Book card at a glance
OVERALL RATING: 🍪🍪🍪🍪 4/5
GENRE: Sci-fi, introspective, space novel
TITLE: 🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪 5/5
COVER: 🍪🍪🍪🍪 4/5
PREMISE: 🍪🍪🍪 3/5
VOICE: 🍪🍪🍪🍪 4/5
PLOT: 🍪🍪🍪 3/5
CHARACTERS: 🍪🍪🍪🍪 4/5
WORLD: 🍪🍪🍪🍪 4/5
PACE: 🍪🍪🍪 3.5/5
ENDING: 🍪🍪 2/5
This is a MULTI-POINT-OF-VIEW novel following three astronauts, Helen (American), Sergei (Russian), and Yoshi (Japanese), and some other the people in their lives.
The PREMISE is that the three astronauts have been selected for a 15-month simulation to train them for a potential trip to Mars. Should they succeed in this more-real-than-life simulation, they will become the first humans to walk the red planet.
While the PLOT is rather simple, with one big, if a bit clumsy, surprise, the strength of this book lies in the CHARACTERS. The characters are complex and multi-faceted and the novel is a pretext for the exploration of human nature as much as space. The only reason I gave characterization four cookies rather than five is that all the characters shared a common sensibility and were not as distinct as I would have liked.
The main THEMES, in my opinion, are those of reality and identity. If you act as a perfect astronaut, aren't you a perfect astronaut, even though your thoughts are subversive? Same goes for the perfect wife, daughter, etc... The theme is weaved throughout the narration touching on sexuality, loneliness, guilt, loss, self-discipline, and many more aspects of life easy to relate to. Interestingly, one of the characters is an actress who walks the fine line between controlling and being controlled by her emotions. Though in the eye of your community you are what you do, there's always a secret inner life that is not necessarily shared and that is just as important for individuality.
"The Wanderers" is the perfect TITLE, since it historically refers to planets, whose motion was observed by our ancestors to be different from that of stars, but it might also apply to the characters, since all of them wander about life, emotions, and their connection (or lack thereof) with others.
The COVER is appealing, though not mind-blowing, and does an excellent job of conveying the mood of the novel, targeting to the correct readership.
Though not particularly original, I loved the VOICE. The narration is smooth, alternating lyrical moments with humor and witticisms. Having ESL (English as a second language) characters slip in grammar mistakes when tired or distressed was overplayed and not necessarily realistic in my experience as an ESL, though everyone is different.
Howrey did an excellent job of developing the astronaut's WORLD: the training, psychology, simulations, the environment, and the space experience. I am not an astronauts, so I cannot witness to the authenticity of the narration, but it sure felt authentic and well-researched. I also enjoyed the hints at the different cultural backgrounds (American Japanese, and Russian).
The PACE was okay, but the book did feel long (it's about 400 pages of rather small print). Even though it was going nowhere, I was engaged and looking forward to read more, but toward the end I was getting tired.
The ENDING was rather disappointing to me. I like novels with a well-wrapped, cathartic ending, while this one belonged to the category of whimsical, who-knows type of endings except for one of the characters (Dimitri) who has a coming-of-age moment. All the other characters, though many have various degrees of realizations, do not act on them.
At the end of the novel I felt like I had LEARNED a lot about space and astronauts, and the book made me wander (pun intended) about the themes discusses.
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