FeaturedNew Adult

The Challenger


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A starship bringing colonists to the planet Alamea holds a terrible secret. One man has already died to conceal it. Who will be next?

I was hooked on this book from the first page when I came across the delightfully named Pea, a chubby little ball-shaped hoverbot who is Imogen Hart’s personal assistant. Imogen’s family live on the starship Conestoga which has been travelling through space for a thousand years heading for the planet Alamea— the soon-to-be home of the descendants of the original Travellers. Imogen is a Pioneer, a Planetwalker, one of those chosen to be first on the planet’s surface when they get there. She is also an AI nerd and a brilliant athlete, head of the Cannonballs, one of the  teams in a Conestogan game played in a zero gravity arena (think Quidditch in space suits). But at the start of the book Imogen is having a melt-down as her best friend Ellie has just died, and in strange circumstances. Ellie’s brother Lex, a possible love interest (although Imogen describes him as ‘full of himself’ and having ‘the too cool for school look’) tries to help her; but only when she receives a coded message from Ellie given to her after the girl’s death does she realise that something is seriously wrong.

The world of the gigantic Conestoga is clearly evoked by allowing us to see the way Imogen and her family function in their ordinary life, and we are borne along by the plot at the same time. Critical information is fed in at appropriate points - in case we should wonder how a quarter of a million colonists and their descendants have been provided for over the thousand years we are told about the scrupulous recycling of everything (rather gruesomely Ellie’s funeral is called a Reclamation).  There is a fair bit of strange vocabulary (meals are ‘fabbed’ in an ‘assembler’, the train is a 'Mag') but it is all easily comprehensible.


The characters are three dimensional, not just stereotypes - even the Cannonballs’ coach, - and Imogen is a worthy heroine, if a bit too given to emotional outbursts and unwise fits of anger. Katniss is just the same in The Hunger Games. The romantic side of things is intriguing (will Joshua prevail?)  and the efforts of the authorities to prevent the young people finding the meaning of Ellie’s message provide plenty of heart-thumping incidents. The ending is satisfying while leaving us anxious to read more in the series. So all in all a fabulous read.


Reviewed by

Jenny Hill (Jaye Sarasin) Took early retirement from teaching to write YA (The Green Enclave) and commercial fiction Published Using Literature in Language Teaching (Macmillan 1986) Jennifer Hill The Green Enclave (Parfoys Press 2017) Passionate reader, gardener, traveller

About the author

Based in Karlstad, Sweden, I write character-driven, big-idea sci-fi, inspired by the great old masters and some younger ones. I particularly like the possibility of writing about new tech and futuristic situations and what they mean to a person. view profile

Published on August 30, 2022

100000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Genre: New Adult

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