It's kind of ironic that David D. Levine's book is entitled Second Chance, because it really needed a second chance for me to pick it up again, and not leave it relegated it to the dreaded DNF shelf.
The problem is that Chaz Eades - our protagonist and narrator - is a bigoted, self-righteous ass. Even if it weren't for his tendency to end every sentiment with a "Dear Jesus" (or some variation thereof), his thoughts are often deplorable. When he discovers that a member of the crew is transsexual, he compares the realization to "biting into a ripe peach and finding it rotten inside," and when he is later confronted with evidence of a gay relationship, he says "the very thought made me queasy."
Lovely sentiments, are they not?
Fortunately, the novella is short enough that I was willing to give it a Second Chance to discover the fate of the mission. In doing so, I was able to see the big picture, and understand just how deeply the concept of second chances is embedded into the story. That doesn't redeem Chaz's character in the least, especially not once we learn about his full history prior to the mission, but I can at least appreciate what Levine was trying to do. There's no doubt that Chaz's situation is an awkward one that only get more difficult as time goes on, but I really struggled to accept him as a sympathetic sort of victim,
As for the mission, I guessed early on what the situation was, but there was still some mystery left as to who was responsible, and how it had all taken place. The big reveal is a bit anti-climactic, and lacks the emotional punch I think it needed, but the ending nicely ties up the theme of second chances. All-in-all, I found it an average story that's unfortunately bogged down by an entirely unlikable narrator, although some of the scientific concepts are interesting (particularly the philosophical questions around cloning), and the writing itself is solid.Originally reviewed at Beauty in Ruins