Adrift by Rob Boffard

Orbit | 2018 (7 June) | 371p | Review copy | Buy the book

Adrift by Rob BoffardIn distant space, a small group of tourists board the shuttle Red Panda for a swift tour to look at the nearby spectacular Horsehead Nebula. This sort of tour is a must for the many travellers, honeymooners and once-in-a-lifetime tourists who visit the luxurious space station Sigma Hotel. It’s perfectly routine. Nothing should go wrong, which is just as well for Hannah, the tour guide. This is her very first day on the job and she wants to impress the rather grouchy and enigmatic vodka-swilling pilot Volkova. Unfortunately for everyone, just a few minutes into the trip a devastating catastrophe unfolds before their eyes. An unidentified ship emerges from the nearby jump gate and destroys the space station, killing thousands of men, women and children. Only those aboard the Red Panda survive, shocked. The attacking ship knows this. It will find them and it will kill them.

Terrifying times are to follow for those aboard the Red Panda. With nobody else alive (who doesn’t want to kill them) for light years, and limited food and a frozen water supply, their hours are numbered, even if they weren’t in such danger from this unknown ship. They have to work together for any hope of survival. It won’t be easy. Not everyone on this little shuttle is who they say they are. Survival is unlikely.

I love the premise of Adrift so much – a tiny ship lost in space with almost no supplies and only the resilience of the strangers aboard to rely on. And then there’s the mystery of the attacking ship. Who are they? Why would they commit such an awful act? It sounds exciting and it most certainly is. This is one of the most engrossing books I’ve read for quite a while – it made me miss my bus stop yesterday morning!

The people aboard the Red Panda are a mixed bunch, including a husband and wife and their two young sons, a retired miner, a hotel reviewer, a young married couple, as well as Hannah and Volkova. Everyone has their own story, as well as their own fears and strengths. We see most of them at their best and at their worst but standing out in particular are the boys Corey and Malik Livingstone. I can be driven mad by the portrayal of teenagers in fiction but these two brothers are observed so beautifully by Rob Boffard. Their relationship is believable and Corey especially forms the heart of the book watched over by the 65-year-old Lorinda, a woman who once worked as a miner in space, another wonderful character. At this point, though, I must mention my only criticism of the book and that is the constant reference to Lorinda as the ‘old woman’ (with her aching bones and dodgy teeth) as if that is her identity in life. 65 is hardly a great age. Anyway, I must get over that….. and say again just how much I loved these characters and their interaction with one another. Poor Hannah – this is not the best of first days in a new job.

Adrift is such an exciting book! There are battles, close scrapes, intense peril and fisticuffs, all played out against the majestic backdrop of space. Irresistible. And it is written so well. There is just the right amount of humour but it never gets in the way of the novel’s tension and drama, and the significant role of Corey will also make this book a popular choice for younger readers. It would be such a great introduction to science fiction. Actually, I think that readers of every age will enjoy Adrift.

Rob Boffard is known for his Outer Earth trilogy but I have to say that in my opinion Adrift is much better, with the right mix of drama, characterisation and action. I didn’t want to put it down at all. This is the kind of book that makes you miss bus stops! I can speak no higher praise than that.

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