The behavioral psychologist onboard a survey ship headed to a planet ripe for colonization, Dr. Grace Park must determine the origin of a strange phenomenon that's causing the crew to suffer mental breaks --without losing her own mind in the process.
Nguyen maintains a delicate balance in We Have Always Been Here. The slow, creeping unease aboard the Deucalion is punctuated by memories from Park’s past that soften the growing horror of what’s happening on the ship and slow down what otherwise might be a rather straightforward psychological thriller ... full of precise lines and icy sharpness, creating a world that is simultaneously oppressively expansive and uncommonly claustrophobic ... insomnia-inducing ... will leave you looking over your shoulder long after[.]
... a kind of multi-layered ghost story in space ... Robots and androids are We Have Always Been Here’s strongest suit: it’s most striking in the sections where it considers anti-automation sentiments, or examines Park’s preference for androids over human company. It feels like Nguyen is using her robots to grapple with metaphors of class and racial oppression ... There’s a hint of a really interesting horror element in Park’s possibly-misguided emotional attachment to the androids, the idea that she’s spent her life caring about empty simulacra; the novel doesn’t do more than flirt with this potentially devastating idea, however, and its increasingly magical treatment of consciousness reduces the impact of its musings on artificial intelligence. The story is hampered by plot holes and some distractingly bad science. There’s an obviously artificial nature to many key plot elements ... Far more upsetting, however, is the full-throated endorsement of quantum quackery in the novel’s denouement, where a laundry list of debunked pseudoscientific ideas, redolent of Rupert Sheldrake or What the Bleep Do We Know, are put forth to explain the events plaguing the expedition. I don’t expect science fiction to provide science education, but the genre does have the power to make things more plausible in the reader’s imagination—it’s disturbing to see that power used to lend credence to frankly anti-scientific ideas ... Tossing aside any issues it might have explored more deeply, and explaining away its horrors with disappointingly rosy and complete narrative solutions, We Have Always Been Here winds up adrift, not particularly horrifying, and not particularly science-fictional.
Grace is a flawed and isolated character; we get glimpses into her Earth-born past that parallel and inform her current self, showing that there is more division in life than man vs. machine ... An exciting debut that delves into themes of corporate conscription, the definition of humanity, and the complexity of relationships. This science fiction thriller will keep readers guessing and wondering past the final page.