by Kimberly Unger
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Pub Date 13 Nov 2020 | Archive Date 22 Feb 2021
Selected for the 2020 Washington Post Gift Guide
"A thriller that kept me occupied for days.”
“Recommended for fans of Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon and Martha Wells’ Murderbot series.”
In this riveting debut science-fiction technothriller, a top-notch VR pilot encounters a disaster during the highest profile space-faring project of her career. Now she must unearth a critical truth: was her discovery due to a betrayal, a business rival, or a threat to humanity itself?
We are live, we are live, we are live. . .
Helen Vectorvich just botched first contact. And she did it in both virtual reality and outer space.
Only the most elite Far Reaches deep-space pilots get to run waldos: robots controlled from thousands of lightyears away via neural integration and quantum entanglement. Helen and her navigator were heading the construction of a wormhole gate that would connect Earth to the stars . . . until a routine system check turned deadly.
As nasty rumors swarm around her, and overeager junior pilots jockey to take her place, Helen makes a startling discovery: microscopic alien life is devouring their corporate equipment. Is the Scale just mindless, extra-terrestrial bacteria? Or is it working—and killing—with a purpose?
While Helen struggles to get back into the pilot’s chair, and to communicate with the Scale, someone—or something—is trying to sabotage the Far Reaches project once and for all. They’ll have to get through Helen first.
A Note From the Publisher
(TL;dr - Unger writes about fast robots, big explosions, and space things.)
Unger lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she works in the future of VR on the Oculus gaming platform.
2020 UK Independent Gift Guide
2020 Washington Post Gift Guide
“A superb, smart debut! Love this woman who has to fight her way back to the top using her intelligence and expertise. The confident, sharp details made me feel I was there, in Helen's head, at each step of her remarkable journey. I can’t wait to read more from Unger, a welcome new voice in science fiction.”
—Lissa Price, internationally bestselling author of the Starters series
“Helen is a nervy and compelling main character, and it’s enjoyable to experience this story through her perspective. This debut novel is recommended for fans of Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon (2003) and Martha Wells’ Murderbot series, as well as for readers who like their cutting-edge technology with a bit of danger on the side.”
“VERDICT: Unger’s video game credits are well matched to this space adventure. Dialog among rivals, teammates, and machine interfaces keeps the story moving quickly. Recommended for fans of technothrillers and those who appreciate a strong lead character navigating readers through the technical bits.
“Weaves technology, embodiment, and corporate espionage into a tense vision of the future that readers won't be able to put down.”
—Jacqueline Koyanagi, author of Ascension
“An inventive, exciting page turner that mixes mystery, bleeding edge technological speculation, and the promise of a potential sequel. If Grisham was a better wordsmith and chose to write hard sf thrillers, it would look a lot like Kimberly Unger’s gripping Nucleation.
—Charles Gannon, author of the Caine Riordan series.
“Unger moves the reader from one vivid scene to the next, skillfully weaving in context and background . . . The verdict: A spectacular debut novel, at once thoughtful and exciting, packed with innovative ideas and plot twists.”
—Deborah J. Ross, author of Collaborators
“Nucleation is a cool twist on the New Space Opera. Full of great ideas and combining elements of cyberpunk and space opera, it’s a fun ride from start to finish.”
—Karl Schroeder, author of Stealing Worlds
“In technology we so often look to science fiction for inspiration. Kimberly Unger is the rare author with a foot in both worlds and it shows as she gives a thrilling glimpse into the future with Nucleation.”
—Andrew Bosworth, Vice President of Augmented and Virtual Reality, Facebook
“Nucleation delivers top-notch suspense, deftly weaving together industrial espionage and first contact in a futuristic world that is all too plausible.”
—Juliette Wade, author of Mazes of Power
“Unger weaves real-world insights about virtual reality, technology, and art into a space opera packed with high adventure and dastardly intrigue.”
—Eliot Peper, author of Veil and Breach
“A near-future, tech-driven thriller marked by grounded characters, wondrous discovery, and a compelling mystery at its core.”
