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Nucleation

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We are live, we are live, we are live . . . Helen Vectorovich holds the unique distinction of failing at first contact - and she did it in both virtual reality and outer space. Only the most elite teams of operators and navigators get to pilot in remote space-mining operations. And no one was better than Helen and her navigator. Together they secured a multibillion contract We are live, we are live, we are live . . . Helen Vectorovich holds the unique distinction of failing at first contact - and she did it in both virtual reality and outer space. Only the most elite teams of operators and navigators get to pilot in remote space-mining operations. And no one was better than Helen and her navigator. Together they secured a multibillion contract for establishing an interstellar gate to a distant star. But during a routine mission, what should have been an easy success turned deadly. Helen, grounded in a desk job, has overeager junior pilots jockeying to take her place, jealous corporate rivals, and nasty rumors blaming her for the botched mission. Meanwhile, Helen’s new discovery in space - the Scale - seems to be . . . evolving. When someone - or something - wants to terminate her project, Helen must race to find out why before it is far too late.


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We are live, we are live, we are live . . . Helen Vectorovich holds the unique distinction of failing at first contact - and she did it in both virtual reality and outer space. Only the most elite teams of operators and navigators get to pilot in remote space-mining operations. And no one was better than Helen and her navigator. Together they secured a multibillion contract We are live, we are live, we are live . . . Helen Vectorovich holds the unique distinction of failing at first contact - and she did it in both virtual reality and outer space. Only the most elite teams of operators and navigators get to pilot in remote space-mining operations. And no one was better than Helen and her navigator. Together they secured a multibillion contract for establishing an interstellar gate to a distant star. But during a routine mission, what should have been an easy success turned deadly. Helen, grounded in a desk job, has overeager junior pilots jockeying to take her place, jealous corporate rivals, and nasty rumors blaming her for the botched mission. Meanwhile, Helen’s new discovery in space - the Scale - seems to be . . . evolving. When someone - or something - wants to terminate her project, Helen must race to find out why before it is far too late.

