Lost in Space
The Red Panda is adrift (see what I did there?). While on a tour of the Horsehead nebula, its home base and all other ships have been destroyed by an unknown vessel. But how will an aging tour boat of a spacecraft and its 10 passengers make it out alive, and who attacked their defunct space station? The answers are surprisingly straight forward.
Adrift is a bottle episode of a novel, but it’s not a bad one. The vast majority of it is confined to the Red Panda, an innocuous tour ship with an innocuous name. The passengers, however, all seem to have secrets and not everyone gets to make it home. The novel jumps around, following almost every passenger’s perspective per chapter. Sometimes we’re treated to memories or flashbacks that flesh out the characters, which is essential for this “god mode” perspective and helps build out the drama. Sometimes things happen in the real world that call back to previously revealed memories and, while it’s spelled out all too often in case you weren’t paying attention, it’s effective at showing before telling.
But at some point the broad questions get boiled down to a couple possibilities. Once a major reveal is given on the question of who attacked the space station and why, the rest of the novel outside the confines of the Red Panda kind of writes itself. The things you think are going on are going on with little deviation. We’re still left to see how the passengers will or won’t make it out alive, but the broader plot becomes a little too predictable. It’s not that I expected mind blowing reveal after mind blowing reveal, but the first one is exciting enough that I was hoping for more out of the rest.
Adrift then becomes a tale of two tales: the survival of the passengers inside the Red Panda, and the broader conflict in the world they exist, with the first being the more interesting of the two. It’s a solid survival tale that throws two handfuls of characters into a tough situation and watches to see where the bodies lay at the end. The external plot isn’t bad either, just a little too predictable.
Baseline Assessment: 7/10
Bonuses: +1 good use of multiple perspectives
Penalties: -1 what goes on outside of the space ship is more predictable that what happens inside the space ship
Nerd Coefficient: 7/10 (an enjoyable experience, but not without its flaws)
POSTED BY: brian, sci-fi/fantasy/video game dork and contributor since 2014
Reference: Boffard, Rob. Adrift [Orbit, 2018]