OUTPOST by Scott Mackay


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First science-fiction novel from the Canadian author of A Friend in Barcelona (not reviewed). On an unnamed planet with two red suns, a huge ancient prison run by robots is slowly breaking down. The inmates are kept in a sleepwalking, amnesiac state by means of ""dreamphones"" and drugs. But now, as systems fail, prisoners emerge from the haze; young Felicitas learns that Piero and Rosario, awake and aware, have been investigating the dead robot guards and the prison's automatic defenses for a way to escape. Felicitas still experiences waking dreams in which an alien ""uomolupo"" named Lungo Muso is trying to tell her something important. Not all the prisoners wake up; some remain ""dead,"" controlled by beetle-like constructs that burrow into their skulls. Soon, the prison's power goes off, the dead report that troops are on the way, and Felicitas, remembering how to read the alien glyphs, discovers she has unique abilities to operate alien equipment; Lungo Muso tells her about the terrifying but crucial ""outpost."" The prisoners break out, though only Felicitas and Piero survive to join the ""popolo"" outside. Still to come: more adventures and a showdown with the dead and the aliens. An intriguing puzzle scenario and tense prison action subsiding into glutinously overelaborate, unconvincing explanations: worth trying, but don't expect to escape unscathed.

Pub Date: March 11th, 1998
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Tor