Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Length: 192 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Publication Date: June 12th 2018
She believed in the mission with all her heart.
But that was sixty million years ago.
How do you stage a mutiny when you’re only awake one day in a million? How do you conspire when your tiny handful of potential allies changes with each shift? How do you engage an enemy that never sleeps, that sees through your eyes and hears through your ears and relentlessly, honestly, only wants what best for you?
Sunday Ahzmundin is about to find out.
The Freeze-Frame Revolution is the new long awaited Peter Watts work. His Rifters trilogy is the series that first got me into sci-fi about five years ago. I vividly remember devouring it during summer holidays and recommending it to everyone around me at the time. I was mindblowed by the ideas, the complex characters and worldbuilding, and how clever everything was. So let’s just say that when I saw that this little novella was a thing, I couldn’t contain my excitement.
The Freeze-Frame Revolution is set in Watts’s Sunflower cycle which is a series composed of several shorter works. I haven’t read any of them before reading this novella and I’m pretty sure you don’t have to either to understand it. It probably gives a bit more insight into this world but Freeze-Frame works perfectly fine as a standalone story.
This novella follows Sunday, a member of a spaceship that has been traveling across the universe for 65 millions year with the same crew of 30 000 people. They are all periodically awakened to take care of the ship and Chimp, the ship’s AI who is in charge of everything. Sunday has been a member of the crew for a very long time and she’s on deck more than everyone else being Chimp’s favorite human. As you might imagine, time is starting to feel pretty long for everyone and, several members of the crew start to think that they want things to change. Indeed, at first, they all thought they would be able to either go back to Earth or colonize a new planet but, after millions of year traveling without a new mission, they are starting to grow impatient. Most of them know they will probably just end up dying in their sleep when Chimp won’t find them useful anymore. In order to change that, a couple of members start to build a semblance of a rebellion and Sunday discovers them. But will she help them or will she remain on Chimp’s side?
Being a novella, this work is quite short, however it doesn’t mean that it isn’t packed with fascinating ideas and concepts. The worldbuilding is very detailed which is pretty impressive considering the length. I read this book in July and I still vividly remember a couple of scenes such as the moment Sunday sees Chimp dancing, how she banters with it and her descriptions of the ship. The atmosphere of this story is quite peculiar since the members of the crew have mixed feelings toward Chimp and their mission and how pointless their travel appears to be. Most of them feel lost as they haven’t had news from Earth in millions of years: humanity could be extinct and they wouldn’t know it. They are without a place to go back to and they have to keep on building gates to make space travel easier when they don’t know if anyone will be able to ever use them.
The Freeze-Frame Revolution is quite different from The Rifters trilogy but it’s a masterpiece in its own right. It’s complex, detailed, impactful and much more stronger than a lot of novels. I would recommend it to any science fiction lover, even those you don’t usually like novellas because it’s so accomplished that it doesn’t feel like one at all (not to say novellas are bad by any means, they just feel a bit too short sometimes). I definitely want more stories set in this world so I will check out some of the other stories set in this universe for sure!
5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts”
I love the sound of this! I’m trying to wrap my head around a crew that’s been travelling for millions of years – they must be sleeping for a great deal of that time? I’m definitely going to find a copy, thanks for sharing!
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Yes they are mostly sleeping and awakened when the ship needs them! It’s the first time I’m reading aabout such a long time period and it is fascinating. 🙂
Well, this sounds downright fascinating! And your description of Chimp has some delightful HAL 9000 vibes that make this story even more intriguing… 🙂
Added to the “wanted” list!
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It is! It’s really interesting to see a story based on very old sci-fi tropes and how Watts incorporates them in its own universe.
I never read 2001: A Space Odyssey but the movie terrified me and I can definitely draw the parallel between Chimp and HAL! 🙂
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