Book Review: Wandering Star by Steven Anderson

I just finished Wandering Star by Steven Anderson. I read the audiobook, but it’s also available in print and eBook.

Geologist Ted Holloman is on the science team of an interstellar reunification project. As he hops from one planet to the next aboard the ship Wandering Star, he avoids an assassination attempt, discovers a new race of telepathic shape-shifters, and stops a war. But the real story in Wandering Star is Ted’s love for two women, linguist Hannah Weldon and chaplain Alice Vandermeer

Image of Wandering Star book jacket

Title: Wandering Star
Series: Reunification Series, Book 1
Author: Steven Anderson
Publisher: Theropod Publishing, 2017
Audiobook: 2019, narrated by TJ Clark
Reading time: 11h 40m

The crew fraternization policy prohibits Ted and Hannah’s onboard romance. That makes little difference to the impetuous Hannah, who devises a way for them to be together. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to conceal things from the Wandering Star’s omnipresent AI. Their superiors order an end to the romance, but Hannah is unable to deny her feelings. To stay away from Ted, she uses drugs to suppress her emotions—with catastrophic psychological side effects. Anderson convincingly presents her depression, resentment, and rage. As I read these passages, I could feel Hannah’s emotional pain.

Ted and Alice end up stranded, the only two humans on the planet Cleavis. Hannah’s fate is unknown, and I wanted her back in the story probably as much as Ted. While waiting for their rescue, Ted and Alice inevitably fall in love. The result is a love triangle that will keep you reading to the end.

Would it be weird if I said I fell for Hannah? I’ve never fallen for a fictitious character before. Her playfulness is infectious. She’s dangerous and edgy. She’s always ready to game the system but never quite clever enough to avoid trouble. When Ted fell for Alice I wanted to smack some sense into him. Generally, I avoid series books because they’re such a time-suck. But I’ll probably read the sequel just to get another dose of Hannah.

I don’t want to spoil the story for you, so I won’t say a thing about the Tarakana, except you will love these weird and wonderful creatures.

Many of the characters are involved in the sciences and apply their knowledge on a daily basis. When Ted is nearly assassinated, he wants to examine the assassin’s muddy boots to compare with soil samples. It’s a great forensics technique for revealing the assassin’s origin, don’t you think? This is the future I want to live in—a future where science is respected and deployed as casually as tying my shoes. Reading about characters who use science and engineering every day makes me feel a lot more normal.

The story seems designed to be read as an audiobook. The combination of Anderson’s lively dialog and narrator TJ Clark’s distinct and expressive voices brings these characters to life.

I can easily imagine this book adapted for screen or television. If you like Firefly and Star Trek: The Next Generation, Wandering Star will be an enjoyable read.

Wandering Star would’ve been a fine science fiction book if it were merely a space opera adventure. The memorable characters, real science, and love triangle make this an outstanding first novel.

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