by Allen Steele
Cover Artist: Paul Young
Review by Jon Guenther
Pyr Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616146863
Date: 06 November 2012 List Price $16.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
This was my first exposure to the work of Allen Steele and I went into this book without any expectations. Having recently reviewed Tim Lebbon's YA novel, London Eye, I had some trepidations when Apollo's Outcasts began with a first-person narration by sixteen year-old Jamey Barlowe. Before I knew it, Steele had immediately pulled me into his narrative and held my attention to the last page.
Apollo's Outcasts is the story of a group of teenagers fleeing to the lunar base Apollo Station after a sudden and suspicious change in the U.S. political arena. From the first page, Steele skillfully establishes both a believable and engaging conflict. The resultant story left me rooting for the heroes and rendering more than my fair share of boos and hisses at the baddies. I also noted many of the reasons critics credit Steele with flavors of Heinlein and Haldeman. There were moments where I could sense the parallelisms to books like Starship Troopers and The Forever War. Fortunately, I never got the sense the author was attempting to mimic the style as much as this evolved naturally from his own influences.
Another thing is although the main cast of characters are predominantly teenagers and I'm not a big fan of YA material, I feel this particular novel will satisfy science fiction fans of all ages. Mr. Steele puts in plenty of interesting scientific material about the Moon and space travel, so there was plenty for me to geek out with. The book also contained a heady amount of staunch political conservatism (which I didn't particularly mind). There's no question Steele planned to make some political statements of his own in the book and I believe he painted an all-too terrifying possibility of the future political situation in the United States.
If I had any gripe about the book I think it would be toward the action sequences, particularly at the climax. They were well-written, make no mistakeóas was the entire novelóbut they seemed short-lived for my tastes. This left me unsure as to where Mr. Steele was trying to go, exactly, and it cheated me a little of the gravity of the situation between the warring factions. While I realize the book wasn't necessarily intended to be military science fiction, I would have preferred to see the battleground expanded much more to the point our heroes were faced with nearly impossible odds.
All told, Apollo's Outcasts is a wonderful novel and has certainly earned Steele a new fan in this reader. I look forward to sampling his past works as well as future material. If you like fast-paced and well told stories with political intrigue, paramilitary suspense and highly credible science thrown into the mix, I cannot tender less than a strong recommendation for Apollo's Oucasts.