30 review for Nucleation

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bandit

    I was in a mood for an exciting science fiction adventure. I’d have probably settled for a somewhat entertaining one. But this book…let’s just say if it were a knife, it wouldn’t have cut through warm butter. I mean, I might have had more exciting time watching water boil than I did reading this book. Definitely have had more exciting time watching the cloud amble through the sky. Or just staring at the ceiling. In fact, the main characteristic of this book is its constant consistent lack of any I was in a mood for an exciting science fiction adventure. I’d have probably settled for a somewhat entertaining one. But this book…let’s just say if it were a knife, it wouldn’t have cut through warm butter. I mean, I might have had more exciting time watching water boil than I did reading this book. Definitely have had more exciting time watching the cloud amble through the sky. Or just staring at the ceiling. In fact, the main characteristic of this book is its constant consistent lack of any excitement whatsoever. It doesn’t sound right, not when you read the description, not even when you go by individual sentences or paragraphs, but the sum total is torpidly tedious, like someone deliberately washed all the color and joy and fun out of it. Am I being too tough on this book? I don’t think so, I really don’t. It took a large percentage of my day to get through and at no time did it make it worth it. Not once. In fact, the very first chapter was so bland that had I not been such a freaking completist, this would have definitely been put aside and forgotten. But no, I plowed through. Lured in by a promise of a first contact story, which also…surprise, surprise…had got to be the least exciting one of those. There’s tons of tech jargon, meticulous procedural descriptions, loads (way too much) corporate espionage, uncompelling attempts at intrigue and suspense and also…zero excitement, zero fun, zero dynamism, zero wow factor and, notably, zero character development, like not at all, there are just there going through paces but displaying almost no personalities. It’s all so freaking mechanical somehow, technically faultless and strikingly unengaging and lackluster. It’s almost odd in a way, until the author’s bio tells you about her experience as a video game creator. Now I know video games these days are actually supposed to be very advance and indeed engaging, but it really isn’t for me and neither was this book in much the same way. Good graphics, but lifelike at best. If you’re into tech driven video game like science fiction, it might work for you. I wish I had nicer things to say about this book, since I am its first reviewer here on Goodreads. Sure, it has three high ratings, but no one has thought to say a single word about it before me and mine aren’t the most flattering, but tried as I might with this book, it turned out to be compete irredeemable waste of my time. So maybe my review can help someone save theirs. Thank Netgalley.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    I found this gripping, a well-plotted nearish-future mystery in which the SF setting is integral. Not your usual space opera, though large portions take place in space. Not your usual cyberpunk either, exactly. I mean, there's an evil corporation, but it's not the one the protagonist works for (that corporation is just kind of big and dumb but on the whole doing the right-ish thing, like real corporations, in my experience). And there's quite a bit of time spent, not in virtual reality, but embo I found this gripping, a well-plotted nearish-future mystery in which the SF setting is integral. Not your usual space opera, though large portions take place in space. Not your usual cyberpunk either, exactly. I mean, there's an evil corporation, but it's not the one the protagonist works for (that corporation is just kind of big and dumb but on the whole doing the right-ish thing, like real corporations, in my experience). And there's quite a bit of time spent, not in virtual reality, but embodied in remote robots using quantum entanglement, which was cool, even if I didn't completely buy every aspect of it all the time. At one point, there's only a single channel to use to the remote location, so the other characters are unable to communicate with the operator. Because her consciousness is so totally embodied in the remote that speaking to her through headphones wouldn't work; she wouldn't be able to hear them. That, to me, was implausible, though generally I found it easy to suspend my disbelief. There was a little bit of "your consciousness is so involved in the technological situation that a glitch in the tech can be dangerous to your brain," which I usually find hard to swallow, but here it was sold better than usual. There are two mysteries. One is who the local bad actors are and what their deal is, and the other is: what, exactly, did the protagonist meet out there in space in the first chapter? Both of these mysteries progress through gradual revelation. I have to say, as an experienced consumer of fiction I found the foreshadowing a bit obvious, and was well ahead of the protagonist when it came to figuring out what was going on, particularly with the Earth-based mystery. But that's tricky to avoid, and I didn't feel it was done badly. The writing mechanics are generally good, except that the author has a terrible comma-splicing habit and a tendency to hyphenate things she shouldn't, and uses all-caps instead of italics for emphasis. There are occasional errors of reference (pronouns not referring to what they should refer to, dangling modifiers). The pre-release version I saw from Netgalley also featured quite a few words dropped out of sentences (or left in after editing), some mispunctuated dialog, and some misplaced or missing apostrophes, but hopefully those will be fixed by publication. The quantity of all of these is not overwhelming, and a thorough edit would soon have it in good shape. The characters are not nearly as hopeless, aimless, or alienated as is often the case with SF set in the relatively near future; the protagonist has a strong personal reason (eventually, more than one) to get to the bottom of the mystery, and it provides good direction and momentum to the plot. Overall, a very decent SF suspense story, with a fresh premise well executed. I would read a sequel, and I'll look for more from this author.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kara Babcock

    When I learned after finishing this book that Kimberly Unger is a video game designer, much more about this book began to make sense. Nucleation is a science-fiction novel that wants to wow you with its video game–like aesthetic—this is a novel that craves the label of cinematic for its descriptions of how its protagonist virtually manipulates robots in another star system in high-stakes, high-pressure situations. Nevertheless, even if such moments capture your attention (I’m not sure, for me, t When I learned after finishing this book that Kimberly Unger is a video game designer, much more about this book began to make sense. Nucleation is a science-fiction novel that wants to wow you with its video game–like aesthetic—this is a novel that craves the label of cinematic for its descriptions of how its protagonist virtually manipulates robots in another star system in high-stakes, high-pressure situations. Nevertheless, even if such moments capture your attention (I’m not sure, for me, that they did), they do very little to hide this story’s paucity of plot or character development. I got this for free from NetGalley and Tachyon Publications, but that isn’t going to stop me from being brutally honest here. Nucleation is a snooze-fest. We open in space. Helen is virtually manipulating a robot in another star system from the comfort of her job back here on Earth. She and her partner run into a problem, and Unger unfolds what should be a nail-biting scene of intense action … except she holds it for too long before pulling us out and giving us enough exposition to understand what’s going on. This opening chapter drags on past its expiry date, establishing what becomes a theme throughout the book. Indeed, we’re a quarter of the way through the book before we’ve even moved past the inciting force, and well over halfway through before the main conflict really picks up steam. The urgency Unger wants us to feel when Helen is in her coffin, doing her virtual OP stuff, is nowhere within the scenes outside the coffin. With that being said, this next critique might seem contradictory: this book is way too focused on its main plot. Seriously, though, the cast of characters here is slim, the sets are like something from a budget cable TV show, and the scenes are so restricted in scope I started to chafe. I think we get like … two parts of the book that take place outside of Helen’s work—a wake at a bar, and then later on in a hospital. Otherwise, all the scenes (not counting the parts in space, obvs) take place on the Far Reaches campus. Helen barely interacts with anyone outside of her team—and yes, Unger handwaves this because Helen is “sequestered” along with the rest of her team, fine. But even her interactions with other members of her team don’t work for me. Pretty much the only downtime we get are meals that actually serve as a chance for some exposition. Meanwhile, Helen herself seems to have a single mood (“damn you all, I’m just trying to do my job while you’ve got one arm tied behind my back!”) without much range. She’s got depth but it’s like … not used. She gets stuck in that emotional feedback loop (probably because we don’t get to see her breathe, as discussed above), so focused on this single plot that takes too long to develop anyway. I wasn’t interested. I didn’t care about her beyond a base level of empathy. This is all so unfortunate, because the science fictional premise of this story has legs! Tiny robot swarms in another system, building jump gates and possibly making first contact with alien robot swarms? Yes, sign me up for this adventure! Wait, you’re going to make me read repetitive chapter and repetitive chapter without really advancing the plot or telling me more until the very end of the book, in the hope that hey, I’ll stick around for book 2? Eject. Eject. Eject. Originally posted on Kara.Reviews, where you can easily browse all my reviews and subscribe to my newsletter.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Teague

