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The Wanderers

Cover of The Wanderers

The Wanderers

A brilliantly inventive novel about three astronauts training for the first-ever mission to Mars, an experience that will push the boundary between real and unreal, test their relationships, and leave each of them—and their families—changed forever.

"A transcendent, cross-cultural, and cross planetary journey into the mysteries of space and self. . . . Howrey's expansive vision left me awestruck." —Ruth Ozeki
"Howrey's exquisite novel demonstrates that the final frontier may not be space after all." —J. Ryan Stradal
In an age of space exploration, we search to find ourselves.

In four years, aerospace giant Prime Space will put the first humans on Mars. Helen Kane, Yoshihiro Tanaka, and Sergei Kuznetsov must prove they're the crew for the historic voyage by spending seventeen months in the most realistic simulation ever created. Constantly observed by Prime Space's team of "Obbers," Helen, Yoshi, and Sergei must appear ever in control. But as their surreal pantomime progresses, each soon realizes that the complications of inner space are no less fraught than those of outer space. The borders between what is real and unreal begin to blur, and each astronaut is forced to confront demons past and present, even as they struggle to navigate their increasingly claustrophobic quarters—and each other.
Astonishingly imaginative, tenderly comedic, and unerringly wise, The Wanderers explores the differences between those who go and those who stay, telling a story about the desire behind all exploration: the longing for discovery and the great search to understand the human heart.
A brilliantly inventive novel about three astronauts training for the first-ever mission to Mars, an experience that will push the boundary between real and unreal, test their relationships, and leave each of them—and their families—changed forever.

"A transcendent, cross-cultural, and cross planetary journey into the mysteries of space and self. . . . Howrey's expansive vision left me awestruck." —Ruth Ozeki
"Howrey's exquisite novel demonstrates that the final frontier may not be space after all." —J. Ryan Stradal
In an age of space exploration, we search to find ourselves.

In four years, aerospace giant Prime Space will put the first humans on Mars. Helen Kane, Yoshihiro Tanaka, and Sergei Kuznetsov must prove they're the crew for the historic voyage by spending seventeen months in the most realistic simulation ever created. Constantly observed by Prime Space's team of "Obbers," Helen, Yoshi, and Sergei must appear ever in control. But as their surreal pantomime progresses, each soon realizes that the complications of inner space are no less fraught than those of outer space. The borders between what is real and unreal begin to blur, and each astronaut is forced to confront demons past and present, even as they struggle to navigate their increasingly claustrophobic quarters—and each other.
Astonishingly imaginative, tenderly comedic, and unerringly wise, The Wanderers explores the differences between those who go and those who stay, telling a story about the desire behind all exploration: the longing for discovery and the great search to understand the human heart.
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  • From the book Helen

    Nothing feels as free as this!

    The lettering of this promise is in pink. The freedom being demonstrated concerns a woman in a white bra and girdle cavorting across a simplified background of sky and clouds.

    Helen Kane stands in the lobby of Prime Space Systems Laboratory and considers the 1960s-era advertisement for Playtex. She smiles, waiting to be given an explanation. The CEO of Prime Space has ushered Helen toward this lithesome lady in her panties with all the ceremony that one might employ toward revealing an Old Master, and there is nothing to be gained by showing James "Boone" Cross anything other than what Helen privately refers to as PIG: Polite, Interested, Good humored. Helen is a little perturbed, a little uncomfortable, but she can get PIG to fly in much more adverse conditions.

    This is Helen's last day visiting the Japanese branch of Prime's Systems Lab. Tomorrow she will go back. Home, which is still Houston. A year ago Helen retired from active duty in the astronaut corps at NASA, after twenty-one years and three missions in space. It had been the right thing to do: there were so few opportunities for getting named to a crew; others had been waiting more than a decade for their first mission. It was time to cede to the next generation as the previous one had done for her. This was always going to happen, and she had prepared for it.

    She had not prepared. You can't train for irrelevance.

    Helen tells herself that it is nonsense to think of the word irrelevant. She still has a position at NASA, an important one. And, if she chooses, there are exciting things happening elsewhere. It is very likely that Prime Space is going to offer her a job. There is a lot to think about, but not right now. Right now she must give PIG to Boone Cross.

    Despite the fact that Helen took the Prime Space Iris to the International Space Station and back on her last mission, she doesn't feel she has fully penetrated the culture of this company, although she's got a pretty good handle on its in-house vocabulary. Prime is skittish about using language borrowed from the military, and mixes acronyms with a kind of high-minded verbiage, noun-to-verb mashups, and the stray Latinate pun. The mindless totalitarian-speak predicted in dystopian fiction was not the future. Big Brother had gone artisanal.

    The father of this new world made-to-order is from Alabama but employs his company's argot with the chaotic enthusiasm of a non-native speaker delivering newly acquired idioms. That Boone Cross is a genius is not in question, though the rest is up for debate. He seems unclear as well: he has referred to himself during their conversation as both an anachronism and an iconoclast. Boone is younger than Helen, who is fifty-three and only now noticing that many people seem to be younger than herself. This hour has been her longest excursion in Boone's undivided presence, and his manner does not seem designed to make her comfortable. Helen neither expects nor resents this, but her mood is not the best.

    "You may have noticed that at every Prime Space location," Boone is saying now, granting the lobby a majestic wave, "we encourage the team to share images about what drew us to working in the space biz. And then we collect these images together so that when people come to work every day, they pass through our collective dreams."

    "What a great idea," says Helen, covering her impatience. "It creates such a special atmosphere." Just now, Boone and Helen are the only ones enjoying the special atmosphere. The lobby-a windowless curvilinear triangle-has been closed off to tourists, and Prime Space employees are apparently being rerouted...
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from January 23, 2017
    Three astronauts and those who know them best explore the limits of truth and love in Howrey’s (Blind Sight) genre-bending novel. Helen Kane, Sergei Kuznetsov, and Yoshihiro Tanaka are the perfect crew for the first mission to Mars: elite explorers and engineers, they’re more at home in microgravity than with their families. But even years of training can’t fully prepare them for Eidolon, a highly-engineered 17-month-long simulation. Beyond the physical and emotional stress for the crew members, their prolonged isolation will also test their families. The story’s multiple points of view don’t confuse the intensely introspective narrative; instead they create perspective and distance—three planetary bodies and their satellites observing themselves, and each other. The voices are distinct, each member reviewing and acting on his or her own emotional telemetry with equal parts brilliance and blunder, and the stakes are high, with any heartbeat capable of tipping the scales against the crew’s survival. But the longer the mission runs, the longer the three are kept in isolation, the more they question the stories they choose to tell their handlers, their families, each other, and themselves—and the more they question the stories they are being told. With these believably fragile and idealistic characters at the helm, Howrey’s insightful novel will take readers to a place where they too can “lift their heads and wonder.” Agent: Lisa Bankoff, ICM Partners.

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