With liberating body implants, history's finest democracy supervises every citizen for her/his/its own and the nation's welfare. Seventeen-year-old Lieutenant Malila Chiu, is a veteran officer who, despite well-earned fame, finds her career in tatters. Vandalism at a distant station triggers her demotion. Facing denunciation... or worse, Malila's one option is to enter the outlands to repair the station herself. At first, the repairs go well.
Dropping from fatigue, she wakes to find a hideously ancient savage has murdered her platoon and now holds a knife at her throat, making her the ... Outland Exile.
W. Clark Boutwell posits a fascinating dystopia, with the United States split apart into political entities separated by wastelands as well as ideology, entire areas uninhabitable and extreme weather a fact of life. Malila is the young, polished product of a society where specialized training begins at thirteen and forcible retirement from society comes at forty, with personal ambition counting for everything. Coming from that background of power politics and casual cruelty, she comes face to face with a culture almost diametrically opposed to her own, in the Outlands where no civilization is supposed to exist. Malila faces a crisis of belief and identity, as well as a struggle for personal survival in a world far beyond the reach of high-tech support. Outland Exile is packed with political and societal commentary, fast-paced action, and psychological conflict—a recommended read on many levels, and one that will keep you turning pages and thinking right through to the end.
I found the deeper issues in this book were extremely well-blended into the plot, skillfully shown rather than told. As well as being hooked by the themes of the story, I found the characters were utterly plausible, and the writing was technically perfect. I'm going to be looking out for the sequel to this book, because W. Clark Boutwell offers me an irresistible combination of readability, conflict, and characters I can care about—I don't hand out five stars often.
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