In Outpost by W. Michael Gear, nothing goes right on Donovan. A remote planet cut off from all contact with the rest of humanity, the colony is only barely surviving. The planet itself seems to want to kill every human on it, whether by harsh environment or vicious alien life hunting them. The settlement itself is ostensibly a company town funded by The Corporation whose residents are all technically contracted employees of said Corporation, but they have not seen any supply ships, managers or supervisors, or even received any messages at all. They are completely cut off, and they don’t know why.
When the company ship Turalon finally does arrive, its crew finds the remaining settlers running things as they please, no longer respecting any claims The Corporation had on the planet. Furthermore, any ships they thought were sent to Donovan ahead of them had mysteriously disappeared.
The crew of the ship and the remaining residents of the planet must find a way to work together to survive on the planet. The Turalon’s Supervisor is afraid that they too will disappear if they try to leave, so she leaves the new settlers on the planet as planned, but attempts to regain authority over the settlement.
All of this is reasonably standard fare for this genre of science fiction. Missing ships, hostile planets, and settlers with secrets to hide. That said, just because a story isn’t wholly original doesn’t mean it isn’t well-executed. It might feel a bit paint-by-numbers, but it’s expertly done. What really works in Outpost is that the characters fill their archetypal roles so well. There’s no ambiguity as to who the good guys are versus who the bad guys are. The bad guys are just straight up bad. I haven’t reacted so strongly against a villain as I did here. I was supposed to hate him, and I really do. Outpost is an action thriller that knows exactly what it wants to be without any further pretension. It’s a gritty story, a lot like the film Alien if it were set on an open planet rather than a spaceship.
Steven McCreedy is a library technician at the Cambie Branch of the Richmond Public Library.