I’ve often thought that designating a book as ‘youth fiction’ tends to do a disservice to a novel. The target audience might think they’re above it and probably a younger audience might seek above their age level. It’s quite safe for them to do so with this book by the way. In the meantime, an adult audience might ignore this age range, although when you consider the age range who read ‘Harry Potter’, maybe people need to re-evaluate this within our own genre,
Case in point is Allen Steele’s novel ‘Apollo’s Outcasts’, especially to the depth he gives factual detail that would probably shame those who write for adult readers. Considering Steele’s own background, including going up in the vomit rocket, then he does know something about the factual end of what he is writing about.
After hearing about the death of President Wilford by an alleged assassination, a father takes his three teen-age children to a space centre fearing reputation after signing a petition that Vice-President Lina Shapar is now promoted to President would be vindictive against his family. Shapar wants the helium 3 isotope mined on the Moon solely for the USA and not for all countries who signed into the agreement. When they arrive, there are four more teens and so one has to be left behind. I’m being careful what I say here because it is a significant spoiler.
One of their number, Jamey Barlowe, was originally born on the Moon and suffers Lunar Birth Deficiency Syndrome, making him fragile on Earth and even more problematic leaving here again. Steele’s solution, indeed much of his descriptive detail, finds a logical way around this. Indeed, the description of life in zero gravity for a couple days, not to mention hygiene and lavatory duty is graphic enough not to offend but answers the obvious questions that always comes up. I liked Steele’s solution of how to find a small air leak in the cabin and if you ever do get caught in such a situation, keep a water bottle ready and watch which direction the water is sucked.
Once on the Moon, the teens have to adjust to life there, enhanced somewhat when one of them is revealed to be the dead President’s daughter. On Earth, the new President tries to prevent the true story of what happened being sent from the Moon and initiates martial law, before employing mercenaries to attack the moonbase. Beyond that, you’ll have to read for yourself because so much is spoiler.
It is also a riveting read. Steele does not play it safe in any sense of anything. There is a strong reminder throughout that safety on the Moon is crucial for survival. Even though you know the way the final solution has to go, how it is achieved carries the most surprises. If you want to get your spogs interested in Science Fiction then they won’t go wrong with this book. It has touches of Heinlein’s youth fiction and believable characters. Even more remarkable, it’s a standalone novel, which is becoming something rare these days. Hang onto your helmets.
(pub: Pyr/Prometheus Books. 312 page small hardback. Price: $16.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-61614-686-3)
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