Book Review: We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen

Today’s Brew of Choice: Iced medium roast coffee with brown sugar and the tiniest bit of cream

Good morning! This week I’m starting my new job, and I’m really nervous! I literally already did this job a year ago, but COVID has really made me less used to the kind of work I will be doing. I hope that it will go well, but at the very least, I’ll be getting free coffee! If you have the space to spare me some positive energy, I’d really appreciate the love.

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Title: We Have Always Been Here
Author: Lena Nguyen
Publisher: DAW Books
Publication date: July 6, 2021 
Genre: Science Fiction, Horror, Psychological Thriller, Mystery

A terrifying space horror that will have you questioning what it means to be human

At a glance: Dr. Grace Park is not privy to the ships secrets in her role as a psychologist, which becomes increasingly terrifying as the androids start to malfunction and people are falling victim to waking nightmares of paranoia and insanity. Will they be able to get a message home for help?

  • 💫 Atmospheric
  • 🎢 Thriller
  • 🩺 Well Researched
  • 💥 Dramatic Ending

Read this if… you love space horror / sci-fi thrillers, you’re interested in how humans will colonize space, you love well researched science fiction (or any fiction!), or if you love stories on space ships!

Diversity Representation: Vietnamese American Author, Asian cast

Content Warnings: Traumatic nightmares, panic attacks, intense paranoia, death, shooting, self harm, kidnapping, hostages, hallucinations, delusions, intrusive thoughts

Book Review

Horrifying, atmospheric, convincing, icy, eerie, epic, well researched, smart

Wow! We Have Always Been Here was wonderful. This was the scariest book that I’ve ever survived through, and I’m proud to say that I came out loving it! This space horror has scared me more than any other book I’ve ever read (note: I have not read a lot of scary books). I initially picked this up because the author is Vietnamese and I’m desirous to read more Vietnamese authors (for personal reasons), and I am so glad that I requested it! Even though I was scared silly to even start it.

Quick Summary: Psychologist Dr. Grace Park has been placed on the Deucalion on her way to an icy planet to assess the colonization potential of a planet. Divided by varying feelings toward androids, Dr. Park is often ostracized from the rest of the crew. To make matters worse, soon after they land on Eos, the androids begin to behave strangely, and the crew seems to be falling victim to waking nightmares of insanity, one by one.

I absolutely loved the battle between conscripted and non-conscripted people. I loved how it implied how deep and horribly capitalism had progressed. The way that the conscripted people were essentially owned by the ISF and how the non conscripted got very little information because they had less leverage on them. When a single company owns every aspect of your life, how do you ever speak out against them? This was especially chilling, considering we are working on sending private companies into space right now.

The other thing I loved was the idea of the Come Back on earth. This book had so many incredible things that were happening on the ship, but I just couldn’t get over how excited I was with the way the world was portrayed. I loved seeing what we did to earth and how the earth retaliated. The way that most of the things that happened on earth and humans were just implied because we can already make assumptions about how the earth and capitalism got to be how they are in the book. I know these both are a bit more minor things but they really blew it away for me.

The last thing that really caught my eye in this one was the science. I’m such a space nerd that reading about journeying into space, and the technicalities of everything that was happening on this strange planet brought me back to my days where I very nearly majored in Astrophysics for college. I absolutely loved the explanations and the scientific theorizing that happened in this book. I’m sure that took so much work to manage, and Lena Nguyen really managed to nail it right on the head. I’m super impressed how she was able to convince me of all of the theories. I can’t tell you about them, you’ll just have to read the book! But they are impressive!


Summing it all up

We Have Always Been Here was a fantastic atmospheric space horror that had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I absolutely loved the way Lena Nguyen built such a believable world and threw in so much well-explained science that it convinced me everything that happened is possible.

Book Club Questions:
We Have Always Been Here

I’m introducing book club questions to my reviews in hopes that you will pick up these books with friends! I want to share these incredible books that I read with as many people as possible, and there is nothing better than reading with a friend or a book club! Please enjoy these book club questions to go along with this book to encourage discussion and to help you and your book club diversify your bookshelves.

  • In the moment where we discovered the namesake of this book, what were you thinking and feeling? Did the reply of “we have always been here” give you any theories for how the rest of the book would go?
  • At any point did you get lost with the explanations of physics? Did that affect how you enjoyed the book at all?
  • How did you feel about the different perspectives between the earth-born and the space-born? Did it feel reminiscent of anything we see in our world today?
  • How did you feel about the ISF? How do you think it got to the position where it had so much control over people?
  • Would you choose to go on a mission to see if a planet was habitable like Park did? Why or why not?
  • How did choosing Park to be a non-conscripted psychologist affect how Lena Nguyen was able to present the horror in this novel? Do you think this was a good choice?

About Lena Nguyen

Lena is a writer of speculative fiction and fantasy. She was raised in Phoenix, Arizona and has studied writing all over the world—including at Stanford, Brown, Harvard, and UCLA. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Cornell University, where she also taught as a lecturer of English, leading classes on creative writing, composition, comparative literature, and cultural studies. ​

Lena’s career has been dedicated to writing. Along with lecturing and teaching, she has worked as a researcher of science fiction; a literary novel judge; a creative consultant; a copy editor; a developmental editor; a game developer and writer; and an assistant editor of the literary publication EPOCH. Her science fiction has won several awards.

Let’s Chat!

✨ Would you travel to new planets to see if they’re habitable for humans?
✨ How do you feel about androids living among us?
✨ Have you read any space horrors recently?

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Looking for more diverse reads?

Check out the rest of my blog! I’m dedicated to sharing books with you that include diversity, so feel comfortable that any books on Bookish Brews will include some diversity.

If you liked this review or thought you might like this book, check out some of my other reviews for books with similar creepy, atmospheric, and smart books:

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We Have Always Been Here sounds both scary and smart, I need to read this ASAP!

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*I received this book for free and am leaving this review voluntarily*