The setting caught my attention.
This seems a bit improbable, but I can't exactly be sure how much. I have to assume it's not an overly large piece of real estate, and the rest of the planet isn't described. Breathable air (oxygen) comes from photosynthesis, so this is a life-bearing planet, and water vapor in the atmosphere implies oceans. Still, we have large dry areas right here at home; they just aren't this colorful.“The surface is a near-perfect isometric projection of a textured polychromic fractalscape, with ridges and washes containing lines of highly saturated colors. It will appear the same at any distance, a hundred meters or a hundred kilometers. There are no mountains, valleys, lakes or rivers, only nominal variations in the surface texture.
This is the part that most fascinated me in this story. It's true speculative fiction, and as near as I know, an original idea in SF. It's also the final piece of the very well-constructed setup.“Cyrus here. We have a rapidly developing situation. During the briefing I mentioned gravitational anomalies, possibly from a black hole near this system. It might be more active than I thought. Our graviton flux detectors show modulations even though our engines are off. Something is buffeting the Aldrin, probably coupling through the torsion field generators. It’s increasing and could develop into a ... a quantum storm; something that has only been theorized.
Also, in connection with any suspected black hole, the term "near" has to mean an astronomical distance to keep it from meaning "game over."
The conflicts and resolutions play out well here. The two protagonists antagonize each other to some degree, but resolve their differences satisfactorily at the end. Meanwhile, the true antagonist is embodied in the setting itself as an unstable complex of immediate environmental conditions and cosmic disruption. This all returns to normal just after the MCs make their way to shelter. Everything is nicely timed.
Now for the bad news. Out of everything else here, this was what strained my credulity the most:
To me, there's nothing here that can suffice to explain such rapid changes in the timing or duration of a day-night cycle. The implication is that Chroma and all the other bodies in the system sail about like pingpong balls, changing course and/or spin and/or axial tilt within hours. Sorry, but inertia just wouldn't allow that. I'm fairly sure that if a planet changed any aspect of its motion that quickly, it would become a debris cloud. The drifting of the crust was especially weak, since--at least from our experience--it's about equivalent to the speed that fingernails grow.This was a world where no day was like the one before or after it, the periods of sunlight and darkness twisting and curling according to a grand astronomical dance nuanced by parallaxes and eccentricities and perturbations and all manner of messy nonlinearities. The planet’s crust drifted as well, being loosely coupled to a rapidly spinning molten core.
I can understand why this was done, of course: it puts one more obstacle between the characters and their survival, and it didn't do much damage to my enjoyment of the story.
A couple investment tips for Reese and Tara: start a company to make purely-mechanic wristwatches for the settlers of Chroma--and sell them puppies.