What kid hasn’t dreamt of being an astronaut? Being chosen among the elite to venture into space and explore the unkown is a childhood fantasy almost everyone has indulged in. However, in the world of science fiction, being an astronaut is not exactly the safest nor glamorous profession popular culture has imagined. So here are a few stories that show the darker and more dangerous side of being an astronaut.
The Explorer by JP Smythe
Cormac Easton is chosen to become the first journalist in space, but as crew members begin to die and ground control urges the astronaut on to the unknown, Cormac begins to suspect something more than bad luck is plaguing this mission. A taut psychological thriller that just happens to be set in space, which really helps seal the claustrophobic atmosphere of the story. This is a character-driven story that features some mind-bending storytelling that will captivate even the most discerning reader.
A lone astronaut overseeing a mining operation on the moon finds his physical and mental health deteriorate as he nears the end of his three-year contract making him question everything he holds dear. It’s a complicated suspense movie that owes more than a bit to old-school science fiction films, but still manages to find some new grooves in such well-worn paths. If you’re looking for a film with quiet intensity and a smart payoff, you can’t do better than this one.
Phases of Gravity by Dan Simmons
A former astronaut returns to Earth only to find himself alienated from his life and the people he loves. A meditative and melancholy look at one man’s disconnect to the world around him as he tries to understand the cosmic mysteries of the universe. It’s an astronaut movie low on science fiction, but still a treat for anyone who loves a moving, but sad tale about those conquerors of the stars.
The Eternity Artifact by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Five thousand years in the future, a group of astronauts from the Comity of Worlds are sent to explore a strange object of extraterrestrial origin that has appeared in our solar system, but a group of religious fanatics have menacing designs on the mission which may end up costing the crew their lives. A great hard science fiction story that extrapolates some interesting sociological trends into the far future to great effect. While the author takes his time laying the framework for the setting and plot, the dramatic pay off and thought-provoking ideas make it all worth it.
Troika by Alastair Reynolds
Three Russian cosmonauts suffer long-lasting consequences after they are chosen to explore evidence of an unknown alien intelligence that may have plans for humanity. Troika isn’t exactly a BDO (Big Dumb Object) book like Rendezvous with Rama or Ringworld. Its power comes from the way the cosmonauts are changed in irrevocable ways by their discoveries and how if knowledge is power, it can also be a very dangerous weapon.