Thursday, October 13, 2011

Angel of Europa, by Allen Steele


Subterranean, Signed Limited Edition, ISBN 9781596064126, August 2011

Allen Steele is a fantastic storyteller.

I suppose I shouldn't really stop right there. This novelette is a very neatly plotted mystery that takes place in orbit around, and on the surface of, Europa. The International Jupiter Expedition has arrived at Jupiter already having suffered one casualty: their arbitrator, Otto Danzig, was nearly killed in an unexplained airlock accident, and has been in medical hibernation since they crossed Mars orbit. Now, though, the expedition has a worse problem: The bathyscaphe lowered into the Europan ocean has suffered an accident, the two scientists aboard have both been killed. Only the pilot, Evangeline Chatelain, survived and returned to the ship. She reports that a huge undersea creature rammed the bathyscaphe and breached the hull of the observation cabin, forcing her to jettison it in order to escape alive herself.

The problem is that no one believes her.

Captain Diaz orders Danzig awakened, even though he is not yet fully healed, because the expedition needs its arbitrator to conduct an impartial investigation and resolve the question of what happened in the bathyscaphe. Still weak, not completely recovered and moreover just emerged from months of hibernation, Danzig quickly discovers that he'll need to go down to the Europa surface, and take Chatelain with him. Does the giant sea creature exist, and why has no one else seen any sign of it? What about the complicated relationship between Chatelain and the two scientists--both of whom were her ex-lovers?

Then Danzig makes the decision that makes everyone--including him--fear for his safety. He's going into the ocean in the remaining bathyscaphe--with Chatelain as his pilot.

This is very nicely done, with tight plotting and characters nicely developed in the small space of this novelette.

Highly recommended.

I received this book from a friend.