Sometimes you meet someone, you’re intrigued, you spend time together, you learn, you laugh and after a while you realize you’re smitten. Ian Sales new novel, All That Outer SpaceAllows, is the book version. It follows an American astronaut’s wife from the mid-sixties to mid-seventies. She is devoted to him and his career, and writes science fiction on the side. The two halves of her life should have a lot in common. They don’t. The resulting inner conflict is pure, real and underrepresented in literature. It’s also they kind of theme that makes literary science fiction an invaluable genre.
The novel is fully formed and overwhelmingly believable. It will make you doubt your actual knowledge of recent history. Ian employs a canny tool to assuage your doubts. He occasionally intrudes into the story, which at first I found a little disconcerting. Only at first. Once you are moved outside the story, you appreciate the full reflection. The device give the thorough research move depth and meaning.
“Allows” is book four of the Apollo Quartet. The first, Adrift on the Sea of Rains, took home the 2012 British Science Fiction Association Award for his hard sf novella. Each book experiments with our early years in space, testing and prodding and wondering what they may have been like if this or that were different. And in wondering they produce a sense of wonder.
While I enjoyed each book in the quartet, I found “Allows” quite moving. I plan to go back to book one and start again. I expect this time, the journey will be different – which I have come to believe is the point of the whole quartet.