Finally, we have an author not afraid to approach fresh innovative science fiction with an old-school style. Apollo’s Outcasts by Allen Steele is an inspiring throwback to the youthful excitement of space travel carved out by the likes of Robert A. Heinlein.
It is complex mixture of innocence with the naïve perspective of children living in a dangerous political climate ravaged by irresponsible adults. Throw in the physical environment of space travel and a breathtaking moon base, and you have a great story the adults can enjoy along with an entertaining adventure for the younger readers.
Apollo is a mining colony on the moon. The self-sufficient community draws on the mineral ilmenite for building structures from its iron and titanium content as well as extracting the all essential oxygen. But Apollo’s primary industry is the export of helium-3. This non-radioactive isotope is a vital resource of fuel for nuclear fusion and the brass ring for those who control it.
The International Space Consortium is a coalition of nations overseeing the stability of Apollo. When the President of the United States dies, Vice President Lina Sharper is quickly sworn in as the new commander-in-chief. Seizing the opportunity, she targets the names of those who signed a petition questioning her proposal to cede from the ISC and take control of the helium-3 mining. Dr. Stanley Barlowe is a scientist whose name is among those facing arrest. Desperate, he jettisons his children into space to escape inevitable persecution. The safest location is the moon colony Apollo which still resides under ISC jurisdiction. But an embargo by Apollo against the United States soon turns to more than just a war of words.
This is not one of those stories of witching schools or vampire love inundating the libraries of today’s youth. The science is more than plausible and the politics is every bit as terrifying. But what makes Apollo’s Outcasts so absorbing is the young impressionable characters and how they react to their inherited social issues. By example, Heinlein was a master at giving young characters powerful roles of discovery like in his 1947 novel Rocket Ship Galileo. Though some considered the work trite, believable young characters in science fiction has been far and few between since then…that is until now. Steele has grasped that legendary baton firmly with both hands by offering readers of all ages a chance to relive those glory days of literary discovery.
As a parent, it is crucial to get children reading early, but it is even more important to find quality material that will hold their attention and crave more. Allen Steele has established this and more with Apollo’s Outcasts. It is a welcome return to classic space adventures. This multifaceted story is worthy of loyal fans of science fiction with enough originality to harness many new ones.