This novelette is a Hugo finalist published by in July 2016.

Emily Starr works as the housekeeping supervisor at the Edison Star hotel, near Heathrow Airport. Rooms at the hotel have been booked for astronauts of the upcoming Mars mission, which has caused extra work. Her boss is Benny Conway, who came from Africa years ago with nothing but is now manager of the hotel. Her mother is Moolie, a retired metallurgist suffering from dementia related to a hazardous materials investigation. Emily’s favorite book is The Art of Space Travel, a book with star maps that has always been in the house. Moolie alternately tells Emily she doesn’t know who Emily’s father was, that the book was his, and that he was a member of the dead New Dawn crew, or maybe he wasn’t. It’s a mystery that Emily wants to track down. When Moolie has a health crisis, she gets a final clue.

Pros: This is very well-written, heart-warming fiction about the near future. Emily narrates, moving from her childhood need for a father to concerns related to Moolie’s illness, to concerns about management at the hotel in the press glare following the astronauts. She tells us about Benny, about the neighborhood where she lives, about Moolie’s moods and conflicting stories, and about preparations for the Mars crew’s stay at the hotel.

Cons: Although this is technically science fiction, the science is tangential. It’s basically a character-driven story using the Mars mission as a pretext, and it would work just as well without that. Nothing really happens here except Emily’s quest, and it’s fairly clear early in the story who Emily’s father is.

This is masquerading as science fiction, but I have to give it extra points for the quality of the work. It’s very absorbing.

Four and a half stars.