Darkness Outside Us
by Schrefer, Eliot

Earth's population is divided between only two existing countries which cannot manage to cooperate in any way, until a distress signal arrives from Titan's first settler. Neither country can afford to rescue her on their own if they act separately. Ambrose wakes up on board the Coordinated Endeavour under strange circumstances: he doesn't remember the launch, the ship's OS is voiced by his mother, strangers have been aboard, and Kodiak, the only other person on this mission, has barricaded himself away from sight. But nothing will stop Ambrose from making this mission succeed- not when the settler he's rescuing is his sister.

*Starred Review* Seventeen-year-old Ambrose is on an interplanetary mission to rescue his older sister Minerva, whose earlier solo mission to Saturn's moon Titan seems to have failed. With him is 18-year-old, enigmatic Kodiak. The two boys are representatives of their respective countries, which are engaged in a cold war. Despite that, Ambrose finds himself immediately emotionally and physically attracted to Kodiak, who, nevertheless, remains cold-until, well, he isn't. Their ship is guided by a seemingly omniscient operating system (think HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey) that appears dedicated to their survival, but is it? When something disastrous occurs and a shocking secret is revealed, the boys' lives will change forever. Readers of this exciting yet thoughtful exercise will willingly suspend their disbelief that such a rescue mission would be conducted by only two people and Minerva's mission by only her. Everything else that happens in this otherwise ingeniously plotted novel-that for some readers may tangentially evoke another movie, Groundhog Day-rings true and stimulates the imagination. Schrefer masterfully evokes and maintains suspense that keeps the pages turning briskly while still taking the time to limn the two boys' touching, moving relationship. If all of this is space opera, readers will want an encore. Bravo. Grades 9-12. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

A privileged socialite and orphaned cadet unpack the true intention of their two-person mission to one of Saturn's moons. Ambrose Cusk of Fédération (think United States circa 2470) is the elegant, golden offspring of Alexander the Great's DNA and an emotionally distant mother. Kodiak Celius of Dimokratía (think Russia) is a brawny orphan-turned-cadet. The two 17-year-olds are paired on a mission to find Ambrose's long-lost sister, Minerva, who disappeared while attempting to colonize Titan. Her distress beacon has mysteriously been activated years later. The socially, physically, and emotionally opposite boys are slowly unified by their need to understand their fuzzy, pre-mission memories; to combat an omnipresent, self-serving OS (remember HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey?); and to get to the bottom of why there's a vacuum-sealed supply of their own cloned bodies hidden on the ship. This Groundhog Day?"type loop features complex worldbuilding in terms of space, time, light, and sound. What's not complex are base human wants and needs like manicotti, making out, and memories. Ambrose and Kodiak realize that mutual affection is a way to validate one's existence; that human connection is essential even if you're determined to be a loner; and that even with the same memories and experiences, our choices in love and life can be completely, wonderfully different if we have a chance to do them again. And again. And again. Main characters are implied White. 3, 2, 1...blastoff for mystery, adventure, and queer intergalactic bodice-ripping. (Science fiction. 14-18) Copyright Kirkus 2021 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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