WE CHOSE TO GO tells the story of Earth’s first contact with an alien signal from a previously unknown planet orbiting a star 99 light years away.
In November of 2046, the SETI Project detects a signal from beyond the solar system. It’s a short burst of Fibonacci numbers whose increasing and decreasing values indicate an intelligent origin. Raechelle Francis, the narrator of this story, is four years old at the time the message is received and, as she is to discover, her whole life becomes entangled with this message and the hunt for the beings who broadcast it.
This well-plotted story is told in the first person by Rae, one of fifty-one exceptional children trained as crew for the starship being built to search for the source of the signal. Beginning with her elementary school years, she is one of thousands of children chosen across the globe to attend Bright Futures Academy where her intellectual and athletic skills are honed to a brilliant edge. Throughout her twenty-five years of training, the number of Bright Futures students falls due to attrition and poaching from businesses and universities. Surprisingly, the nations of Earth cooperate with training and with financial support by handing over part of their military budgets to support the Academy. All of Earth’s resources are utilized to create new technologies and, ultimately to build a starship capable of making a journey of 58 trillion miles through interstellar space. The various military organizations, especially in the United States, demand that the new technology be turned over to them but the world leaders fear that this would destabilize regional conflicts still simmering in the Middle East, Kashmir, and other areas. The second part of the book deals with interpersonal relationships of the fifty-one crew members launched into space, their relationships with their families left behind and the technology that they depend on to complete the mission and to return home.
WE CHOSE TO GO is more than a description of this fateful journey into the unknown. The physics, especially the effects of General Relativity on the crew, is explained lucidly. The starship itself has been built with existing Earth technology that has been enhanced to bring the ship to 99.6% of the speed of light. There are no warp drives or transporters on this ship and the use of nuclear fuel and ion drive assist rockets to achieve this speed surprises even the most jaded members of the crew. The strongest part of the book is the “human effect” and the way the crew handles problems never dealt with previously. Parents and family members die as the crew remains perpetually young, a first stress that each crewmember is forced to confront. Nationalism, never completely suppressed by Bright Futures, begins to unravel crew cohesion until Rae must perform a final, desperate act to protect the Universe from contamination.
WE CHOSE TO GO is written in the best tradition of science fiction – with the focus not on technology, but on the meaning of humanity, its foibles, and its triumphs.