No, not the one with the bears. Laura Lam’s Goldilocks is about a team of female astronauts trying to save humanity’s future by embarking on a mission to a planet in the Goldilocks zone. Earth is on the brink of an environmental collapse, and their destination planet Cavendish seems like a perfect place for a new home.

Their mission is an act of defiance against the oppressive government – although their captain Valerie Black was the one who planned it, they were replaced by an all-male crew. But Valerie gathers her team anyway, stealing the ship to start for Cavendish.

Most of the story is focused on Valerie’s adoptive daughter, Naomi. The first half is told in chapters alternating between their time aboard the Atalanta and snatches of the past on Earth. In the chapters taking place on Earth we get the sense that while the planet is dying from severe environmental damage, especially those with the money to change something do not really seem to care. Ironically, this includes Valerie and Naomi.

On the outset, Valerie’s team presents a very united front, even as some hard choices need to be made. But soon some darker secrets and hidden agendas are revealed that unhinge the social dynamics on board. The plot twists are not extremely surprising, but make sense as you get to know the characters a little bit better. The ending tied up a bit too neatly. Nonetheless, it was a highly enjoyable read and I will definitely keep Laura Lam on my radar.

The book is marketed as a thriller and compared to The Martian and The Handmaid’s Tale – none of those qualifiers really fit. Yes, the main character Naomi is a botanist, but this is where similarities to The Martian end – it is nowhere near as scientific and definitely missing the humour. The parallels to The Handmaid’s Tale can be seen in the way the government treats women, although it is certainly not as extreme and throughout the book the focus shifts more and more towards the claustrophobic situation on the Atalanta. It is hard to say which genre describes this book best. The speed with which the plot develops is too slow for a thriller. It is not a typical action packed sci-fi plot, as the focus is almost completely on the characters. We Sceptres decided to go with the term literary speculative fiction.

If you are looking for a cozy space read, this is it. And if you want more like it, I would recommend The Wanderers by Meg Howrey.

4/5 Goodreads stars