Note: I received a free copy of this book from Online Book Club in exchange for an honest review. Outland Exile was selected as an OnlineBookClub.org Book of the Day. You can check out both the novel and other reviews here!
In all honesty, this book was not quite what I expected it to be. And I mean that in the best way possible.
The Unity controls all. It provides all that you need, but in return, you retire at 40 years old. The world thrives on the young. History will not repeat itself.
Malila Chiu is a young Lieutenant, on her way to rising high. But she soon finds her career falling apart as a station she is connected to is under threat and attack. Her only hope to save her own skin is to repair the station herself. Little did she know this was the worst mistake she could make.
Before completing her mission, she is captured by one of the savages who live in the Outlands, outside of the Unity. He is old, raving, and has not hesitated to hurt her so far. He claims also to be on a mission, but Malila has no way of knowing the truth. Nor does she have any hope of surviving this new world on her own. Her only choice is to submit. But she has no idea what’s coming…
I’d like to begin by applauding Boutwell on the concept. I haven’t read a really good science fiction novel in quite some time, and while the story certainly had flaws, the concept was unbelievably intriguing. In our society, the excuse “you’re too young to understand” is used frequently. Boutwell comes along and puts forth the idea that perhaps it is the young we should be following. Perhaps youth is our salvation.
I really liked having the story told from the perspective of a young woman. It’s so often in science fiction/fantasy that we have a male hero, and it was a nice change of pace. Boutwell delved right into this, right down to Malila’s first bleeding, which she experiences on their long trek. Again, something so simple isn’t often touched on in science fiction/dystopian novels.
As a protagonist, Malila has her flaws. At the beginning, there’s a level of apathy to her. It’s clear to the reader from the start that the Unity doesn’t seem like the incredible place Malila sees it as. But as the story progresses, Malila grows and expands her knowledge and way of thinking. Seeing her interact with things that we view as normal is really incredible to read. The concept of mothers and fathers are foreign to her. Instead, she refers to them as breeders and donors. Most women in the Unity do not ‘breed’. Again, an interesting twist.
Outland Exile has strong moments in its plot, there is no question. Near the end, it bares great similarities to the Matrix, a theme I wish we had seen carried throughout the story. However, it is not the plot, but the characters that will keep you turning the page. They are each complex and imperfect. You will find no flawless heroine or hero. You will find people, confused and learning in a society that wishes to keep them blind. You will find biases. And it will anger you. But it is these basic human aspects of the novel that will endear you to it.
I am incredibly excited to report that I found no errors in the novel. It’s been so long since I said that! The editing really was superb. But there were a few aspects of this dystopian that I was not happy to see included. Things that would have been better left out.
Here comes the trigger warning. This book contains rape. And it is treated lightly. In fact, it’s barely even touched on. It is admitted that it happens, but there is no detail, no emotion. I understand that the character involved may react in an unemotional way, but sexual abuse is not to be brushed over, and honestly, it didn’t impact the plot or the character. It didn’t need to be included. Period.
The ending of the novel, as well, was too abrupt for me. There was no sense of closure, and while I understand this is only the first book, I would have like some sort of summation, and it just didn’t feel like we received one.
Overall, I was surprisingly impressed with Outland Exile. I give this book a rating of 4/5 stars. I would recommend it to any science fiction/dystopian fans, for this book is both.
If you want to check out other reviews, along with the novel itself, be sure to head over to Online Book Club!