Meg Howrey’s The Wanderers lyrically showcases the psychological costs of humanity’s desire to explore the stars. It’s a space opera without grandiose plot theatrics — The Martian this ain’t! — which thrives on digging deep into its characters’ psyches and exposing the toll their mission takes on them.
In the near future, a private space firm called Prime Space — think SpaceX — is preparing for its inaugural mission to Mars. As part of their training, the first mission’s crew — comprised of Russian cosmonaut Sergei Kuznetsov, Japanese astronaut Yoshihiro Tanaka, and American astronaut Helen Kane — undertake a 17-month simulation of the proposed mission to Mars and back in order to assess their capacity to cope with the physical and emotional pressures of such isolation.
Rather than focus merely on the three astronauts, Howrey expands her insights into the trio’s family’s, and members of the Prime Space support crew, each of whom have their own demons, all of which are exacerbated by the extremity of the circumstances they face. The author juggles these perspectives with aplomb; not once does Sergei’s sexually-confused teenage son, or Helen’s guarded actress daughter, or Yoshi’s restless wife come across as stereotypes. They’re genuine, flawed people, doing their best to survive in a paradoxical world in which they miss their loved ones, but know this 17-month expedition is merely an hors d’oeuvre to the real thing, where failure will likely result in death.
With the rise of SpaceX, novels such as The Wanderers will become increasingly salient. Humanity’s capacity to go forth and explore other planets — heck, maybe some day, the universe — hinges not necessarily on hardware or science, but on the fortitude of the brave men and women who partake in these expeditions. Meg Howrey’s novel is a wonderful testament to these voyagers.
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x 23mm)
Imprint: Scribner UK
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
Publish Date: 6-Apr-2017
Country of Publication: United Kingdom