Review: “The Wanderers” by Meg Howrey

Author: Meg Howrey
Publication Date: March 14th 2017
Genre: Science Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads

Synopsis

In four years Prime Space will put the first humans on Mars. Helen Kane, Yoshi Tanaka, and Sergei Kuznetsov must prove they’re the crew for the job by spending seventeen months in the most realistic simulation ever created.

Retired from NASA, Helen had not trained for irrelevance. It is nobody’s fault that the best of her exists in space, but her daughter can’t help placing blame. The MarsNOW mission is Helen’s last chance to return to the only place she’s ever truly felt at home. For Yoshi, it’s an opportunity to prove himself worthy of the wife he has loved absolutely, if not quite rightly. Sergei is willing to spend seventeen months in a tin can if it means travelling to Mars. He will at least be tested past the point of exhaustion, and this is the example he will set for his sons.

As the days turn into months the line between what is real and unreal becomes blurred, and the astronauts learn that the complications of inner space are no less fraught than those of outer space. The Wanderers gets at the desire behind all exploration: the longing for discovery and the great search to understand the human heart.

From Goodreads

Review

TLDR; a surprising, slow-pace space story that was more 35% space, 65% exploring humanity and its complexity

Science fiction isn’t a genre I normally pick up, but the cover on this book was beautiful and the plot seemed relatively tame so I figured I’d give it a go. Reflecting on it now, I’d actually say the plot was perhaps *too* tame. This book follows members of the Prime space Mars expedition and their families as they prepare to make a long arduous journey to Mars, but throughout the story there was very little traditional action. Instead, the emphasis was more on delving into the complex relationships and interactions among the primary three characters and their families. Each character has their own struggles, goals, and desires, and we get to see all the the facets in which they align or turn into larger fissures. There’s also good representation throughout the book of mental health disorders, LGBTQ+, and the autism spectrum, which was nice to see. I enjoy a good psychoanalysis session which is a little what this boiled down to, but I did expect a little more action.

The writing also took a bit to fall into since it felt a bit on the formal size somehow (maybe the flow was just a bit off?). Even though it didn’t feel completely natural at first, after some adjustment it read just fine and may actually have been an appropriate mechanism by which to have some characters talk and think given their background.

In the end this ended up being a book less about space and more about humanity. Given my lack of exploration into sci-fi, I really can’t say how this compares to other books in the genre but I found it to be something completely different than expected (coming from a background in nonfic, crime, and fantasy). After taking a look at the reviews/ratings on Goodreads it does seem other readers had similar thoughts, which is interesting. If I were to recommend this book it’d probably be to someone who leans towards enjoying nonfiction and psychology with some interest in space.

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