Ceres, for those not in the know, is a large asteroid/small planetoid with a diameter of about 580 miles that lies within the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and it is the setting for much of R. Peter Keith’s science fiction adventure story WINE DARK DEEP. Rich in all manner of resources essential for travel in deep space, and populated by a small community of miners and their families who have left earth to act as guardians of the asteroid, it is a place of crucial strategic importance to astronauts, as it offers the only place to refuel and resupply on missions to Jupiter and beyond. As a result, Ceres yields unparalleled wealth and status to those who control it. At the beginning of the tale, it is effectively owned and managed by a shadowy group of organizations known as the ‘Mother Companies’, with whom the residents of Ceres have a bitter dispute that is about to erupt, with wide-reaching implications. Into this pressure-pot environment cruises the Ulysses, one of only three Eureka-class interplanetary ships in the whole universe, on a crucially important exploratory mission that promises to yield untold scientific benefits to the human race. Captained by Calvin ‘Cal’ Scott, the Ulysses is refused access to the fuel waiting for it on Ceres, leading Cal to take matters into his own hands, with spectacular results.
Keith has succeeded in crafting an accessible and enjoyable piece of science fiction here, perfect for newcomers to the genre or young adult readers. It’s a fairly quick read and dominated by some dramatic action sequences that move the plot along swiftly and keep the pages turning, as the story builds towards a thrilling final act that is worthy of Hollywood. Having worked with NASA on “a simulation-based exhibition that focused on the basic concepts of spaceflight and their possible application in the colonization of our solar system”, Keith clearly has the technical knowledge needed to bring his story to life. But as well as the detailed world-building he weaves into his text, there are also some wonderfully lyrical moments, including this quote: “The setting was so incongruous. A perfect bowl of night. Stars in incalculable number shining through luminous sheets of galactic material. A trillion stars. Maybe a trillion upon a trillion other lives out there. Or none. It was awe-inspiring and beautiful…”.
Homer references abound here, from the title WINE DARK DEEP to the ship being the Ulysses and its artificial intelligence software being named Odysseus. This book is the first in a series from Keith about the Ulysses and its crew, and the beginning, it would seem, of their own epic quest. It’s a great start.
Captain Calvin ‘Cal’ Scott leads the crew of the Ulysses through a difficult encounter with a band of rebels on the asteroid Ceres in R. Peter Keith’s well researched, entertaining and very enjoyable science fiction adventure.
~Joseph Sharratt for Indie Reader