    Kimberly Unger's Nucleation is a tale that follows Helen Vectorovich’s perspective (told from the third person perspective) of the Line Drive project, with building an interstellar gate as it’s goal. Helen is the top operator for the parent company of the Line Drive project and her job is to remotely operate the main construction vessel nicknamed the Golf Ball from several lightyears away. On the Golf Ball’s maiden voyage, the team experiences “feedback” which kills one of the Line Drive team me Kimberly Unger's Nucleation is a tale that follows Helen Vectorovich’s perspective (told from the third person perspective) of the Line Drive project, with building an interstellar gate as it’s goal. Helen is the top operator for the parent company of the Line Drive project and her job is to remotely operate the main construction vessel nicknamed the Golf Ball from several lightyears away. On the Golf Ball’s maiden voyage, the team experiences “feedback” which kills one of the Line Drive team members. The rest of the story follows Helen’s attempt in uncovering what caused the feedback and how it could harm team members several lightyears away while also trying to shed the blame for the mission failure. Despite some flaws, I really enjoyed this book. It kind of had a cyberpunk feel without the major cyberpunk themes. For example, the operators remotely control equipment from a “coffin” over a “quantum entanglement” feed and I guess you could consider Helen “hard-boiled”, yet there is no mentioned social order or corporate elite or other themes that you would typically associate with cyberpunk. I really enjoyed some of the unique ideas explored throughout this novel, such as literal golf ball sized spaceships and all space exploration is done remotely. The plot was interesting as well, with Helen trying to accomplish three major tasks: Find out how her teammate could be killed by noise over the quantum entanglement feed several lightyears away. Find out the source of the noise on the entanglement feed. Clear her name of the stigma that comes with piloting a failed mission. As much as I liked this book, there were some major flaws that I can’t leave unaddressed. The whole premise of the novel relies on the “quantum entanglement” principle, which is how operators interact with their equipment and how the noise was introduced that killed Hellen’s teammate. Quantum entanglement was not explored or explained nearly enough. There were several times that I couldn’t understand what was happening because I didn’t understand the general boundaries of what quantum entanglement can and cannot do. I also thought that the ending was left a little too unfinished. I understand wanting to leave it open for the next installment of the series, but it would be nice for a little more closure on some of the plots. Aside from the points listed above, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to any fan of cyberpunk mixed with a little space opera.

