a review by Rebecca Muir
Apollo’s Outcasts is set in 2097, in a future where humanity has begun to colonize space. There is a colony, Apollo, on the moon, built by the International Space Consortium to mine and process rare materials, primarily helium-3. This isotope, present in moon dust, has become the power source of choice on Earth, where it is used to power fusion reactors.
Jamey was born on the moon, but has lived most of his life on Earth after his mother died in an accident at Apollo. Spending his infancy on the moon, however, has left him in a wheelchair – his bones can’t cope with Earth’s higher gravity. His world is turned upside down early one morning when he is dragged out of bed by his father and put on a rocket with his sister, bound for Apollo. A political coup has occurred in the American government, and Jamey’s dad is a political enemy of the new President.
On the moon, Jamey faces many challenges – worry for his father and older sister back on Earth, learning to walk for the first time, dealing with the tricky world of romance, finding his place in the colony and defending it against the new President’s ambitions to seize control of the helium-3 supply.
The storyline of this book, while a little predictable at times, was interesting nonetheless. Its real strength, however, lies in the way it makes this future so believable. Allen Steele has relied on ideas from the scientific community – people who have thought about how a colony on the moon could actually work. He also gives enough detail that you can see how it might work, without it feeling like you are being bombarded with descriptions of strange technology. The result is that the book doesn’t feel like science fiction – it feels like a political thriller set in a plausible future. I loved that this book made me believe that my grandchildren or great grandchildren could live and work on the moon.
I enjoy reading science fiction books written with a technological flight of fancy – where the limits of what we now see as possible pose no barriers. Those books are fun, and also have an important role to play – after all, many things we now take for granted were first dreamed up by science fiction. Think mobile phones and hand held communicators on Star Trek. A book like this, however, is great in that it makes what is at the moment just a dream – a lunar colony – seem possible, exploring what that might look like and helping to give it a shape in my imagination.
This book is an easy and engaging read, with well-drawn characters. It is part science fiction, part political thriller and part a coming-of-age story. It is well worth a read.
Published by Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books
Hardcover (“5 ½ x 8 ½”)
Cover Illustration © Paul Young