Review: Apollo’s Outcasts
“Apollo’s Outcasts” by Allen Steele. Published in 2012 by Pyr/Prometheus it weighs in at 311 pages all-in. A handful of spelling and editing errors noted throughout. Currently available in the Teen Adventure section of your local bookstore.
The year is 2097. Jamey Barlowe is your average kid-in-a-wheelchair, the result of a happenstance birth on the Moon. He enjoys swimming, but will never walk on Earth, the only home he’s ever known. His dad works for the International Space Consortium (ISC), responsible for the extraction of He3 on the Moon for use in fusion reactors on Earth. His Dad took a Moon post and his wife went along. She found out that she was pregnant too late to return to Earth, and so carried Jamey to term on the Moon. Shortly thereafter she was killed in a tragic accident, and his widowed father returned to Earth with the remains of the family.
For his 16th birthday, Jamey is awoken at oh-dark-thirty and hustled with his two sisters into the family van for a late night run to Wallops Island. Turns out the President was dead and the VP was executing a palace coup, and rounding up the dangerous independent thinkers like those at ISC. The Barlowes arrive with several other families, and Jamey and the other kids quickly learn they are being sent, by themselves, to refuge on the Moon until the situation settles down. And not a moment too soon, as one of the passengers proves particularly valuable, so much so that they’re better off dead than at-large in the eyes of the new government. With good reason.
And so begins Jamey’s odyssey to the Moon. As with other space juveniles, Jamey has a variety of traditional challenges through which to work, after which he will understand himself better as an individual. There’s the girl he likes whose affections are for another, the girl who likes him but doesn’t evoke a like sentiment, the bully with his number, the awkwardness of a new body, and so forth, all set in a hostile and dangerous Lunar environment.
To prove himself, Jamey strives to be one of the Lunar Search & Rescue team, or Rangers as they call themselves. A combination of survival Scouts, local militia, paramedics and peacekeepers, the Rangers are the best of the best, because on the Moon they need to be. As events on Earth continue to spiral out of control, Jamey is increasingly forced to tap his leadership capabilities, but when Earth takes the fight to the Moon, will he have the courage to confront the terrestrial threat?
Author Allen Steele has a significant oeuvre of near-Earth/near-Future stories, many of which merit reconsideration given recent changes in the space industry. Given this background, his presentation of Jamey in the new environments of microgravity during the trip to the Moon and 1/6th gravity once there is consistently accurate from a science perspective. As has often been the case in Lunar literature, the setting of the Moon base is a chance for a compare-n-contrast of an idealized Lunar culture with the slovenly mess of Earth’s cultures.
Here, everyone does civic service. It might be sweeping pathways and collecting litter. It might be tending plants in the gardens and parks. It might be processing bio-waste. Everyone works; no one quits. Only by working and living together will they be able to survive on the Moon.
The pacing is tight, keeping things moving from challenge to challenge as Jamey grows in his individual identity. Opportunities abound to explain various aspects of life in space and on the Moon, and the author’s been doing this long enough to get most all the details right. The near future setting makes the technology recognizable, and the political situation is not too far removed from where we are now.
A fun read, perfect for any Spring Break trips coming up, “Apollo’s Outcasts” gets a waxing three-quarter Moon rating.
If you’re looking for other Juvenile space fiction of recent vintage (<5 years old) you should check out:
For Younger Readers-
“Choose Your Own Adventure #26: Moon Quest” – Anson Montgomery
“Cosmic” – Frank Cottrell Boyce
“Crater” – Homer Hickam
“Laddertop” – Orson Scott & Emily Janice Card
“Lunar Pioneers” – Robert Black
“Space” – Roger Reid
“Thea Stilton and the Star Castaways” – Geronimo Stilton
‘Tumbler” – Brand Gamblin
For Older Readers –
“Back to the Moon” – Travis S. Taylor & Les Johnson (Rescue mission to the Moon)
“Doctor Who: Apollo 23” – Justin Richards (Dr. Who vs. Talerians on Moon)
“The Highest Frontier” – Joan Slonczewski (L-5 colony is locus of strange new technologies)
“The Moon Maze Game” – Larry Niven & Steven Barnes (LARPing on the Moon)
“The Next Continent” – Issui Ogawa (Industrialist’s daughter builds tourist site on Moon)
“Pax Britannia: Dark Side” – Jonathan Green (Steampunk Moon)
“Rocket Girls” – Housuke Nojiri (High School student becomes commercial astronaut)
“Spin the Sky” – Katy Stauber (‘The Odyssey’ retold in cislunar space)
“Up Against It” – M.J. Locke (Asteroid miners fight The Man)
“172 Hours on the Moon” – Johan Harstad (Reality show becomes existentialist horror-fest on Moon)