  5. 5 out of 5

    WorldconReader

    Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher, Tachyon Publications, for kindly providing a review copy of this book. "Nucleation" by Kimberly Unger is an exciting high tech scifi thriller that is nicely reminiscent of a Michael Crichton novel. "Nucleation" was both easy to read and hard to put down. Some of the hard core scifi themes that help make the book exciting include space development via quantum entangled instant communication, nanobots, and alien contact. I look forward to reading more Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher, Tachyon Publications, for kindly providing a review copy of this book. "Nucleation" by Kimberly Unger is an exciting high tech scifi thriller that is nicely reminiscent of a Michael Crichton novel. "Nucleation" was both easy to read and hard to put down. Some of the hard core scifi themes that help make the book exciting include space development via quantum entangled instant communication, nanobots, and alien contact. I look forward to reading more scifi by Kimberly and recommend this book to people who like hard core scifi.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lashawn

    I picked up Nucleation expecting a standard space opera. What I got was a thriller that kept me occupied for days. Read the rest of the review at Lightspeed Magazine: https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/no... I picked up Nucleation expecting a standard space opera. What I got was a thriller that kept me occupied for days. Read the rest of the review at Lightspeed Magazine: https://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/no...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Arbys Mom

    This is a wonderful romp with nanobots (called eenies) and espionage and murder and lots of easy to understand but very interesting science. It’s got to be book 1 of a series because it ends well but just begs for a sequel, which I’m very much looking forward to.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    A pretty good scifi story. It won't be for everyone due to the amount of technical jargon and the lack of empathy for the characters since there's little development and it's not a first-person narrative. However, the story shows the author's imagination. I stayed mostly engaged partly because there's some cool tech and some mystery along the way. I look forward to her next work. Thanks to Tachyon for the ARC for review!! A pretty good scifi story. It won't be for everyone due to the amount of technical jargon and the lack of empathy for the characters since there's little development and it's not a first-person narrative. However, the story shows the author's imagination. I stayed mostly engaged partly because there's some cool tech and some mystery along the way. I look forward to her next work. Thanks to Tachyon for the ARC for review!!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Interesting story but too much technobabble On the positive side, the story was interesting and well-paced. There was some character development but not much and I didn’t feel much empathy for the protagonist or any of the other characters. There was also way too much techno-babble that was hard to follow and took away from the story. But the book did hold my attention and overall I did enjoy the read, hence the 4-star rating. Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley Interesting story but too much technobabble On the positive side, the story was interesting and well-paced. There was some character development but not much and I didn’t feel much empathy for the protagonist or any of the other characters. There was also way too much techno-babble that was hard to follow and took away from the story. But the book did hold my attention and overall I did enjoy the read, hence the 4-star rating. Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley for review purposes.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nilo Sérgio

    Nucleation starts with a very creative and interesting story: The idea of exploring and exploits the universe without truly being there by using quantum entanglement as a way to control droids remotely. The central character, some sort of those "droid pilot" is obsessive to determine why one of those "trips" went bad, and most of the book is focused on it. The hard part is that the book doesn't explain the main "magic" and, if I remember well, it doesn't dare to explain what is "quantum entangleme Nucleation starts with a very creative and interesting story: The idea of exploring and exploits the universe without truly being there by using quantum entanglement as a way to control droids remotely. The central character, some sort of those "droid pilot" is obsessive to determine why one of those "trips" went bad, and most of the book is focused on it. The hard part is that the book doesn't explain the main "magic" and, if I remember well, it doesn't dare to explain what is "quantum entanglement", using all the time the word "entanglement", leaving the "quantum" to the reader. One page of explanation will allow this book to be interesting for nontech people. Another point that disturbs me in a book is the lack of description of the participants. I don't know the main characters' looks and this makes it hard to imagine the overall setup. As a sci-fi book, I don't expect any deepness of the players but this book makes all looks flat and without any other emotion except their jobs. Finally, it seems that the book is part of a series because the ending leaves almost everything open and partially unsolved. I only can recommend this book by the overall concept but the lack of deep on the characters made me sad. A great idea as this one, deserves more details and a tad of passion and humanity. Thanks to NetGalley for allowing me to review an advanced copy of this book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Ross

