Review by Frank Plowright
The Orpheus space station hovers at the very edge of the universe, now the sole repository of life as the universe has decayed and died. Two thousand people are aboard, and a source of great frustration to security chief Deva Karrell is mandatory counselling sessions for administrative staff carried out with the artificial intelligence that keeps Orpheus running. She’s also impaired when keeping people safe by the frequent discovery of matters kept from her, not least that when people exposed to the void outside Orpheus claim to see something alien, and their minds can’t cope.
Ryan Cady blends psychological horror, mystery and SF action in a smart thriller. It’s about what’s out there, with the tension ramped up because if Orpheus is destroyed, humanity’s last gasp occurs with it. He introduces the cast and their circumstances efficiently, with Deva the main focus, and spreads the attention outward while considering the technical necessities required to maintain survival in such a dangerous environment. Only a protective shield prevents Orpheus and its inhabitants from instant death.
Living in such gloomy circumstances preys on every single Orpheus resident, and Andrea Mutti ensures the prevailing atmosphere is maintained. He uses enclosed, dark locations, and closes in on the people within them, illuminated by spooky electronic light. Features are vague, and backgrounds simple, but it generates exactly the right mood.
The eventual revelation of what’s going on is smart and interesting, raising an ethical debate about predestination and the worth of humanity surviving as a species. There’s some fudging with a subplot concerning insanity to perpetuate the mystery, but otherwise the enjoyment continues to a satisfying resolution. It leaves pretty well everything up in the air, so goodness knows what Cady and Mutti have planned for Volume 2.