Kept by Theresa Jacobs is a sci-fi suspense novel with an intriguing premise done differently than I’ve seen before, though we’ll dig into that in a moment. It appears to be the start of a series, given the cliffhanger at the end, but I couldn’t find any information on Amazon or Goodreads to indicate such.
We meet the main character Finnegan in his dreams, hunting in the mountains of Montana. He awakens in underground tunnels monitored by aliens, having left Earth with the rest of humanity some number of years before (it isn’t quite clear) due to the cooling of the sun.
I’m going to gripe about the science for a moment, because during his flashback explanation of the refugees’ situation, the author quotes a year just under a millenium from now and states the sun has cooled, when that’s at least a few million years off and the sun would balloon into a red giant long before the cooling would disrupt Earth’s ecosystem. Putting that aside, however, and assuming it’s meant to be a soft scifi/slipstream story, we can continue.
Humanity boarded twelve ships and shot off to various theoretically habitable planets. Finn’s ship, the Gaia, crash landed on a rocky planet, and everyone on board was dragged into these tunnels by slug-like aliens, given sack dresses to cover themselves, and stripped of their belongings. They take pills instead of food each day, which seem to magically erase their need to defecate, eat, drink, or have sex.
We discover that Finn has a partner named Helen who is playing skip-rope with the line between insanity and stability, and shenanigans involving his attempts to kiss her get the colonists gassed. The aliens release the gas whenever humans start to fight, hurt themselves, or otherwise get up to trouble.
Talking about the plot much longer would create spoilers, so I’ll give my general impression from here on out. The story takes a while to get started, but the cast of characters were enjoyable and the plot moved at an even clip. once we hit the inciting incident and the mysteries began unraveling. The majority of plot movement happens in dialog, and the setting was pretty sparse, but given the conditions in the tunnels and the lack of possessions, it ended up being far less obnoxious than many dialogue heavy novels I’ve read or reviewed in the past.
Setting the science aside, I found the situation to be intriguing and believable enough within the author’s world building to follow along, and found myself caring about and rooting for the characters by the end. The ending was satisfying and interesting, and the hint of a sequel left me wanting more. If she put out another book, I’d love to take a look at it. Her writing style was relatively plain, sometimes repetitive, but serviceable and clear. I only found a few typos and misplaced words, which is a step above many of the submissions I’ve reviewed.
All in all I enjoyed reading the story and look forward to seeing more of Jacobs’ work.
4/5, solid sci-fi story with well done suspense, interesting characters, and a common premise done in a very different way. Definitely worth picking up if you have the time.