Friday, 12 May 2017

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey
Release Date: 6th April 2017
Publisher: Scribner UK
Genres: Science Fiction

The best of Helen Kane exists in space. If she doesn’t go back up, she’ll be consigned to a lesser version of herself on a planet that has also seen better days. Helen is an experienced astronaut with a NASA position and a struggling grown-up daughter who needs her but when, at fifty-three, she is offered a place on the training programme for the first mission to Mars, the most realistic simulation ever, she cannot refuse a last chance to walk among the stars.

Her fellow astronauts are Sergei, a gruff Russian whose teenage sons are less mysterious to him than they’d like to think; and Yoshi, who wants to prove himself worthy of the wife he has drifted apart from. The three will be enclosed for months in a tiny craft, while outside their loved ones negotiate everyday life on Earth. How far will the wanderers travel in the pursuit of endeavour, and what will it be like to come home? Station Eleven meets The Martian in this brilliantly inventive and sharply observed novel of ambition, endeavour and family.

The Wanderers is a strange type of book that I was initially really excited to be offered the opportunity to review. I love anything to do with space exploration and have harbored a secret desire all my life to be an astronaut. While the book is described as a The Martian meets Station Eleven, it is definitely not that. However, that being said, it is an extremely well written book and Meg Howrey's insight into the human psyche is both well thought out and empathetic.

The basic premise of the story is that 3 astronauts, the best in their field are chosen to go to Mars. First however, they must spend 17 months in a simulated environment, training for every eventuality that their real mission could throw at them. That's 17 months away from their families before the real mission even begins! Living in such close quarters is not without its difficulties and the trio must reconcile any feelings of anger, guilt or irritation they have and work together as an efficient team. They must trust each other implicitly. The success of the mission depends on it.

Told from not only each of the crew members perspectives as well as their family members the book explores the complexities of human emotions, frailties and the feelings of abandonment and solitary lives of those left behind. Not only do the crew have to perform well but so do their families. Whilst each family member outwardly is supportive of their loved one, deep down those real feelings of leading separate lives, of a relationship always in the shadow of a space programme and loneliness impact on everyone. Feelings are shoved back in place and appearances are kept up.

Whilst there is quite a lot of technical jargon in the book I did find it quite interesting. However the main theme of the story is not actually the simulated journey to Mars but in fact the dynamics of the relationships of all involved. Demons must be faced and dealt with eventually. Space exploration is replaced by the exploration of feelings, memories and love. Its quite a sorrowful book in places. But, if you are looking for a fast paced, super exciting book about space exploration then this is not that book. Its quite slow in places. However, if you are looking for a book that explores human emotions and the psychology of relationships then this is the book for you. Not my most favourite book of the year but credit where credits due, its a very well written book with well developed and interesting characters. 

*I received a copy of this book for an honest and unbiased review.

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