Book Review: We Have Always Been Here


Lena Nguyen

Rating: 4 out of 5.

published: 6th July 2021
spoilers? no

Goodreads

This psychological sci-fi thriller from a debut author follows one doctor who must discover the source of her crew’s madness… or risk succumbing to it herself.

Misanthropic psychologist Dr. Grace Park is placed on the Deucalion, a survey ship headed to an icy planet in an unexplored galaxy. Her purpose is to observe the thirteen human crew members aboard the ship–all specialists in their own fields–as they assess the colonization potential of the planet, Eos. But frictions develop as Park befriends the androids of the ship, preferring their company over the baffling complexity of humans, while the rest of the crew treats them with suspicion and even outright hostility.

Shortly after landing, the crew finds themselves trapped on the ship by a radiation storm, with no means of communication or escape until it passes–and that’s when things begin to fall apart. Park’s patients are falling prey to waking nightmares of helpless, tongueless insanity. The androids are behaving strangely. There are no windows aboard the ship. Paranoia is closing in, and soon Park is forced to confront the fact that nothing–neither her crew, nor their mission, nor the mysterious Eos itself–is as it seems.

Galley provided by publisher

We Have Always Been Here is a claustrophobic locked-spaceship mystery, one that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time you’re reading it. It’s a slowburner, but in a way that hooks you from the start. Park doesn’t know how things tie together, neither do you, and with everything growing eerier and eerier you won’t want to wait to find out what’s going on.

The book takes place almost entirely on a spaceship, come to explore a newly discovered planet, for reasons unknown (for Park and the reader, at least). But then odd things start to happen, androids learning swear words, human crew reporting concurrent nightmares, and being placed in stasis, with no real reason why, and Park is the only one in the dark about it all.

What this book does so well is involve you in the mystery through Park. It’s not that Park is an unreliable narrator, but she doesn’t have most of the information the rest of the crew do, and the POV never expands beyond what she knows (albeit with hints as to more, with intervening transcripts of videos). And that’s where it works so well for me. I’m someone who doesn’t like having more POVs or omniscient POVs when it comes to mysteries. I need to know as much as the protagonist does and nothing else. So this book was great in that.

It’s also very good at building that tension, as Park starts to realise that maybe no one on the ship is safe, and as strange things happen, like the ship expanding into space there shouldn’t be. It’s very atmospheric in that sense, and you, like Park, are taken where the narrative wants you to go, and driven to suspect who it wants you to suspect. Okay, so in a way, the person behind it wasn’t that much of a surprise (you’ll see why if you read), but it was about the journey there, that building of tension and then the sudden release.

And, honestly, I have nothing bad to say about this book. I enjoyed reading it a lot. Yeah, it was a slow starter, but when it got going, I read the remaining two thirds or so in one sitting. It’s a book that you don’t realise it has its hooks into you until it does and you can’t stop reading.

Which, in all, makes it the best sort of book.

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