    Kimberly Unger’s debut novel opens with a brilliant premise: space exploration, overcomes the vast distances involved by squirting “eenie” nanobots through very tiny wormholes. The eenies then follow their programming to construct whatever’s needed to explore and exploit their material surroundings, such as an alien moon. Included are particles that allow an Earth-based human operator and her navigator to remotely manipulate robotic devices. This is such a nifty set-up, I was hooked from the sta Kimberly Unger’s debut novel opens with a brilliant premise: space exploration, overcomes the vast distances involved by squirting “eenie” nanobots through very tiny wormholes. The eenies then follow their programming to construct whatever’s needed to explore and exploit their material surroundings, such as an alien moon. Included are particles that allow an Earth-based human operator and her navigator to remotely manipulate robotic devices. This is such a nifty set-up, I was hooked from the start. Almost immediately, however, Things Go Wrong. As fast as the eenies can build machinery, other nanobots “the Scale,” are tearing it down, and these are alien, not human-created nanobots – but to what purpose? Who programmed them? Where did they come from? And can our heroine stop the process before the alien bots gain access to inhabited planets and launch a major remodel of Earth? The story quickly morphs into a murder mystery industrial espionage thriller space-gadget adventure with a most satisfying, intelligent, and determined female protagonist. Unger moves the reader from one vivid scene to the next, skillfully weaving in context and background. Even the most exotic, remotely accessed environments become accessible as we follow our characters from Earth to the far-flung stellar mining outposts. Corporate power structures and personal relationships emerge through action, so that even complex, subtle aspects are balanced with dynamic plot twists. Unger’s handling of breath-taking tension and reflection held my attention, page after page. The verdict: A spectacular debut novel, at once thoughtful and exciting, packed with innovative ideas and plot twists. I’m looking forward to Unger’s next!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lauren loves llamas

    This is billed as a first contact book, which it is, but more accurately it’s a slowly paced sci-fi thriller. It’s not focused so much on the aliens as it is on uncovering possible corporate espionage and untangling the events surrounding a deadly accident. In the future, companies like Far Reaches use quantum entanglement to allow OPs (operators) to control waldos – purpose designed machines – mostly for the purposes of mining. Each OP is paired with a NAV (navigators) who keeps the OP on task a This is billed as a first contact book, which it is, but more accurately it’s a slowly paced sci-fi thriller. It’s not focused so much on the aliens as it is on uncovering possible corporate espionage and untangling the events surrounding a deadly accident. In the future, companies like Far Reaches use quantum entanglement to allow OPs (operators) to control waldos – purpose designed machines – mostly for the purposes of mining. Each OP is paired with a NAV (navigators) who keeps the OP on task and manages the flow of information. Helen is one of the best OPs, and she’s delighted to be the first to connect with the Golf Ball, a tiny construction ship whose job is to build a jump gate that would allow actual human exploration. But from the start something is wrong. The Golf Ball is only partially built, and the eenies – as the nanobots are known – seem to not be following the mission parameters. But all that is eclipsed by the death of her NAV, Ted. Reeling in grief, Helen finds herself pulled off the mission and “promoted” to a desk job. Helen’s sole purpose now is to figure out what happened – and to prevent it from happening again. “I signed up to ride waldos, not play private detective.” Helen is not a people person. I think at points this did effect the way the story hit. For instance, her reactions to Ted’s death didn’t feel quite right to me, and she struggles to deal effectively with the rest of her team. So while there are very human drivers, like Helen wanting to find out what happened to Ted and clear her name, this is essentially a plot-driven novel, rather than character-driven. She bemoans her lack of people skills at various times – it was something that Ted handled skillfully – but she doesn’t really make any progress in that area in this book. So while I sympathized with her, I never quite connected to her or the other characters and that did mute some of the tension for me. There are two threads to the story: what’s happening on the Golf Ball and what’s happening back at the company. It’s very narrow in setting because of that. Helen spends the majority of her time on the Far Reaches campus, and even remotely she only visits three sites. Even with all those restrictions, I found the tech, especially the eenies, quite fascinating. My favorite parts were when Helen was piloting the various waldos. Those were also the most action-packed sequences. The book ends with several plot threads left unresolved, so I’m wondering if this was meant to the be the first in a series. Overall, I’d give this 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4. It definitely has a lot of promise, and I’ll be watching for further books from the author. I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    Wikipedia defines nucleation as "the first step in the formation of either a new thermodynamic phase or a new structure via self-assembly or self-organization. Nucleation is typically defined to be the process that determines how long an observer has to wait before the new phase or self-organized structure appears." I try to give debut novels a bit more leeway than others, but this novel is aptly named, because I felt like I was waiting the whole time I was ready for something to appear. It never Wikipedia defines nucleation as "the first step in the formation of either a new thermodynamic phase or a new structure via self-assembly or self-organization. Nucleation is typically defined to be the process that determines how long an observer has to wait before the new phase or self-organized structure appears." I try to give debut novels a bit more leeway than others, but this novel is aptly named, because I felt like I was waiting the whole time I was ready for something to appear. It never did. Helen Vectorovitch, is an Operator. The novel opens as she and her Navigator partner, Ted, are investigating the status of an outpost where nanobots have been building a gate. They are injured by an unknown source, and Helen spends the rest of the novel investigating what happened. Helen has little development throughout the story. It feels as though, when the author was composing scenes, she'd suddenly recall that Helen was supposed to be a bad-ass, and she'd throw some mild vulgarity in there. While Helen thinks she has purpose, some of her actions feel hapless. She confronts the person who she believes has been sabotaging the project, congratulating herself that she's tough, but there seemed to be no benefit gained by this, other than to alert the baddie that Helen and her team were on to them. The biggest issue for me in the book was that it's written in third-person, but we spend the entire novel in Helen's head and seeing things from her POV. This has the effect of distancing Helen even more from the reader. I really struggled to care about any of the characters. The technical jargon wasn't offputting, but the story could have used a "McCoy" to whom Helen could explain some of the tech. It's not a bad novel, just fairly formulaic and the characters are stock. I don't know what the step that follows nucleation is called, but I do know that I am unlikely to pick up any sequels to find out. I received a free copy from Tachyon Publications in exchange for an honest review. 2.5/5 stars

