Atlantic Monthly. Dec. 2023. 193p. ISBN 9780802161543. $24. F
Four astronauts and two cosmonauts are on a nine-month mission aboard a space station orbiting Earth. Besides daily meetings with ground crew, regular exercise, cabin cleaning, and sleep, they are tasked with performing experiments on plant and animal life, monitoring their own biomedical conditions, and, crucially, reporting on atmospheric changes observed from space. Unsurprisingly for any group of people confined to small quarters for a lengthy period, they have their jealousies and squabbles as well as true camaraderie. Individually, they experience boredom, mood swings, and personal crises while aloft—one grieves the loss of her mother, while another senses the end of his marriage. Their conversations range from the trivial (favorite childhood candy) to the profound (human evolution and the meaning of life). All the while, the crew is tracking a massive typhoon as it gains strength and heads towards the Philippines.
VERDICT Coming from five different countries, the space travelers represent a microcosm of humanity. This is a beautifully written, deeply thoughtful meditation on planet Earth and our place in it.
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