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The Ptolemy Project

Four teams. One test. No way out.

Wake up, report to the Tect, try to survive. Life on Carcer Station is a change from the daily struggle on Titan for four strangers Lyra, Zeke, Aquila and Pollux. Each day, they perform a task at the Tect, a unique building that can shift to accommodate any challenge it might have for them. Sometimes it’s a maze, or an obstacle course. But the biggest challenge is the one going on inside their heads — the fight for their own sanity. Zeke hears voices, Pollux struggles to manifest basic emotions, Aquila is two different people from one moment to the next, and Lyra can’t seem to stay away from fire. The group could not be more different, but each are haunted by fragmented memories of their lives before. Then things start to go wrong. The power in Carcer Station shorts out, and the veil around them thins. The four must fight to stay alive in a system that’s falling apart as quickly as their own minds. Even if they can make it out, will they be able to find a way back to Titan, and to a society that accepts them, scars and all?

St. Clair creates a compelling, character-driven YA science-fiction thriller with mature themes that will reward contemplation long after the final page is read. Set in a future after humanity has colonized Titan, The Ptolemy Project centers on teenagers who wake up on a mysterious space station, a puzzling habitat that has been redesigned for some nefarious purpose. A wide variety of characters are trapped there, though the story focuses on fire-obsessed Lyra, sociopath Pollux, paranoid schizophrenic Zeke, and Aquila, a young trans woman with a split personality. In order to survive, they are subjected to a series of challenges. While their lives are in danger, it’s their mental health that quickly becomes their worst enemy. Together, they must navigate their new reality if they want to survive.

Sci-fi fans will enjoy this arresting premise and its escalating mysteries, as well as the crisp dialogue, fast pace, and the chance to get to know these characters. Occasionally, a flourish of prose—“There’s a flash in the firelight, a bead of reflection falling from Lyra’s hands to land on her thigh”—obscures rather than highlights the meaning of a passage, but the action sequences skillfully ramp up the stakes and tension as St. Clair’s diverse cast find a way to navigate the challenges and conundrums they face as a team. Those characters can be polarizing by design, especially Pollux, whose mental health concerns and backstory prove truly disturbing. Whether he or the others in the end find the redemption they seek will make for stimulating discussion.

St. Clair doesn’t shy away from heavy themes such the rehabilitation of society’s outcasts, that possibility of redemption for those who might have been deemed unredeemable, and the persistent debate between nurture and nature, played out in the budding friendship between Pollux and Lyra. There’s also hints of class struggles and inequities between characters as well as tight friendships and possible romances as St. Clair’s teens dig into their mind-bending situation—and as St. Clair digs into them.

Takeaway: Sci-fi fans looking for diverse characters facing high stakes mysteries and their own demons will enjoy this swift read.

Great for fans of: Marie Lu’s Warcross, James Dashner’s The Maze Runner Series.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A