What is the source of The Cold Equations' suspense?

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The source of the suspense lies in the tension between the dictates of morality and the demands of the relevant regulations. Barton knows all the regulations chapter and verse. If he's to make his delivery of vital medical supplies to the planet Woden, then absolutely no stowaways can be allowed on board ship. Yet at the same time Barton doesn't initially do his duty and eject Marilyn into deep space as he ought to. There seems to be a possibility—however remote—that he will somehow find a way to reconcile the twin demands of law and conscience in coming up with a novel solution to his moral predicament. This keeps the reader guessing as to what might happen next and allows Godwin to explore these vital themes in greater depth.

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The source of suspense in The Cold Equations by Tom Goodwin begins immediately in that space is considered the final frontier. While traveling in space the laws of nature must be followed and any deviation can lead to disaster. This sets the stage for a suspenseful journey.

Soon after the Emergency Dispatch lifts off, the captain detects something unknown in the supply closet. What is it? Is it alive? What is it doing onboard? It is a living body, but why is it there when Barton, the pilot, is the only one who is supposed to be aboard? The suspense builds. Because of the precision needed to fly an emergency vehicle, Barton knows exactly what he has to do when his indicator tells him that there is a stowaway aboard.

What should he do when he tells the stowaway to step out of hiding only to determine that it is an innocent teenage girl? Who is she, and what fate awaits her? The suspense continues as these questions are answered throughout the story.

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