Saturday, December 4, 2021

Review: We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen

by Lena Nguyen
Release Date: July 6, 2021
2021 DAW Books
Kindle Edition; 355 Pages
ISBN: 978-0756417291
Audiobook: B097S6DLZ1
Genre: Fiction / Science-Fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher
2.5 / 5 Stars
Misanthropic psychologist Dr. Grace Park is placed on the Deucalion, a survey ship headed to an icy planet in an unexplored galaxy. Her purpose is to observe the thirteen human crew members aboard the ship—all specialists in their own fields—as they assess the colonization potential of the planet, Eos. But frictions develop as Park befriends the androids of the ship, preferring their company over the baffling complexity of humans, while the rest of the crew treats them with suspicion and even outright hostility.

Shortly after landing, the crew finds themselves trapped on the ship by a radiation storm, with no means of communication or escape until it passes—and that's when things begin to fall apart. 
My Thoughts
We Have Always Been Here had such great potential.  I actually really enjoyed the first third of the book and sped through it rather quickly as there was a lot going on, there was mystery, and I thought the conflict between the crew members rather interesting.  I love the thought about being on a spaceship almost as much as being in a haunted house so the creepy ambiance was right up my alley; I also have no problem with a story where I have no idea what is happening. Then, it was as if I had a bucket of water thrown in my face; everything started going downhill from that point and I really struggled going forward and I stopped counting the number of times I rolled my eyes. 
First of all, I didn't have a problem with the characters in the story, but I also never really felt like I got to know them either. The writing style made me feel disconnected from them, their true feelings, and because of this, I didn't empathize with any of the characters and as a result, I didn't really care what happened to any of them.  I think there is a really fine line between keeping things mysterious and creating connections with your audience and I feel like the author maybe struggled with this aspect of her characterization.  I can completely dislike a character, but feel empathy for them at the same time. Not the case in this book. The author was trying to make the main character, Park, feel isolated from the rest of the crew, which she succeeded quite well at doing, but the way it was done made it difficult for me to feel a connection to her as well. 
The plot was on the weaker side, with a writing style that seemed to emphasize description rather than allowing the reader to try and figure things out.  Unfortunately, this made both the story, and the themes, feel rather disjointed, something that really became noticeable about one-third into the book.  The author even threw in some flashback episodes, and while they were interesting, they were really irrelevant to what was happening in the book.  I think there were better ways the author could have shown Park's affinity to androids rather than through these long flashback episodes.  I do think they were there to make the reader show empathy for androids, but all it did was slow things down and take away from the story.  What I did find interesting in the flashbacks though, was the relationship between Park and Glenn; now that would have contributed to the whole sympathy for androids thing for me much more than how it was done.
I love space opera and read them quite a bit, and I don't generally have a problem when an author downplays some of the scientific principles as they are not necessarily hardcore science, but sometimes there are some things that you just can't ignore.  Sending two psychiatrists on a scouting mission with only what, 13 crew members? Problematic. The whole time-space time warp thing? problematic. The ship itself? Problematic. I think there was only one person on board who could fix anything mechanical so if anything happened they would be stranded.  Some of it just didn't jive with the overall description and it bothered me throughout the book.   

We Have Always Been Here has a very interesting concept, and the last quarter of the book does pick up quite a bit and is different from the middle of the book, but the disjointed story line and the lack of character development definitely had a huge impact for me.  And while I liked the ending, I didn't feel like it was resolved, as if the author wasn't quite sure how she wanted it to end. I'm still not sure if the author understands the scientific principles she was describing, but the descriptions did make me roll my eyes a few times. Although I like to explore new authors in this genre, this one just didn't work for me.  



  1. cool cover and i have been reading more scifi the past couple of years. sorry it fell a little flat
    sherry @ fundinmental

    1. The concept was pretty interesting. I would like to try another by this author in the future.

  2. Good review. Not really my genre anyway.