exo-1 after being asleep for eighty years as his ship traveled at half the speed of light to the Trappist system, where he will become the governor over five thousand people who plan to establish a colony there.
The events that follow are science fiction at its finest as the reader is quickly addicted to learning all the details that would be required to create a colony on a new planet in a distant star system. Hamilton and his small crew explore the various planets in the Trappist system to determine what would be the most livable place for the colony. They have only four months to make the decision before another ship will arrive with the colonists.
What the crew of Exo-1 finds is both reassuring and alarming. There are several viable locations to live in where the air and water are good, but there are places where dangerous plants might threaten them, they discover an amphibian race in the ocean that isn't happy about their presence, and worst of all, they Learn a former intelligent civilization in the system was destroyed in recent years by an unknown enemy. Hamilton and his team members explore the ruins of what they discover was the Marzon civilization, even finding video of the Marzon being attacked and annihilated. The Exo-1 crew also discover robotic guards left by whoever exterminated the Marzon, guards they are able to defeat, but which cause them to believe the Marzon's killers plan to return and possibly claim the Trappist system for themselves.
Despite these concerns, the colonists will soon arrive so a location is chosen. Then Hamilton and his fellow colonists set about creating a new version of human civilization in outer space. This section of the novel was fascinating and recalled for me the Pilgrims and other settlers in the New World in the seventeenth century, but Colonizing Trappist is set in the twenty-third century, so there are significant differences. I was most intrigued by how a government was established, how the community held elections and created a bill of rights, and how human nature revealed itself, resulting in the first crisis in the colony.
All these interesting details aside, I couldn't wait for the aliens to show up, and Shockowitz did an excellent job of building up the suspense until that happened. For me, the aliens were the most fascinating part of the novel, especially since not one but four different species end up being introduced in the novel, with a variety of surprising, humorous, and terrifying results.
Overall, Colonizing Trappist is a very impressive debut sci-fi novel. I was completely engaged in the story of Hamilton and his colonists. Space travel has always seemed a little frightening to me, but Shockowitz makes it feel feasible and believable without being overly technical or fantastic. Shockowitz obviously spent a great deal of time imagining and creating his fictional world; He makes writing science fiction look easy-a clear sign of the intricacy involved in his processes. A second read-and it's definitely worth one-made me really appreciate the novel's structure, overall themes, and progress of its plot.
I don't read a lot of science fiction novels, but this one has made me a fan. Beyond just a good story, it raises questions of human shortcomings and flaws, how adaptable humans are to new environments, the question of human intelligence and advancement, what would happen if we met a superior race to our own, the moral issues of trespassing on other species' territories, and how to negotiate and compromise with other species. Coexistence seems possible but also complicated in these pages. Such deep thinking about it as Shockowitz presents may help prepare us if we ever do meet intelligent life in outer space.
Whether you love HG Wells, EE Doc Smith, Octavia E. Butler, or Star Wars, Colonizing Trappist is definitely worth a read. Best of all, Shockowitz is working on the next two novels in the Outward Bound trilogy, and he is simultaneously writing another trilogy, Zalthuras, which is connected to this series but takes place from 2018-2150.