Book Review: “Containment” by Christian Cantrell

The colony on Venus was not built because the destruction of Earth was possible, but because it was inevitable…

A brilliant young scientist and one of the first humans born on Venus, Arik works tirelessly to perfect the science of artificial photosynthesis, a project crucial to the future of his home, V1. The colony was built on the harsh Venusian surface by the Founders, the first humans to establish a permanent extraterrestrial settlement. Arik’s research becomes critical when he awakens from an unexplained, near-fatal accident and learns that his wife is three months pregnant. Unless Arik’s research uncovers a groundbreaking discovery, V1’s oxygen supply will not be able to support the increase in population that his baby represents.

As Arik works against time, he begins to untangle the threads of his accident, which seem inextricably linked to what lies outside the protective walls of V1—a world where the caustic atmosphere and extreme heat make all forms of known life impossible. For its entire existence, Arik’s generation has been expected to help solve the problems of colonization. But as Arik digs deeper and deeper, he discovers alarming truths about the planet that the Founders have kept hidden. With growing urgency and increasing peril, Arik finds himself on a journey that will push him to the limits of his intelligence and take him beyond the unimaginable.

I don’t read a lot of hard science fiction, but after reading Containment I might have to change my stance on that. I enjoyed this book immensely and am so glad I decided to take the leap and read it when it came up as a suggestion on Amazon while I was looking at some other works.

There were times while reading Containment that I honestly thought that the reason I couldn’t put the book down was more because of the things I was learning than because of the plot. That isn’t to say the plot is lacking of course, but Cantrell goes to great lengths to fill the prose with interesting and compelling scientific facts. I’m smarter because I read this book, there is no way around it. Even better was the fact that I didn’t mind that the book was teaching me all of these great new things about computers, the space race, and the solar system in general. Previous to this, whenever I read something considered to be hard sci-fi I inevitably found myself a little lost in the scientific details.

There are two things that really stuck out to me as excellent in the book. First, the action takes place in a colony on Venus rather than the often-used traditional setting of Mars. You don’t hear a lot about Venus, it’s always Mars where the crazy stuff happens in science fiction, but in this book you get a nice, hard look at Venus and it’s pretty compelling stuff. Second, I absolutely love the way this book ends. When I turned the final page so-to-speak I sat and thought for a little while on whether or not the author intended to end that book the way he does originally, or if he had to restrain himself from taking things a little further. The ending (which I will not spoil for you) leaves the reader with a feeling of satisfaction regarding the fate of the viewpoint character, Arik, and also with a sense of wonder at what will happen next. I think Cantrell left a few things open-ended about the truth behind the colony as well as the fate of some side characters on purpose to force the reader into a little bit of speculation. It worked incredibly well.

Overall, there isn’t anything spectacular about the plot of Containment as it follows several fairly well-known science fiction conventions, but that’s alright with me. The skill at which the author weaves the science in with the action keeps those conventions from seeming overdone or contrived in any way. Containment was a solid, well-written, interesting book to read and I wholeheartedly recommend it to readers of all types. I certainly can’t wait to read the rest of his work.

Grade: A
Length: 297 pages

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   Goodreads   |   Audible   |   Author Site

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