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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Abhuman: The Covenant, Book One is a hard science fiction novella written by Hugh B. Long. Cheska Bellamy began having strange dreams that seemed a little bit too intense to actually be dreams -- but what else could they be? While she had never lived anywhere but in Ngome City on the terraforming starship, Ghimorphos, she could feel the grass underneath her feet and see the sky, the real sky, dark overhead and pierced by thousands of stars. And there was a boy there, who suddenly appeared not terribly far away and began to walk towards her. “Are we dreaming?” she asked him. But he seemed just as confused by their meeting in this place as she was. Cheska suddenly found herself back in her mom’s kitchen, the milk she had spat out in the dream sequence splattered on the floor.
Their people, the Artaldeans, had been terraforming Krijese for a hundred years, and that task was nearly completed. Cheska’s children would be the first generation raised on a planet since the apocalyptic event which left their people homeless and wandering the stars. Cheska was about to turn sixteen; it was a momentous coming of age event for each young adult, marked by ceremonies and the transition to a career and shared quarters with co-workers. Cheska would miss being with her mom; she was not all that thrilled at the Confirmation of Purity ceremony in which she would soon be taking part. Unlike her best friend, Eliza, Cheska had other reasons for her mixed feelings about the ritual. Cheska had special gifts, gifts that would lead to her being called Abhuman. If they were discovered, she would be sent to the Core for rehabilitation and treatment. She knew all too well that no one ever came back from the Core.
Hugh B. Long’s hard science fiction novella, Abhuman: The Covenant, Book One, is a gripping and intense post-apocalyptic tale which finds homo sapiens in a far-flung universe and subject to the strictures of the “Savior” who kept their species alive. Life aboard the terraforming ship seems little changed in many ways from traditional cultures on earth. Cheska and her mother live in the darkened lower levels with the poorer classes, while their more fortunate superiors live up in the airy domain. Their lives are controlled by a religious cult, and any deviation from the norm is entirely unacceptable. I felt an instant rapport with Cheska who’s not entirely sure she appreciates the time frames according to which the major events of her life should take place, and I shared her thrill of anticipation when the events at the Confirmation Ceremony commence. Long’s plot blends an enthralling coming of age story with an original and credible hard science fiction spin, then he adds in just the right bit of horror. His characters are the stuff great space operas are made of, especially Cheska, Taro, and Cheska’s lifelong friend, protector and mentor, Jak. This fast-paced tale is impossible to put down, and that’s a good thing. Abhuman: The Covenant, Book One is most highly recommended.