  14. 5 out of 5

    NB NB

    Virtual reality (VR) combines with an outer space mission in this sci-fi thriller. Helen Vectorovich is the VR operator of spider-like machine positioned billions of miles away from the Earth. Her purpose is to use the machine and a form of nanotechnology called eenies to create an interstellar gateway to a distant star and further space exploration. A mission fails and this leads to murder and the uncovering of corruption. I selected this book because the idea of pilot operating space machinery Virtual reality (VR) combines with an outer space mission in this sci-fi thriller. Helen Vectorovich is the VR operator of spider-like machine positioned billions of miles away from the Earth. Her purpose is to use the machine and a form of nanotechnology called eenies to create an interstellar gateway to a distant star and further space exploration. A mission fails and this leads to murder and the uncovering of corruption. I selected this book because the idea of pilot operating space machinery from the safety of Earth interested me. The book started with a bang. A routine mission goes mysteriously wrong and results in catastrophic failure. Unfortunately, the action dwindles and by the middle of the book, much of the story’s dynamic beginning was replaced with technical jargon and slow reactions scenes. Things pick up in Act Three, and there are a few twists I didn’t see coming. I also really enjoyed Helen’s dynamic personality. She’s a powerful force in a competitive environment, although her struggles became repetitive. However, the other characters are not given as much thought of development, which makes it difficult to cheer for them, or feel empathy when hardships arise. I would also have loved to see more of this creative storyworld. The story doesn’t expand on this alternative future where we’re exploring space and trying to open portals to new worlds. The plot predominately takes place in the same few settings, which becomes monotonous. Also, there is a “first contact” tease which doesn’t live up to the hype. I think if the story had been condensed and the action scenes hyped with greater detail to character development, it would have held my attention better. I still recommend it to readers interested in heavy tech science fiction, but it didn’t work for me.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Joe Karpierz

