The Afterlife of Alice Watkins is book one of a gentle science fiction series. It opens with Alice, who lives in Australia and is about to celebrate her sixty-fifth birthday. She falls asleep in her chair; when she awakes she is very confused; everything seems different. A carer and doctor explain that she has been asleep for around four-hundred-years, and her name is Alexis Langley.
Each day brings new discoveries for Alice. Currently her home is on a spaceship near Saturn, but the team around her are preparing for her return to earth. Alice is shocked when she sees a reflection of herself; gone is her grey hair and wrinkled skin. The women who returns her gaze is red-haired and aged around thirty-years-old. Alice still insists she’s Alice Watkins, but there are unexplainable moments. Sometimes she speaks and acts in ways that the old Alice would never have done. Could she perhaps be the Alexis that the others insist she is?
This had aspects of interest, but it is a slow read. There are technical scifi elements, mixed with everyday relationships, plus whispers of a romance and a degree of mystery. However, book one of any series needs to grab the reader with interesting characters, perhaps some tension or high drama and a tempting storyline. Although I understood the need for world-building and descriptions of the futuristic space technology, there was room for another round of strict editing. I thought the main storyline was watered down by too many secondary characters and time spent on unnecessary mundane activities.
Alice’s dual-character was intriguing, but I would have liked to see more of a dramatic contrast in behaviour between the two personas that share the same body. There was also room to give the other significant characters more clear-cut personalities. I understand that this series sets out with a time-travelling granny, but the contrast of sharing her body with someone who is half her age is a hard task to pull-off convincingly. Overall an interesting idea, but it all took too long to unfurl for me.
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In the distant future…
Alice Watkins is history.
Time’s attention must have been elsewhere the moment old, grey, unsophisticated Alice Watkins died in her armchair a few days before her birthday in November 2016.
It still wasn’t minding what it was doing on Saturn Station in the year 2513.
Dr Jim Grossmith, one of the most eminent scientists of the age has devoted his career to The Sleeping Beauty Phenomenon, guarding the beautiful, red-haired young woman who sleeps peacefully, in a mysterious sarcophagus, her life perfectly suspended, her body preserved in a strange fluid. The woman, cocooned in her protective shell has defied scientific analysis for almost four hundred years. History recorded little, only that she is Dr Alexis Langley, a noted scientist of her time.
When the sarcophagus opens and vanishes without a trace, leaving the young woman in his care, Jim Grossmith eagerly awaits the day when she can tell him the manner of her preservation. A strange science, lost in the annals of the past? Alien technology?
But as he learns her story, Jim Grossmith finds himself faced with an even deeper mystery. He is certain the physical form of Dr Alexis Langley emerged from the sarcophagus, but as for anything else…