Despite some flaws, Joe Hart’s “Obscura” is a satisfying science fiction thriller. In a tale with clear antecedents (perhaps most notably Ridley Scott’s original “Alien” film), Hart still manages to build genuine psychological suspense as his main character, Dr. Gillian Ryan, finds herself unable to trust anyone — including herself.
Dr. Ryan is deceived into joining a dangerous mission to a space station where shadowy figures within NASA and the United Nations hope she will be able to diagnosis and cure a neurological disorder that leads to memory loss and violence. The disorder may or may not be related to a new form of dementia that has already stolen Ryan’s husband, and may soon claim her daughter, as well. The efficacy of a stunning new mode of transportation — one which may very well save mankind from itself — hangs in the balance.
Driven to the brink by betrayal, isolation and addiction, Ryan struggles mightily to separate friend from foe and to find the source of the disorder in the hope that doing so will allow her to return home to her daughter. Hart sets up the situation with care and does just enough to keep readers second-guessing themselves about the true villain’s identity — though he does overplay his hand just before the big reveal, undermining the surprise.