    First contact stories have been a part of science fiction for decades. Humans are fascinated by the concept of there being other races out there, other beings for us to communicate with. Underlying that fascination is the simple question: are we alone? Kimberly Unger's debut novel, NUCLEATION, doesn't start out as a first contact novel. Helen Vectorovich is one member of a two person team which is on a very high profile project: the construction of a wormhole gate that would connect earth to, wel First contact stories have been a part of science fiction for decades. Humans are fascinated by the concept of there being other races out there, other beings for us to communicate with. Underlying that fascination is the simple question: are we alone? Kimberly Unger's debut novel, NUCLEATION, doesn't start out as a first contact novel. Helen Vectorovich is one member of a two person team which is on a very high profile project: the construction of a wormhole gate that would connect earth to, well, "out there" - interstellar space. She is connected via quantum entanglement to a waldo, a robot hundreds of light years away. She and her partner Ted are amongst the best in the business, and thus they have been assigned to this very high profile mission. All is going well, and the team is going through the standard system checklists checklists when something goes very wrong - that can't be much of a surprise, of course - and Ted is killed. The mission is put on hold, of course. This kind of thing *never* happens; if anyone is in danger, it is the pilot, not the navigator. And so, an investigation ensues. There are all sorts of possibilities, of course. Industrial espionage is the number one suspect, of course. Any number of companies and hot shot young teams would like to take over the project and make a name for themselves. But what if it's not that? What if what killed Ted was a new life form that humans haven't encountered previously? Another team is sent out to investigate, and more problems occur. As the person with the most experience, Helen is part of the team leading the investigation, but as one of the top suspects in the accident, her job is difficult, with many roadblocks thrown up in front of her. It shouldn't be much of a surprise that the answer to the problem is a combination of espionage and alien life forms. But who is leading the sabotage, and how are they working with what appears to be a new life form that is essentially destroying Helen's team's corporate equipment? NUCLEATION is a well written, fun, fast paced, and interesting debut novel. It's a whodunnit, a "whydunnit", and a "what's gonna happen next?" kind of story. This is an idea novel, the kind of novel that many of us used to read as kids when we were starting to get our feet wet in science fiction. This is really not a character driven novel, other than the fact that the characters are there to move the plot along. And that's okay, as plot and idea are among the core tenets of science fiction. If you're looking for deep dives into the backgrounds of the characters in NUCLEATION, you won't find them, as those deep dives aren't necessary. Unger tells us just enough of what we need to know to move the story along. There isn't massive world building and character development, but it's not necessary for the story; I find this a benefit, not a detriment. The story works because of it. There is definitely room for a sequel. The story has really just begun, and I'm interested in finding out what comes next, whether it's in the NUCLEATION universe or something else from Kimberly Unger. I believe she's a writer to watch.

  16. 5 out of 5

    D. K. Nuray

    I want to give it 3.8 stars but Goodreads doesn’t have fractional options... As an operator for the company Far Reaches in an age of private space exploration, Helen Vectorovich’s job is to pilot vehicles, known as waldos, billions of miles away. She does so from her “coffin”, which allows her to merge her own senses with those of her distant waldo. Helen is an elite explorer who never directly faces danger - until she suddenly does. When a routine mission turns deadly, Helen must fight to save b I want to give it 3.8 stars but Goodreads doesn’t have fractional options... As an operator for the company Far Reaches in an age of private space exploration, Helen Vectorovich’s job is to pilot vehicles, known as waldos, billions of miles away. She does so from her “coffin”, which allows her to merge her own senses with those of her distant waldo. Helen is an elite explorer who never directly faces danger - until she suddenly does. When a routine mission turns deadly, Helen must fight to save both her job and her life while searching for the saboteur. Junior pilots jockeying to replace her, rival companies trying to take control of the botched mission, and bad rumors about her sanity spreading give Helen more than enough challenges. Her situation gets worse when it begins to appear that the mission’s failure may not have been an accident. From the first page, Nucleation has no shortage of perils and surprises, but the fierce, ingenious character of Helen carries the story as much as the plot. As an operator, Helen has to exist in and understand two places - her own world and that of her waldo. This tension is the story’s mainspring. For readers who find the large number of scientific and technical terms confusing, the dialogue between Helen and her colleagues and the momentum of the plot keeps the story intriguing. Helen is part Hermione Granger and part Lara Croft blazing through a fast-paced story that is part science fiction, part space western. Nucleation can feel like too much action crammed between the covers, but this is a forgivable excess. I recommend this novel for middle grade and YA readers who enjoy speculative fiction adventure, fast-paced action, and resourceful female characters and don’t mind some colorful language.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Pamela Scott

    https://thebookloversboudoir.wordpres... I have a strange relationship with sci-fi. Sometimes I really like it and sometimes it leaves me cold. This book straddles both for me, some of it work and some of it left me cold. The quality of the writing is very good at times it’s the sci-fi elements that didn’t quite tick all of the boxes for me. The book is much slower paced than I was expecting. The blurb makes it sounds like the book would have a lot of action. It doesn’t. It’s very slow at times. https://thebookloversboudoir.wordpres... I have a strange relationship with sci-fi. Sometimes I really like it and sometimes it leaves me cold. This book straddles both for me, some of it work and some of it left me cold. The quality of the writing is very good at times it’s the sci-fi elements that didn’t quite tick all of the boxes for me. The book is much slower paced than I was expecting. The blurb makes it sounds like the book would have a lot of action. It doesn’t. It’s very slow at times. When it gets going I enjoyed it but there are a lot of lulls. I really enjoyed the sections of the book involving the characters controlling remote robots using quantum entanglement. Some aspects of these moments didn’t make a lot of sense but I found them entertaining nevertheless. The enjoyed the mystery aspects of the book, who the bad guys really are and who the main characters meets in space in chapter one. I actually enjoyed these more than the sci-fi elements. I’m a huge fan of mysteries and these aspects worked more for me. I enjoyed this for the most part.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Spencer

