Universe: Awakening (Terra Nova Book 1) by David Ellis Overttun – Book Review

A huge thank you to David and Natasha Overttun for a copy of this novel in exchange for an unbiased review but also for their endless patience in waiting for me to complete it and for their endless support of my blog. I am honoured today to be posting my review of Universe : Awakening (Terra Nova Book 1) written by David and illustrated by Natasha.

Synopsis

The year — 526,780. A probe is deployed from ISV Intrepid at the outer edge of the universe. It is the last of a complement of 12 that is part of the Deep Exploration of Uncharted Space or DEUS. Its mission: collect data on the redshift of light and space‑time distortions. Time horizon: 1,000 years.

Before ISV Intrepid can return to base, something goes wrong. There is an accident. The ship is later salvaged, but its pilot is missing, its copilot in a coma.

The probes collect their data with uneventful regularity.

Fast‑forward to 526,880. A sole‑surviving probe still sits in the darkness at the outer edge of the universe. Now, unseen to the naked eye, the space around it begins to stretch and distend. The probe disappears, engulfed by an energy of unknown origin and unknown composition. However, it manages to transmit one final message.

CD3C has monitored the disappearance of each probe over the last three years. While the interpretation of the data remains a mystery, speculation is that something has invaded the universe and is moving at superluminal velocity. Its effects could be manifested in as little as the next 1,000 years. To the Celesti, that is one lifetime.

What can be done?

The one person who might be able to solve this problem is the copilot of ISV Intrepid. He has been lying in stasis suffering from mental trauma. He has been this way for the past century, the longest recorded case in medical history. His unchanging condition has been a convenient solution to stall any inquiry into the accident that put him there.

This threat changes everything. Now, he is needed.

Is it possible to unlock his mind?

The task falls to Auberon, a career nobody inhabiting the lower levels of the hierarchy of the Ministry of Science. Can something be awakened in him to allow someone ordinary to do something extraordinary?

Universe: Awakening answers this question. In the process, it explores the world of the Celesti, a highly evolved humanoid species with advanced technology, physiology and a unique way of procreation. It blends science and political intrigue to reveal the interplay of storyline and character development that forms the staging ground for the Terra Nova Series.

My Thoughts

Some time ago I set myself a challenge to read a wider variety of genres and when I was offered the chance to read Universe: Awakening I was excited but anxious at the same time.  I hardly ever read sci-fi, and I have a bit of a complex about my ability to understand and follow it.  However, it was important for me that I followed through and I’m so pleased that I did.

I read the first part of the book with great trepidation and with some careful reading I managed to follow.  Feeling a little proud I continued into the second part and found that as the characters and story began to develop, I settled into the flow and fell into the story and writing.

I want to disclose that my understanding of the novel may not be on the level that it was written – it’s so clever – but for me, I read for pleasure and this book gave me that so it’s a complete win for me.  Somewhere along the way I stopped being intimidated by the science aspect and just enjoyed the ride of the characters and their plight.  After this the story flowed and things seemed to fall into space.  A few things I was unsure about I used context to gather meaning but was pleasantly surprised to find a glossary in the black and even more surprised to find I’d been correct in my interpretation of some things.

Themes

For me various themes popped out.  It took me a while to get my head around the fact that the characters are not human, although similar in some ways.  There are two races of people in this book; Gendu and Celestials (and within celestials there are those who have transcended). 

Each ‘person’ is born with a different aura – a lot of which depends upon your place in society.  Job opportunities and status are determined by auras so your path in life is already heavily decided and influenced from birth.  To me this has parallels with divides in modern society such as race, colour, gender, life choices, class, place of birth and financial situation.  For me, all of these things can heavily influence a person’s opportunities in our society and frustratingly so.  Many Celesti do not consort with Gendu and consider their culture beneath them. 

Additionally, I felt the Celestials were like higher beings and the transcended are almost God-like.  I think the quote, “to climb is divine.” Really sums it up.  Celestials don’t use stairs, the drift up and down in elevator style transport.  Celestials do not indulge in meat, alcohol and have a very bland diet, no sexual intercourse or intimacy in that way and in my mind it equated to a purer lifestyle, aligning themselves with what is considered Godly. 

Another strong theme is mental health.  I loved the idea of stasis and the fact that a character with medical or psychological difficulties can be put into a deep sleep and visited by an advisor in a counselling and support capacity.  This is known as remediation.  I also loved how the method of loved ones supporting a character through positive thoughts and telepathic communication of how much they are loved and valued they are was used to prevent a character from relapsing and becoming to overwhelmed by difficult memories.                 

My favourite theme in this novel has to be relationships.  There are romantic ones, friendships, mentor, family, colleagues etc.  They were all woven together to create such a brilliant cast of characters and I totally became smitten with, and invested in many of them. 

Characters

The characters and their relationships were my favourite part of this novel.  A group of very different individuals coming together for a purpose but finding so much friendship and loyalty really warmed my heart and often added a humorous aspect into the mix too.

In my opinion, Auberon is the character who grows and changes the most.  Beginning as a quiet and reserved character, the influence of his friends and some newfound confidence changed him into a much more relaxed and cheeky character.

I loved Auberon’s relationship with Micha’ el and Gabri’ el who are assigned to Auberon and Jo’ el as guardians (high level security).  They really nurtured Auberon’s development and the camaraderie between the 3 was brilliant.  There were a few moments where I chuckled out loud at their antics and asides.   

Then there is Jo’ el and Auberon.  Auberon is tasked with the remediation of Jo ‘el (waking him out of his deep sleep) and supporting his mental health.  Auberon has to learn a lot about Jo ‘el in order to do this effectively and swiftly and theirs was a more gentle relationship initially.

Jo ‘el is also linked to Asherah/Kallista and this is more of a romantic link but Asherah’s backgrounds was enthralling to read about.    

All the relationships were cleverly explored and then entwined to create a fascinating group who all needed and relied each other to be able to fulfil their roles. 

Setting

The Celesti lived in a place I very much imagine to be glass and white.  Very pure and I can imagine them moving about, almost gliding with superiority and heavenliness.  The Gendu district was more like the world as we know it.  Bustling with liveliness – especially on an evening when there is alcohol and meat restaurants to visit.  The description was rich and vivid and the book played out in my head like a film.    

I also loved the touches of technological advances such as using holograms in everyday life to simulate different scenarios and environments and the idea of nurturing mental health back to being well in a safe and secure manner.  However, my favourites were the ability to block others (unless transcended) from hearing what you are saying and also travelling to work in a hologram that can take the form of your choosing. 

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.  My understanding may not be at the depth and level that the novel was intended to reach as it is so clever, but I had a great time reading it and surely that’s what reading for pleasure is about.  What I have learned is not to be scared of books that I feel intimidated by and that trying new genres is fun and worthwhile.    

I cannot wait to re-join Auberon and friends in book 2 as I am now full invested in this group of friends and their endeavours.   

Puchase Link: https://amzn.to/3wKAsLl

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