My Sweet Satan by Peter Cawdron
A review, just for the Hal of it.
My Sweet Satan, by Peter Cawdron, is a science fiction novel with a whodunit twist.
My Sweet Satan begins with a young girl sitting on a porch. Jasmine is nineteen and busy calibrating the meaning of texts between her and Mike, her boyfriend. Did she say something wrong? What does his sending a smiley face mean?
Thank God I grew up before smart phones.
As she contemplates her future, Jasmine breathes in the summer air. She’s going to miss her home.
Soon, she and Mike will both go away to college. A brilliant student, Jasmine dreams that some day, she’ll be an astronaut. Mike has the same dream. Inside, her mother makes dinner as her dad and brother set the table.
“Stay with me Jazz!” Something jolts Jasmine away from the porch, shocking her back from edge of death into another reality.
Jasmine discovers that she’s part of a crew of six, on Copernicus a spaceship whose mission it is investigate Bestla, a small moon orbiting Saturn. As Jasmine struggles to connect with her surroundings, the last twenty years are a blank. She barely recognizes “her” Mike in the older man who revives her. Mike shows few traces of her hometown boyfriend. “Jazz,” the thin woman she sees in the mirror, is a stranger.
Jason, the ship’s AI, senses Jazz’s disorientation.
With Jason whispering instructions in her ear, she decides to keep her memory loss to herself. Jason sympathizes with her plight, sharing with her his dream of being human. After her vomiting ceases (remind me never to book a room on the Space Station), she explores her surroundings. Cawdron takes great pains in describing the ship as well what it would be like to navigate a place with little to no gravity. He succeeds in putting the reader with Jazz as she makes her way around the ship.
In My Sweet Satan, Cawdron renders his few characters in broad strokes, including Jasmine.
Though some of the prose is lovely, you don’t know them as people, but more as a type. Still this serves a purpose. You’re more invested in the action than in any character’s fate.
There’s a major disagreement between crewmembers. An unmanned probe detected a message coming from Bestal: “My sweet Satan”.
Mike wants to turn around; the others think it might be a miscommunication and are determined to investigate. Personally, thanks to those long ago catechism lessons, I’d be with Mike. Then, quicker than Ten Little Indians, accidents and deaths start to happen. Ultimately, as she fights for her life, it is Jazz who must confront the mystery of Bestla.
In his My Sweet Satan notes, Cawdron asks that any reviews not reveal the end of the book—meaning through the last page.
I agree that knowing the end would be a disservice to quite a good story. There’s more to a mystery then simply discovering whodunit; there’s the resolution where we learn why, just for the Hal of it.