In a universe of long-haul truckers, parasite-bearing megalomaniacs, asteroid rustlers, and homicidal peace keepers, some people just want to stay alive.
Deep within Kerberos Station, pipe crawler Sachi Inside is dying of the planet-killing Hibravian virus. In a state of delirium, the agoraphobic girl agrees that in exchange for life, she will not only leave her pipes, but even the station. A parasitic plant wraps around her, guides her to an exiting ship, and adheres to the hull.
Captain Karasi Kwei is not pleased to discover a stowaway, but the crew thinks there’s money to be made on the plant, and the fact that both the Eastern Star Corporation and the Elysium Empire are tracking it confirms its value. However, none of that matters when the entire crew falls sick with the incurable Hibravian.
But Sachi’s plant contains the solution to the reversal of the closing universe. All they have to do is fight the mercenaries, survive the virus, evade the Elysium Empire, and navigate a fluctuating microwave wall in order to save the universe.
Insiders is an interesting space opera novel, heavily character driven, written by Shannon Knight. The universe is overrun with the Hibravian virus, a deadly and easy to spread infection that is quickly exterminating populations; onboard the Jack, a long-haul small vessel, a strange body has been found attached to it after departing from a deep space station.
Surprisingly, this body reveals to be a small girl, Sachi, who seems to have attached a plant to herself, a sentient organism, Botan. At first sight, the crew doesn't realize the importance this discovery has for the universe; their major worry is about not catching the Hibravian virus, as it is a total death sentence, and if they could profit on safely delivering Sachi to somebody.
However, soon they discover that inside this symbiotic relationship between Sachi and Botan is hidden the key to overcome the virus; and if the importance is not clear, the sudden approach from a mercenary corp which wants to recover Botan makes it totally clear. The Jack's crew will have to deal with many things just to survive.
Knight narrates this story using the crew members as the different point of views, adding some additional ones to illustrate more aspects of the world, such as the Eleusyan mysteries; building each one of them from the inside, creating complex characters whom you end connecting. From the captain Karasi, a cleaver leader, to the navigators and even the "doctor" inside.
A detail that I certainly appreciated is how well researched the science details are in this science fiction novel; especially when medical themes are touched. This made much easier to accept the new data, and the made up virus as part of the novel.
Personally, I found the pacing to be rather slow for my taste, probably as a consequence of how much time is spent developing and building the characters, while introducing small worldbuilding details; so we could say the payoff is worth.
If you like character driven space operas, you should give Insiders a try, as Knight has nailed many of the details that can make this kind of novels memorable.
Shannon Knight lives in the Pacific Northwest with her faithful feline, the best cat on this planet. Their adventurous lives include coffee, reading, ribbon games, and K-dramas. Prior to settling in the PNW, Shannon traveled to islands, living briefly on some and sailing from Java to Christmas Island on a small ketch. Much later, Shannon fell ill with the novel COVID-19 virus and became primarily bedbound for about two and a half years. The first thing she did upon regaining the ability to sit up all day was complete the publication of Wish Givers, Insiders, and Grave Cold.