A 2020 Washington Post Gift Guide selection
“A superb, smart debut! Love this woman who has to fight her way back to the top using her intelligence and expertise. The confident, sharp details made me feel I was there, in Helen's head, at each step of her remarkable journey. I can’t wait to read more from Unger, a welcome new voice in science fiction.”
Lissa Price, internationally bestselling author of the Starters series
“VERDICT: Unger’s video game credits are well matched to this space adventure. Dialog among rivals, teammates, and machine interfaces keeps the story moving quickly. Recommended for fans of technothrillers and those who appreciate a strong lead character navigating readers through the technical bits.
“In technology we so often look to science fiction for inspiration. Kimberly Unger is the rare author with a foot in both worlds and it shows as she gives a thrilling glimpse into the future with Nucleation.”
Andrew Bosworth, Vice President of Augmented and Virtual Reality, Facebook
“Science fiction fans will be captivated by Unger’s smart, plausible vision of the future of space travel, especially the elegant solution of utilizing quantum entanglement to communicate across light years.”
“This smart, gripping debut weaves technology, embodiment, and corporate espionage into a tense vision of the future that readers won't be able to put down.”
Jacqueline Koyanagi, author of Ascension
“[Nucleation is a] debut[s] worth checking out . . . showing that new voices continue to expand the genre”
“An inventive, exciting page turner that mixes mystery, bleeding edge technological speculation, and the promise of a potential sequel. If Grisham was a better wordsmith and chose to write hard sf thrillers, it would look a lot like Kimberly Unger’s gripping Nucleation.
Charles Gannon, author of the Caine Riordan series.
“Nucleation delivers top-notch suspense, deftly weaving together industrial espionage and first contact in a futuristic world that is all too plausible. Unger brings to her world a special sensibility for human psychology that gives realism to futuristic nanotech and corporate politics alike.”
Juliette Wade, author of Mazes of Power
“A near-future, tech-driven thriller marked by grounded characters, wondrous discovery, and a compelling mystery at its core.”
Joseph Mallozzi, Executive Producer, Dark Matter, Stargate's SG-1, Atlantis, Universe
“As a lifelong fan of science fiction, I’ve read it all. But it’s always a surprise to be captivated by a new work and for her first novel, Unger’s Nucleation delivers a rich world-building experience on top of a narrative that grabs at you and satisfies that urge for something fresh. I'm so looking forward to more from this author.”
Kate Edwards, Executive Director of The Global Game Jam
“Contact’s Ellie Arroway. Story of Your Life’s Louise Banks. The Last Astronaut’s Sally Jansen. Add Helen Vectorovich to the ranks of great science fiction featuring remarkable, driven women serving as humanity's first contact with an alien race. With Nucleation, Kimberly Unger offers a richly detailed, thought-provoking peek into our not-so distant future and a mind-blowing means of taking us to the stars, but are we prepared for what awaits us out there?”
Dayton Ward, author of Star Trek: Kirk Fu Manual
“Unger weaves real-world insights about virtual reality, technology, and art into a space opera packed with high adventure and dastardly intrigue.”
Eliot Peper, author of Veil and Breach
“Taut and snappy, Nucleation is solid science fiction with a whole lot of heart.”
Cat Rambo, author of Carpe Glitter
“This debut novel is recommended for fans of Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon (2003) and Martha Wells’ Murderbot series, as well as for readers who like their cutting-edge technology with a bit of danger on the side.”
“Forget your wide-eyed explorers, your prime directives, your philosophical debates. Forget all of Humanity nobly uniting in the face of the Unknown; our response to First Contact is far more likely to consist of mutual backstabbing in pursuit of the upper hand. Nucleation starts a clever journey down that less-traveled road, and passes through some fascinating territory en route.”
Peter Watts, author of The Freeze-Frame Revolution
“Rest assured, Kimberly Unger has found a way to make piloting space vehicles via virtual reality interesting, compelling, with the requisite “stakes” high enough to maintain our interest.”
Galaxy’s Edge Magazine
“Author Kimberly Unger has created an absolutely inspiring main character who demonstrates on how believing in one's conviction and own intuition will always lead to truth. Nucleation is an immersive tale that has blockbuster scale and emotional story-telling you won't soon forget.”
Terry Matalas, showrunner, Star Trek: Picard
“Helen, a company woman starting to see cracks in the corporate facade, is an engaging heroine, and Unger’s experience producing virtual reality games lends verve and specificity to her depictions of the remote-operator experience.”
“Nucleation is an intelligently written story that manages to combine a number of serious scientific concepts with sociological ones as well.”
Green Man Review
“Immersive and detailed SF and tech elements with the virtual reality gear that really shows the strength of the author’s knowledge and lines of invention.”
Nerds of a Feather
“I picked up Nucleation expecting a standard space opera. What I got was a thriller that kept me occupied for days.”
“Seamlessly blending elements of science fiction and mystery, Unger’s latest revolves around a virtual-reality pilot who, after her navigator dies while they’re working on a high-profile project, sets out to avenge his death and understand the bizarre circumstances surrounding the failed mission.”
Helen Vectorvich, a veteran remote operator, is thrilled to be a part of the Far Reaches team constructing a wormhole engine for humans to reach deep space. From her coffin enclosure on the company campus she can inhabit and control robot bodies, called waldos, millions of miles away. The first mission goes wrong just minutes into a jump. Helen awakes in her spiderlike waldo to find her tools and even her body being eaten by tiny, dustlike creatures. Back in her own body at company headquarters she learns that her copilot navigator has been killed and her own life threatened. More die as Helen continues to jump back to Deep Space to figure out the mystery of the dustlike entities. Is the threat a new life form? Or sabotage from a rival corporation? VERDICT Unger's (The Gophers of High Charity) video game credits are well matched to this space adventure. Dialog among rivals, teammates, and machine interfaces keeps the story moving quickly. Recommended for fans of technothrillers and those who appreciate a strong lead character navigating readers through the technical bits.—Catherine Lantz, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago Lib.
Seamlessly blending elements of science fiction and mystery, Unger’s latest revolves around a virtual-reality pilot who, after her navigator dies while they’re working on a high-profile project, sets out to avenge his death and understand the bizarre circumstances surrounding the failed mission.
Helen Vectorovich and her navigator partner, Theodore Westlake, have worked successfully together for years on numerous remote deep space mining missions. But while attempting to open a jumpgate billions of miles away, Vectorovich—remote piloting a robot body—discovers that the project is in chaos, being disassembled by what appears to be an army of tiny nanomachines of unknown origin. She is pulled out before the machines take her robotic body apart, but she soon discovers Westlake was inexplicably killed by quantum feedback. With her only friend dead and her career in jeopardy, Vectorovich sets out to find answers—and becomes entangled in a grand-scale conspiracy involving industrial espionage and what could be first contact with a sentient alien race. The tech-powered premise—exploring and mining space by sending nanobots (“eenies”) through small wormholes that slowly build pre-programed structures out of interplanetary dust that are ultimately utilized by VR pilots—is a strong initial hook, and the mystery surrounding the strange nanomachines is well constructed. The pacing is lethargic, though, with long stretches of little or no action. And the biggest disappointment is with Vectorovich, whose potential as a memorable and endearing protagonist is squandered by a lack of internal and external description and backstory. Aside from her work relationships, readers know nothing about her, which makes for a cardboard character whom readers aren’t emotionally invested in and ultimately don’t care about.
A strong science-fiction premise and solid mystery elements laid low by pacing and character issues.