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Three astronauts and their families must endure the effects of a pioneering deep-space mission.

Prime Space Systems Laboratory is a company of the future. It's put together a dream team of three astronauts to undertake a manned mission to Mars, but first, they’ll need to undergo a 17-month simulation in the Utah desert, an operation known as Eidolon. Helen, Yoshi, and Sergei are ideal—experienced engineers, they have each been to space before, and together they form a trio capable of withstanding both the physical and emotional pressures of an isolating experience like Eidolon. But Howrey (The Cranes Dance, 2012, etc.) chooses to tell their story from more than just the three astronauts’ perspectives; we also learn how Helen’s actress daughter, Sergei’s sexually confused teenage son, Yoshi’s restless wife, and one of the Prime Space employees charged with observing the astronauts deal with the extremity of the circumstances. Howrey has created quite a platform for plot theatrics—and the book is not without a few blockbuster moments—but her real interest is psychological. This is why, though the novel juggles seven narrators, it is so consistently engrossing. Consider the wit and precision of this portrait of Helen: “Awareness of imminent possible death is not without beneficial properties. Risk of annihilation can be a key ingredient, like baking soda. A teaspoon or so is sufficient to make all the other components rise up in glory, but without it? No cake.” Although the contours of a space drama may seem familiar to a 21st-century readership, Howrey, through the poetry of her writing and the richness of her characters, makes it all seem new.

A lyrical and subtle space opera.

Pub Date: March 14th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-399-57463-4
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2017


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