Written by: Rob Boffard
Published by: Orbit
Synopsis: For one small group, a tour of the nearby Horsehead Nebula is meant to be a short but stunning highlight in the trip of a lifetime. But when a mysterious ship destroys Sigma Station and everyone on it, suddenly their tourist shuttle is stranded. They have no weapons. No food. No water. No one back home knows they’re alive. And the mysterious ship is hunting them.
I discovered Adrift whilst on one of my regular jaunts through Netgalley’s Sci-Fi section, and was immediately struck by its beautiful cover artwork and compelling synopsis. I loved the idea of introducing a Science-Fiction twist into the familiar disaster movie trope, switching out the deep blue seas for deep dark space and rather than having great white sharks circling a life raft, we have deadly enemy spaceships hunting down an unarmed civilian tourist vessel. With a synopsis dripping with dramatic potential, I was eager to give the novel a read to see whether it could live up to the promise.
Like all good disaster movies, Adrift starts out slow and builds up in tempo before reaching its crescendo. There is a Hitchcockian quality to author Rob Boffard’s writing, which really heightens the tension as the survivors attempt to overcome insurmountable odds. Boffard never lets up the pace, with most of the chapters featuring cliff-hanger endings that make it extremely difficult to put the book down. The breakneck pace reminds me of Dan Brown’s novels, constantly throwing obstacles in the way of his characters and revealing nuggets of exposition along the way. For the majority of the novel, the reader is in the dark about the motivations of the enemy – much like the inhabitants of the Red Panda tour shuttle – creating further incentives for readers to devour as many chapters in possible.
While the action quotient is high, Boffard doesn’t neglect his characters one bit. Chapters are regularly told from the perspective of the survivors, giving us an insight into their pasts before they boarded the shuttle – much like Season One of LOST. As they fight to survive, we learn more and more about these people – and appearances can be quite deceiving in some cases. Throwing strangers into a life-and-death situation naturally brings about conflict, and Boffard explores how these characters react to each other in a natural way – creating a sense of inevitability as to when violence occurs. The scenario feels very reminiscent of the Doctor Who episode, “Midnight”, and how the tourists on-board the ship give into their paranoia and fears, almost killing the Doctor because they see him as a threat. It is human nature, and Boffard depicts it perfectly here.
As I read through Adrift, I was struck by how cinematic Boffard’s writing was and how easy it was to imagine events in my mind’s eye. Without wanting to spoil too much, the weaponry of the enemy spaceship was very iconic – giving me flashbacks to Phantasm – and would work tremendously on the big screen. With its character-driven narrative, Adrift would be a perfect candidate for a movie adaptation – one that would allow an ensemble group of actors to really show off their talents. With the cinematic landscape chockful of multi-movie franchises, it would be refreshing to see a one-off film with a solid central premise hit the screens.
As I mentioned earlier, weaved in amongst Adrift’s disaster movie set-pieces are some wonderful character moments, and one of the more surprising elements occurs midway through the novel when the issue of extremism and terrorism is touched upon through flashbacks. While Boffard doesn’t make any explicit references to current-day forms of religious extremism, it provides an insight into how someone could become radicalised. Science-Fiction works best when it is used to explore contemporary issues, and with the addition of this sequence, Boffard holds up a mirror to society and how the disenfranchised can be manipulated by others into committing atrocities. It is certainly a thought-provoking topic, and one that I would have liked to have seen more focus on.
Effortlessly delivering upon the promise of that excellent synopsis, Adrift is a wholly rewarding experience that will stay with the reader long after the final page has been turned. Balancing big budget moments with tense character-driven confrontations, Rob Boffard never lets his characters (or his readers) pause for breath as the passengers of the Red Panda are forced to make difficult choices in order to survive. Thoroughly deserving of a big-screen adaptation, Adrift is one of the most intense and exciting Sci-Fi novels in recent years. Get ahead of the curve, read it now before everyone is talking about it!