The Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan

The Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (44 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

“The Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allan is a science fiction novelette. In 2047, a first manned mission to Mars ended in tragedy. Thirty years later, a second expedition is preparing to launch. As housekeeper of the hotel where two of the astronauts will give their final press statements, Emily finds the mission intruding upon her thoughts more and more. Emily’s mother, Moolie, has a message to give her, but Moolie’s memories are fading. As the astronauts’ visit draws closer, the unearthing of a more personal history is about to alter Emily’s world forever.

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The world building was incredibly well done. I honestly wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a science fiction story that was set in a hotel of all places, but I was impressed with how real it felt beginning with the very first scene. From the mundane moments that happen when a housekeeper is cleaning hotel rooms to the excitement a whole country can feel when they’re about to send astronauts to colonize Mars, every single scene felt like it happened in real life.

There were so many characters in this story that I had trouble keeping track of all of them. While the protagonist was described in detail, the same couldn’t be said for many of the hotel’s visitors and other staff members. Since some of the supporting characters also happened to have similar names, I often mixed them up in my mind while I was reading. As much as I loved the premise, it was distracting to spend so much time trying to remember who was who.

I was a huge fan of Emily’s character development. She was a complex and intriguing woman who only grew more interesting as I got to know her better. There were a few conflicts going on in her life that she struggled to resolve while she was working at the hotel. I liked the fact that she persisted even when the things she wished she could change didn’t have any obvious or easy solutions. Seeing her change as a result of these experiences only increased my already-high opinion of her. It was nice to see such solid personal growth from her!

The Art of Space Travel should be read by anyone who has ever wondered what it might be like to live in a futuristic world where living on Mars was possible.

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