A group of teenagers must survive an interstellar disaster in Alone Out Here, a blistering standalone science fiction novel.
Leigh Chen, first daughter of the United States, is fortunate to have a spot on the Lazarus, one of several huge spacecrafts that will evacuate some of Earth’s population before a volcanic eruption renders the planet uninhabitable. Leigh and many of the Lazarus’ other young passengers are touring the ship when disaster strikes, forcing them to launch much earlier than planned.
It soon becomes clear that the Lazarus wasn’t fully prepared for the journey, and there are no adults on board. Attempts to communicate with anyone else in orbit or on Earth fail, and the truth sinks in: Leigh and a group of survivors are completely alone with no planet to return to, no viable destination in sight and only enough supplies to last a few months.
Leigh emerges as one of the leaders who start to cobble together a survival plan, as does Eli, whose mother would have been the ship’s pilot. Through Leigh’s methodical mindset, author Riley Redgate excellently establishes the enormity of the crisis. Everyone must begin training as pilots, mechanics, scientists or doctors to gain even a slim hope of success, let alone live long enough to create and educate future generations.
But what is lost amid this overwhelming focus on the future? Some aboard the Lazarus find it easier to leave the past behind than others, and Leigh tries to keep the peace between conflicting sides of a growing divide. As Eli’s decisions raise ethical concerns, Leigh questions her own neutrality and whether her skill for seeing both sides is preventing her from developing opinions of her own. Can Leigh discover what she stands for in time to save the crew—and her soul?
On the surface, Alone Out Here is an enjoyable sci-fi tale with many familiar elements, including a ticking-clock survival plot, plausibly futuristic technology, a lovely slow-burn romance and a cast of interesting, complex and diverse characters.
But what makes Alone Out Here compelling, even haunting, is Redgate’s fearless exploration of the deeper moral questions prompted by her plot’s high stakes: What is survival without memory? What if the cost of saving humanity was everything that makes us human? The result is a far more intense and emotional experience than readers may expect from the book’s premise, but it’s also a rewarding one for readers with the courage to ride along.