—Joseph Mallozzi, Executive Producer, Dark Matter, Stargate's SG-1, Atlantis, Universe
“Science fiction fans will be captivated by Unger’s smart, plausible vision of the future of space travel, especially the elegant solution of utilizing quantum entanglement to communicate across light years.”
“Nucleation is an immersive tale that has blockbuster scale and emotional story-telling you won't soon forget.”
—Terry Matalas, showrunner, Star Trek: Picard
“If Grisham was a better wordsmith and chose to write hard sf thrillers, it would look a lot like Kimberly Unger’s gripping Nucleation.
—Charles Gannon, author of the Caine Riordan series
“Contact’s Ellie Arroway. “Story of Your Life’s” Louise Banks. The Last Astronaut’s Sally Jansen. Add Helen Vectorovich to the ranks of great science fiction featuring remarkable, driven women serving as humanity's first contact with an alien race.”
—Dayton Ward, author of Star Trek: Kirk Fu Manual
“An intelligently written story that manages to combine a number of serious scientific concepts with sociological ones as well.”
—Green Man Review
“Immersive and detailed SF and tech elements with the virtual reality gear that really shows the strength of the author’s knowledge and lines of invention.”
—Nerds of a Feather
“I picked up Nucleation expecting a standard space opera. What I got was a thriller that kept me occupied for days.”
“Seamlessly blending elements of science fiction and mystery, Unger’s latest revolves around a virtual-reality pilot who, after her navigator dies while they’re working on a high-profile project, sets out to avenge his death and understand the bizarre circumstances surrounding the failed mission.”
“An intriguing blend of hard SF, corporate espionage and conspiracy theory.”
-Author readings and events at and major venues to include tech companies such as Facebook and Google; San Francisco Bay Area bookstores, SF in SF author series
-Custom cover-reveal app (The Reveal) designed by the author, generating increased interest via mobile platforms such as phones and tablets
-Social media rollout to include radio and podcasts; author and publisher push on pop culture and science fiction blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, and Goodreads
-Review mailings to leading trade, science fiction, and thriller publications; ARCs available via NetGalley, Edelweiss, and Goodreads
-Review copies to leading newspaper book reviewers; science fiction, technology, and pop culture blogs and publications; and leading fiction publications
Average rating from 25 members
Kimberly Unger’s debut novel opens with a brilliant premise: space exploration, overcomes the vast distances involved by squirting “eenie” nanobots through very tiny wormholes. The eenies then follow their programming to construct whatever’s needed to explore and exploit their material surroundings, such as an alien moon. Included are particles that allow an Earth-based human operator and her navigator to remotely manipulate robotic devices. This is such a nifty set-up, I was hooked from the start. Almost immediately, however, Things Go Wrong. As fast as the eenies can build machinery, other nanobots “the Scale,” are tearing it down, and these are alien, not human-created nanobots – but to what purpose? Who programmed them? Where did they come from? And can our heroine stop the process before the alien bots gain access to inhabited planets and launch a major remodel of Earth?
The story quickly morphs into a murder mystery industrial espionage thriller space-gadget adventure with a most satisfying, intelligent, and determined female protagonist. Unger moves the reader from one vivid scene to the next, skillfully weaving in context and background. Even the most exotic, remotely accessed environments become accessible as we follow our characters from Earth to the far-flung stellar mining outposts. Corporate power structures and personal relationships emerge through action, so that even complex, subtle aspects are balanced with dynamic plot twists. Unger’s handling of breath-taking tension and reflection held my attention, page after page.
The verdict: A spectacular debut novel, at once thoughtful and exciting, packed with innovative ideas and plot twists. I’m looking forward to Unger’s next!
Well written story. Excellent dialogue that moves the plot along quite nicely. Great plot. Well developed world without an info dump and the world building did not get in the way of the story. Operator Helen is one tough cookie and I want to read more about her and her world.