NASA's space shuttle program may be terminated, but it lives on through a psychological thriller by Philadelphia writer Nicole Wolverton. The Trajectory of Dreams(Bitingduck Press, March 1, 2013, ISBN 9781938463440) takes place in a world where the shuttle program has been relaunched, and the dangerous rituals of a madwoman keep it and the astronauts aboard safe.
The novel exposes the chaotic inner life of Lela White, a Houston, Texas sleep lab technician and mentally-disordered insomniac, who believes she has been tasked with protecting the safety of the revitalized U.S. space shuttle program. She breaks into the homes of astronauts to watch them sleep, and she is prepared to kill to keep those with sleep problems from the shuttle launch. Her delicate grasp on reality becomes more tenuous when annoying co-worker Trina Shook insists on moving into her house and visiting Russian cosmonaut Zory Korchagin inserts himself into Lela's life. Korchagin's increasing interest puts her carefully-constructed world at risk of an explosion as surely as he does his own upcoming launch. Lela's tragic childhood unfolds throughout the novel, revealing the beginnings of her illness and long-buried secrets, and as Lela's universe unravels, no one is safe.
Publishers Weekly calls The Trajectory of Dreams a "skillful mainstream examination of a psychotic woman's final descent into insanity."
Wolverton says the idea for the novel came to her while reading about psychological testing and the shuttle program. "Before long I was wondering what would happen if someone was rigging the tests and how NASA ensures the mental health of those who work the astronauts. Lela White is the result. There's a certain level of trust you put in your co-workers and neighbors, the trust that there's nothing dangerous going on below the surface. To believe otherwise is unthinkable."