13 April 2017

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey

Summary from Goodreads:
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 every 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.

So, before we begin, The Wanderers is not like The Martian.  I know it's being marketed that way - because NOVEL ABOUT SPACE AND ASTRONAUTS WHAT ELSE DO WE COMPARE IT TO - but The Martian is a much different book, very action-driven.  The Wanderers is very character- and setting-oriented so it makes for a very different reading experience.  So, onward.

The Wanderers turned out to be a very enjoyable and thoughtful novel about space exploration that doesn't actually explore space...or does it? It actually reminded me a lot of Carl Sagan's Contact (the movie adaptation at least, since I've not actually read the book) with it's range of time and philosophy about the nature of space exploration (and odd charismatic billionaires). I really liked the characterizations of the three astronauts Sergei, Helen, and Yoshi. They share the narration between themselves and with several family members and Prime employees.  At the outset I wasn't sure if I liked expanding the narration beyond the astronauts, but over the course of the book it turned out to be very interesting. It's very easy to think that the story of space exploration lies solely with those who leave our atmosphere and forget those who remain behind.

Dear FTC: I picked up an ARC of this book from a batch sent to my store by the publisher.


  1. Totally agree. I think the way they marketed this one, by comparing it to The Martian was a disservice to both novels and potential readers. I loved the ending though. I still have no idea which way I swing as far as "did they or didn't they?" You?

    1. I tend to swing back and forth - Howrey made each probability equally probable (although my inner conspiracy theorist likes the "Secret Trip to Mars" aspect).

    2. *possibility, oh, typing is hard