Second Chance by David D Levine
Chaz Eades is on the mission of a lifetime—the first to an alien solar system far beyond our own—and it’s a one-way trip. When he learns that contact with Earth has been lost, he wants to help reestablish communication. But the commander insists on science first and contact later, the crew is inexplicably hostile, and Chaz finds himself painfully isolated. Soon he realizes that there’s a secret at the heart of the crew’s troubles that is much larger than any he could have imagined. All bets are off, and he’s not at all prepared for the mission he faces now: survival.
Chaz wakes up and to his horror, he realises that he’s on a spaceship with no memory of how he got there – his last memory was settling in for his first brain scan. He’s one of the first people selected to have themselves cloned, their memories scanned and stored, and sent out to Tao Ceti and it seems it didn’t go to plan.
He struggles to settle in with his crewmates – he’s been revived later than the others and has come to find out that subsequent memories were not captured, as he was killed before the second memory scan, but too late to remove his clone from the ship before it launched. He therefore doesn’t have the memories of the subsequent team bonding that went on – and there are things within the team dynamic that offend him (he is a man of faith, so the transsexual and the gay man are only two of the things that cause him offence – these issues were dealt with by the “original” Chaz subsequent to the first memory brain scan – with some pain involved – but this new Chaz doesn’t know how to deal with these issues)
Stuck in a confined space, with skills well behind his crewmates, and knowing he is both offended and offensive, Chaz spirals into a well of despair, and looking for ways to get him back into the crew’s good graces. He therefore starts investigating why the ship hasn’t heard from Earth in decades, and he soon makes a startling discovery that ultimately changes everything.
So this book is all about “Second Chance”s – the astronauts get a second chance at being useful (even if it is just their clones) – Chaz gets a second change to make up with his crewmates and deal with the issues they present; the crew get a second chance as a team on another planet when they realise that their home is lost to them.
This is a novella and therefore tight. Some characterisations are short, if non-existent, that is true, but it would have taken a longer story to fill them out, and I’m not sure that the reader would take much of Chaz’s near-fervent religious mindset. However, with a little toning down of some aspects, this has the potential to be a decent longer book, but is appropriately paced and pitched as is.