This science-fiction novel raises questions about faith and society (such as: What does it means for prophecy to be fulfilled? When does a potential long-term benefit to society trump an individual’s right to choose?) without ever ceasing to be an entertaining adventure centred around fully-realised individuals.
The book is set in a Universe where population pressure on Earth drove the sending of generational colony ships to other potentially inhabitable planets. While some of these missions are known to have failed, the Chrysopteron arrived safely at Elysium and started building a colony, before suddenly going silent. The story follows several interlinking narratives: the increasing conflict between faith and science during the Chrysopteron’s voyage and landing; preparation, generations later, to send a follow-up mission from Earth to investigate why communications stopped; and the society that has grown up on Elysium.
While one side of a dispute might seem clearly morally right to the reader, Rose skilfully avoids turning this into a battle between science and religion: the fundamentals of each are never the cause of conflict; the problems arise from people interpreting one or the other in a way that disadvantages a group.
In keeping with the general separation between the general question of whether or not the Divine is real, and the specific question of how people react to that uncertainty, none of the characters are defined purely by their faith: the faithful each have their own doubts about how to apply their truth; the atheists have different perspectives on whether religion should be permitted a voice.
I enjoyed this book. I recommend it to readers who enjoy fast-paced adventures with realistic personal conflicts.