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In the Quick


In the Quick

Author Kate Hope Day returns with her sophomore release, IN THE QUICK, a brilliantly imagined novel about a female astronaut and the mission that consumes her.

At 12 years old, June is an inquisitive but moody child. She lives with her aunt and uncle, the latter of whom provides her with the emotional and intellectual support she craves. A celebrated and beloved rocket scientist, Peter Reed encourages her curiosities, whether that means answering countless questions about how and why things work, or accepting her donations of household items she has taken apart to learn more about their insides. But even more important, Peter includes June on his own research studies, allowing her to see highly classified and groundbreaking materials on the production of fuel cells that will power explorers to the farthest edges of the solar system. When he dies, June’s obsession with physics and mechanics intensifies, and her focus on space sharpens. June’s aunt Regina, never a close companion, decides that she can no longer care for June and ships her off to begin astronaut training at the National Space Program in the school named for her uncle.

"Perfect for readers of THE MARTIAN and THE NEED, this stunning exploration of the potential of humans and their inventions will challenge everything you thought you knew about good science fiction."

June is younger than her peers by two years, but easily equal to them in intellect. Unfortunately for June, she struggles with phrasing her ideas and approaching her classmates with them, a fact that, combined with her age and connection to Peter Reed, makes her an outsider. But the school is drawn together when news that the Inquiry, the revolutionary spacecraft powered by Peter’s last project, has disappeared. The astronauts on board were trained in the Peter Reed School for Space Preparation, and their disappearance draws into sharp relief the dangers to which the students are exposing themselves, should their training succeed. Desperate to preserve her uncle’s legacy and unravel the mystery at the heart of the Inquiry’s failure, June becomes obsessed with listening to satellite streams from where it last pinged --- and she hears a rhythmic tapping too obvious to ignore.

Years later, June is embarking on her own space mission, led by two of her uncle’s former students, both of whom worked closely with him on fuel cells and were in the running to join the fated crew of the Inquiry. Although everyone else at the National Space Program has stopped talking about it, June’s interest in the mysterious spaceship is reignited when she hears the same tapping sound on her own ship. When she tracks down the source of it, the urine filtration system, she realizes that she alone has proof that the crew is still alive. But how? And where?

After a tragic accident on her ship, June joins the iconic Pink Planet space station, where she joins forces with another of Peter’s former students, James. James is a perfect match for June in both intelligence and stubborn moodiness, and their relationship morphs from enemies to intellectual partners to something far more passionate --- and volatile. As they experiment with fuel cells to try to figure out what went wrong on the Inquiry, the mystery deepens and the stakes of bringing the crew home --- if they are indeed alive --- grow sky-high.

When I read IF, THEN, Day quickly became an instant-buy author for me. I am not typically drawn to science fiction, but her books immerse you in the science and then bowl you over with the fiction, constantly emphasizing and challenging the limits of human abilities and emotions. IN THE QUICK is no exception. June is a standout protagonist --- one part child, one part adult --- and I suspect that readers will be quickly drawn to her intense but sorely-lacking-in-people-skills demeanor. Her brilliance, which might turn readers away, is perfectly foiled by her loneliness and feelings of being misunderstood, and Day takes careful steps to develop her character and push her forward.

But what really makes June --- and this gorgeous, haunting book --- shine are Day’s stunning descriptions of the mind and how creativity and innovation are fostered and championed by humans. There are so many instances in which June stumbles upon a groundbreaking technique or discovery simply by asking herself what a thing does or how it needs to adapt, and then standing back and looking at the big picture. Without ever weighing down the narrative with complex mathematical or scientific formulas or definitions, Day makes the science of space and exploration accessible, visceral and deliciously dramatic, an art form in and of itself.

The allure of the mystery here goes without saying. Who among us is not fascinated by ill-fated explorations of any kind? But rather than focus on (and overwrite) the doom and gloom of the situation, Day keeps the suspense simmering on every page, so quiet and sneaky that you just might miss it until you are reminded of the very high stakes of June’s mission. With echoes of JANE EYRE and THE YELLOW WALLPAPER, the mystery at the heart of the book succeeds elegantly against its more science-fiction background.

Deeply enthralling and fiercely feminist, IN THE QUICK is yet another success from Kate Hope Day. Perfect for readers of THE MARTIAN and THE NEED, this stunning exploration of the potential of humans and their inventions will challenge everything you thought you knew about good science fiction.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on March 12, 2021

In the Quick
by Kate Hope Day

  • Publication Date: June 21, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 052551127X
  • ISBN-13: 9780525511274