    Kimberly Unger had a creative idea for a premise here, but unfortunately wasn't able to thread it into a truly compelling narrative. To give credit where it is due, I was intrigued by the idea of exploration, engineering, combat, and other endeavors taking place in deep space on the scale of nanomachines. I thought Unger's descriptions of the protagonist's perceptual experience of engaging with and controlling said machines by dissociating from her physical body across billions of miles of space Kimberly Unger had a creative idea for a premise here, but unfortunately wasn't able to thread it into a truly compelling narrative. To give credit where it is due, I was intrigued by the idea of exploration, engineering, combat, and other endeavors taking place in deep space on the scale of nanomachines. I thought Unger's descriptions of the protagonist's perceptual experience of engaging with and controlling said machines by dissociating from her physical body across billions of miles of space via a quantum entanglement feed were wild. Alas, the lack of character development (especially on the emotional front), the very limited scope of the settings and environments (along with having only one point of view), and the general dragging of the narrative right until the very end of the story left me uninvested in the characters and what happened to them. It was almost as if the entire novel were one drawn-out prologue for the real story, and unfortunately, I don't care enough to pick it up with book two. Three stars; neat premise, readable enough to finish.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rob Caswell

    Boy.... this is a challenging review as this was a strange read. I'm not even sure how to put it unique character into words? I was drawn to this book by the core concept of driving a drone, using quantum entangled particles, from light years across space. And the writing itself was compelling.... but at the same time unrewarding. The bulk of this book read like a corporate soap opera and the characters all felt paranoid and standoffish... like everyone was walking on glass. And the unusual ideas Boy.... this is a challenging review as this was a strange read. I'm not even sure how to put it unique character into words? I was drawn to this book by the core concept of driving a drone, using quantum entangled particles, from light years across space. And the writing itself was compelling.... but at the same time unrewarding. The bulk of this book read like a corporate soap opera and the characters all felt paranoid and standoffish... like everyone was walking on glass. And the unusual ideas presented in the story were never described in such a way that I felt I really had a full understanding of them - like describing a cube by just detailing one of its faces. And there were a few word/phrase repetitions that started getting annoying. I'm not sure I've ever read any book that used the words "protocols", "checklist", and "checkmarks" as much as this one did. If this book had an editor, it felt like they were very "hands off". I wanted to like this book, but its focus on corporate matters and it's defensive characters just kept pushing me away.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bob Cutler

    I don't give many 5 star ratings but this checked all the boxes for me. Well-plotted, no long scene-setting detours, no flashbacks or flash forwards, no whack-a-mole antagonists, believable characters, etc. There's a hook at the end that could be the lead-in to a sequel or a series. If so, I'm looking forward to it/them. Kimberly Unger is now on my favorites list. Too bad she isn't more prolific. I don't give many 5 star ratings but this checked all the boxes for me. Well-plotted, no long scene-setting detours, no flashbacks or flash forwards, no whack-a-mole antagonists, believable characters, etc. There's a hook at the end that could be the lead-in to a sequel or a series. If so, I'm looking forward to it/them. Kimberly Unger is now on my favorites list. Too bad she isn't more prolific.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Well written story. Excellent dialogue that moves the plot along quite nicely. Great plot. Well developed world without an info dump and the world building did not get in the way of the story. Operator Helen is one tough cookie and I want to read more about her and her world.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jccalhoun

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Interesting story. Some of the science seems techno babble-y and some things don't really resolve themselves. Interesting story. Some of the science seems techno babble-y and some things don't really resolve themselves.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Goldberg

    I hope 3 is understood to be a positive rating. I liked it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Greg

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rick

  26. 4 out of 5

    AKathryn Kulungowski

  27. 5 out of 5

    John Christensen

  28. 5 out of 5

    Arkadeb

  29. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Lancaster

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