When war devastates all but the furthest reaches of our solar system, a young boy is cast out to face the seemingly endless depths of space. While nothing remains but destruction, there may be a glimmer of hope ahead, if the legends are true.
Initially one of many desperate survivors, Mirek is soon rescued by the inhabitants of a mobile astronomical observatory. They are seeking the Outbound, colony ships that left long ago to explore the possibility of forging a new civilization in the distant Kuiper Belt on the edge of the solar system. Cut off from the rest of humanity, striking out into the unknown is their only option, especially considering that the enemy still controls the system.
What follows is a story that crosses millions of miles and several decades. Introspective in scope, it is essentially a coming of age story for the boy Mirek, who must grow up in an isolated environment with very few other humans to guide him. His relationship with the former astronomer Tabitha and her uniquely transformed husband Howard is complicated, to say the least, as neither is adequately prepared to meet his changing needs. Eventually, Mirek is forced to adapt in many ways, pushing to the very edge what it means to be human.
Outbound is an ambitious story in that it covers so much ground. As a novella, it is effective, but it seems reasonable that this story could be expanded into a full length book. It is the laconic nature of the narrative that creates the greatest obstacle to the reader; one may be left wanting for more detail more often than not. Though perhaps not intended for young adults, it would be appropriate, and in fact it reminded me of Robert A. Heinlein’s young adult stories. Still, it should be accessible to all readers, and all but the most stalwart adherents to hard science fiction will find it enjoyable and evocative.
My rating: 4 out of 5.