Saturday, July 20, 2019

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe

[plenty of spoilers] Romy Silvers is all alone in a space ship heading towards Earth 2. Her only human companionship comes from messages sent from a psychologist on earth. However, it takes a long time for the messages to travel back and forth, so she spends a lot of time in her own thoughts. She spends a lot of time writing "fan fiction" for one of her favorite shows. She learns that a new ship has been sent after hers. It moves much faster and will catch up with her in a year. It will then dock, and together the ships will arrive on earth two. She is excited to be able to arrive and meet other people before she is too old. She starts to communicate with the captain of the new ship (J). As they become closer and closer, they can almost begin to carry out a normal conversation. She feels she has a strong bond with him and eagerly anticipates meeting him. In her mind, she portrays him as a character in one of her favorite shows. However, as the ship gets closer, she learns that there was a war on earth and a new regime came to power. Her old psychologist no longer communicates with her. However, the new regime begins communications and starts to send proposed efficiency improvements. It does feel a little bit odd that they they would go down to super micro-level improvements from such a great distance away. (If it is taking them a year to get feedback, why would they gradually move to slightly reduce shower times?)
The author does a brilliant job of unfolding the novel. I had a strong desire to know how she ended up all alone in a space ship. The details gradually came out as we learn about her and the history. She had not been entirely truthful in her communications with earth regarding what had happened. The ship had a large number of astronauts in stasis. Her parents were supposed to be caretakers for some time before alternating with another couple. However, her mother became pregnant with her, resulting in them staying primary caretakers for longer. Then the stasis chambers failed and all the astronauts ended up dying. Her mother had gone mad in the process, and also tried to kill embryos and even killed her husband before putting herself in stasis. Romy was haunted by these fears.
The ending of the novel seems to come out of nowhere. All of a sudden, she Romy realizes she has been had. The guy she had been communicating with had been carrying out an elaborate ruse and was really just trying to get there to kill her. His parents died on the ship and he held her responsible. If her mother had not removed her birth control, she would not have been there, and her parents would have done a better job taking care of the other astronauts. He blocked communications with earth, fabricated the wars on earth and kept carrying out different sets of lies. He kept putting on a show, even telling lies as he tried to carry out truth. He managed to kill Romy's mother before Romy killed her.
The psychology of J is baffling. How could he be so caught up in such an elaborate plan of revenge? What were his motives? How was he so clear to not be caught? And how did she manage to find out at the last minute after not having a clue earlier. (She happened to find out by seeing that earth communications were coming from his ship. He later explained that his ship was a relay for them. If she was so "in love" with him, wouldn't she have just trusted that explanation?) And wouldn't those planning the space mission realized the psychological challenges of leaving too small a group of people "alone" on the ship for a long period of time? The novel was so well written. It is a shame that it ended so poorly.

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