If you’re an employee of Parthenope Enterprises, there is no such thing as privacy. Your movements around whatever desolate space station you occupy are tracked constantly, and the only place you aren’t under video surveillance is in the comfort of your own quarters. Or so security officer Hester Marley believes. But when an old friend dies under mysterious circumstances after sending her an untraceable message, Hester is forced to reexamine her certainty about the Parthenope panopticon. In order to solve his murder—and indeed, in order to survive her investigation—Hester will need to reconsider not just her views of life within the company, but also what she knows of her own tragic past.
Kali Wallace's Dead Space is tense and kinetic. Wallace masterfully dances back and forth between two speeds, using them to guide us towards a destination that feels both surprising and inevitable. In some scenes, Wallace lingers over interrogations as Hester and her investigative crew dissect every word and facial expression of the dead man’s fellow crew members at the asteroid mine where he worked and died. In others, the narration careens from one impact to another, sometimes literally, as the body count on the mining station continues to mount.
Because it’s written in first person, the book centers almost claustrophobically on Hester. At first glance, Dead Space’s protagonist is not exactly dynamic. Hester is competent but miserable, having been forced into indentured servitude by medical debt from injuries she sustained in a terrorist attack. In the moment of the attack, her dream—to explore the moon of Titan as part of a team looking for extraterrestrial life—was ripped away from her, replaced by a sobering reality of imperfect prosthetics and a security job ill-befitting an artificial intelligence expert. At least, that’s the view of her we see initially.
Yet as bad goes to worse in the investigation, we witness Hester bloom into someone who is passionate, curious and fiercely intelligent. Dead Space is as much about processing grief as it is about solving a murder. The events on the mining station force Hester to fully reckon with her loss even as they push her to her limits, giving an intensely human throughline to a story that might otherwise lose focus during its many twists and turns.
The book opens with a bloody description of a body modification surgery gone horribly wrong, and descriptions of gore only escalate from there. But Dead Space gives readers who can stomach such things an amazing gift: a character-driven thriller full of secrets, mayhem and plenty of explosions that will leave them guessing from beginning to end.