Monday, 12 September 2016

Outpost of Jupiter

Lester Del Rey Outpost of Jupiter (1963)
Lester Del Rey isn't an author whose work I'd actively seek out, but I don't like to see his books sat on the clearance shelf waiting to be pulped, so that's how I came by this one. It's the third I've read by him, and another juvie aimed squarely at teenagers - as distinct from the raging maturity of all those books Isaac Asimov wrote for fully grown men who'd done it with a lady and everything. Anyway, my last two Del Rey juvies were fairly decent so here I am again.

Del Rey doesn't talk down, but peppers his narrative with all the edumacational stuff about mathematics, thrust ratios, and the challenges of terraforming - just like Isaac - with concessions made to the age of his target audience through it being the story of a fifteen-year old kid who goes into space with his dad and has realistic adventures. Del Rey grew up on a farm in Minnesota in the twenties and you can sort of tell.

Mrs. McCarthy was a short, plump woman with a red face and a beaming smile. She dried her hands on her apron and greeted Bob warmly. Her voice was soft and seemed filled with the sheer joy of living and cooking and watching her family eat. 'Sit down,' she told them. 'You must be starved after all those space rations. Bob, you sit right there. And Penny, you let him alone, you hear?'

In many ways it reads as though someone has novelised the art of Chesley Bonestell, which would be great but for the fact that Outpost of Jupiter reads at least a little like it was Hank Hill doing the novelising, I tell you what. It's not that it's dull, but given the narrative occurring on one of Jupiter's moons and encompassing contact with an alien race, a little bit of wonder wouldn't have been out of place amongst all the discussions of Bob's immune system and space horticulture.

Likeable but surprisingly dry.

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