The novel “Proxima Rising” by Brandon Q. Morris was published for the first time in 2021. It’s the first book in the Proxima Trilogy. The English translation is by Frank Dietz.
Marchenko is an artificial intelligence created using the memories of a cosmonaut. His task is to guide a spaceship to Proxima b, a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri. The mission is to find the civilization that sent a distress call or what remains of it if it was destroyed.
The interstellar spaceship led by Marchenko is very small for most of its journey and only when it’s approaching the Proxima Centauri system do the tiny on-board systems begin to build everything that will be necessary for the mission. It’s not just equipment but also two human beings who will have the task of exploring Proxima b together with a robot controlled by Marchenko.
Physicist Matthias Matting uses the pseudonym Brandon Q. Morris to write hard science fiction in which technological and scientific elements are important to the plot. The author includes appendices to his novels that concern scientific topics that are significant to the plots for educational purposes.
The idea of the mission to Proxima b, an exoplanet discovered a few years ago, intrigued me, so this is the first series by this author I have read. Only after starting this novel did I discover a connection to the previous Frozen Moons series. However, it seems to me that all the important information for the purposes of the story is present in this novel.
Much of the story is told in the first person by Marchenko as a sort of log. Initially, he’s the only character present in the novel, another reason why he’s the only one truly developed at least in this first book of the Proxima Trilogy.
In the first part of the novel, the protagonist describes in detail the phases that take the spaceship from its very small original size to the much larger one necessary, among other things, to accommodate two human beings. He offers some explanations about his mission’s origin and the life of the man whose memories he has and immediately sets the tone for the series by including a number of scientific and technological concepts that could reasonably be developed over the next few decades.
This opening part includes very little action even though the spaceship is traveling at high speed through space. In the last phase of that journey, there are some dangers due in particular to the presence of an asteroid belt in the Proxima Centauri system.
The situation changes after the completion of the artificial gestation of two human beings, called Adam and Eve. Their aim is to carry out the exploratory mission on Proxima b to study it and search for the civilization that sent the distress call. In this part of the novel, Brandon Q. Morris offers speculation on the possible life forms that could develop on a planet that is regularly hit by powerful flares. Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf, a class of stars that are small but can be very active.
Adam and Eve’s exploration of Proxima b, accompanied by a robot hosting Marchenko, includes scientific speculation but also action with various dangers and unexpected events. Many things are happening on the planet and this also causes an acceleration of the pace.
“Proxima Rising” has no real ending because it’s the first part of a larger story, so it makes sense to read it if you’re ready to continue with the other two books in the trilogy. It’s explicitly labeled a hard science fiction work, so I recommend it to readers who appreciate this subgenre and can be stimulated by all the speculations present in the novel.