We Have Always Been Here Review

An interesting look into the differences between humans and synthetic life – just a tad slow through the middle.

Author: Lena Nguyen Publisher: DAW books

Page Count: 368

We Have Always Been Here Cover Art

This ARC was provided through Netgalley and by DAW books have provided a free copy of this book in turn for an honest review.

While making my way through the selection of ARCs on Netgalley, this book in particular caught me eye. The title alone grabbed my attention, playing on the idea that alternative life has been in amongst us throughout our time, us being none the wiser. This story follows more of the robotics concept within this idea, but the title in some ways did indeed hold true.

This is a story which follows an interesting and popular concept, exploring our similarities with robotic life and our acceptance over synthetic beings. I do enjoy this idea, it links very much with our modern lives at the moment, with machinery becoming more intelligent and further integrated within our lives. Nguyen does have a different scientific spin, creating her own phenomenon to further explore our ever growing connections.

When Glenn put a plate of fish fingers – 50% real fish! Boasted the advertisement in front of her.

We Have Always Been Here – Lena Nguyen

Nguyen focuses her story on a singular main character, Park, who is a psychologist taking part in a mission to explore a new world. Throughout the story, she is painted as a outclass, reflecting on how her connection with the androids both abroad the ship and through her life has made her an introvert. There is a supporting cast, both through the other crew members which are gradually explored as the novel plays out and also the androids that she meets. The dialogue between Park and the supporting cast was great to read, Nguyen doing a brilliant job playing on each of the characters personalities through the speech within the book, highlighting the main characters differences from the other humans around herself. The androids within the book are also written well, and I felt were believable even within a real world context. The book does explore Park’s past, which at first was a little slow and it took a few of these chapters before their purpose to become clear, so these chapters weren’t always my favourite parts, except one moment within the android riots. The other POV is through a character called Taban, who explores the planet of Eos before Park, and their chapters are told through a robot known are HARE. Again these chapters didn’t become clear until the later of the novel, and even though I did enjoy the interactions between the characters in these chapters, they were a little slow because I was lost on their purpose.

I enjoyed the science fiction elements within the books, and some of the aspects within Nguyen’s world are largely explained well and I was never left feeling stupid or lost. However, I did feel that some aspects were a little dominated by science related explanations, taking away from the pace of the story. Similar to my comments on the other character chapters, this was focused more within the second half of story. Nguyen does unload more during the second half of the story, with the first half being more relaxed; I myself preferred the first half of the story. There is an element of the thriller genre within the story, where strange things begin to happen on the ship and the crew members are being taken over by nightmares. I enjoyed the mystery, wondering throughout the first half what was happening to the crew but I was left a little bit lacklustre in the resolution behind the mystery. Some elements I enjoyed and didn’t expect, but others were predictable and felt more spontaneous.

Overall, I did enjoy this novel and I am trying to continue my dive into science fiction reading, exploring interesting the genre provides. The story explores the concept of synthetic life, which is enjoyable, adding in the thriller genre, but it let down by the second half of the novel. I would give this novel a 3/5.

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