I read Dead Astronauts in the hope of enjoying a tightly plotted sci fi novella with some really strong speculative science. By about half way through I was pretty confused, and by the end I was disappointed. This is the promotional blurb for the book:
If Moses had launched the Lost Tribe of Israel into space at Apollo speeds, they would be a quarter of a light year away today. They would still need another eighty thousand years to reach our nearest neighbor star.
If Moses could have launched them ten times as fast, they would be over half way there by now. Traveling a hundred times as fast as Apollo, the nearest star is still a millennium away. What if aliens from there tried to come here? A lot can go wrong in a thousand years.
An interstellar probe decelerates into earth orbit. Nothing happens. An astronaut team discovers why. Its crew died in transit. Exposed to whatever killed the aliens, can NASA let the explorers come home? Quarantined and running out of air, how can they survive?
The last paragraph sounded pretty good to me. The issue is this: The book is 174 pages long. The two characters don't go onto the spaceship until page 101. They don't discover the attempted quarantine until page 150. The solution to their problem, as you might surmise, is not complicated. The twist ending that I was hoping might explain what the aliens wanted or even what killed them... well, it never came.
Wilson writes good prose, clean and very easy to read. But as stories go, this one never really got off the launch pad. The alien ship was kind of intriguing but the hero Rex wasn't likable and the heroine Dawn seemed like she belonged in a sci fi book from fifty years ago. When it comes to science fiction I can forgive the lack of a substantial speculative element or the lack of real story--but not both.