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Howrey, Meg The Wanderers ISBN 13 : 9781432838263

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9781432838263: The Wanderers
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Extrait :
Helen

Nothing feels as free as this!

The lettering of this promise is in pink. The freedom being demonstrated concerns a woman in a white bra and girdle cavorting across a simplified background of sky and clouds.

Helen Kane stands in the lobby of Prime Space Systems Laboratory and considers the 1960s-era advertisement for Playtex. She smiles, waiting to be given an explanation. The CEO of Prime Space has ushered Helen toward this lithesome lady in her panties with all the ceremony that one might employ toward revealing an Old Master, and there is nothing to be gained by showing James "Boone" Cross anything other than what Helen privately refers to as PIG: Polite, Interested, Good humored. Helen is a little perturbed, a little uncomfortable, but she can get PIG to fly in much more adverse conditions.

This is Helen's last day visiting the Japanese branch of Prime's Systems Lab. Tomorrow she will go back. Home, which is still Houston. A year ago Helen retired from active duty in the astronaut corps at NASA, after twenty-one years and three missions in space. It had been the right thing to do: there were so few opportunities for getting named to a crew; others had been waiting more than a decade for their first mission. It was time to cede to the next generation as the previous one had done for her. This was always going to happen, and she had prepared for it.

She had not prepared. You can't train for irrelevance.

Helen tells herself that it is nonsense to think of the word irrelevant. She still has a position at NASA, an important one. And, if she chooses, there are exciting things happening elsewhere. It is very likely that Prime Space is going to offer her a job. There is a lot to think about, but not right now. Right now she must give PIG to Boone Cross.

Despite the fact that Helen took the Prime Space Iris to the International Space Station and back on her last mission, she doesn't feel she has fully penetrated the culture of this company, although she's got a pretty good handle on its in-house vocabulary. Prime is skittish about using language borrowed from the military, and mixes acronyms with a kind of high-minded verbiage, noun-to-verb mashups, and the stray Latinate pun. The mindless totalitarian-speak predicted in dystopian fiction was not the future. Big Brother had gone artisanal.

The father of this new world made-to-order is from Alabama but employs his company's argot with the chaotic enthusiasm of a non-native speaker delivering newly acquired idioms. That Boone Cross is a genius is not in question, though the rest is up for debate. He seems unclear as well: he has referred to himself during their conversation as both an anachronism and an iconoclast. Boone is younger than Helen, who is fifty-three and only now noticing that many people seem to be younger than herself. This hour has been her longest excursion in Boone's undivided presence, and his manner does not seem designed to make her comfortable. Helen neither expects nor resents this, but her mood is not the best.

"You may have noticed that at every Prime Space location," Boone is saying now, granting the lobby a majestic wave, "we encourage the team to share images about what drew us to working in the space biz. And then we collect these images together so that when people come to work every day, they pass through our collective dreams."

"What a great idea," says Helen, covering her impatience. "It creates such a special atmosphere." Just now, Boone and Helen are the only ones enjoying the special atmosphere. The lobby-a windowless curvilinear triangle-has been closed off to tourists, and Prime Space employees are apparently being rerouted to some other entrance.

For most of the past hour, Boone and Helen have been talking robotics. Helen is not sure who is meant to impress whom, so she focuses on the subject at hand. For whatever reason, she has been brought to the lobby of dreams, and appropriate reactions and statements must be sourced and given. This will not be difficult. Helen has made lots of speeches about dreams: believing in, going for, never giving up on. Since the dream she has achieved eclipses most people's unachieved fantasies, it behooves her to speak with modesty on the subject, with repeated use of the word fortunate.

"This right here"-Boone points to the Playtex advertisement-"is my tribute to my grandmother. I was going to just put up a photograph of her, but then I challenged myself to be a little more creative. It's the company my grandmother started working for when she was eighteen. Playtex was a division of the International Latex Corporation."

"Oh, ILC, of course," says Helen. She remembers a section of Boone's autobiography that referenced his grandmother and connected her to his early interest in space exploration. She feels a little sad. Is she sad? Helen considers an alternative: she is dehydrated.

"So as you probably know, in the early sixties NASA opened up a competition for a spacesuit design," Boone continues. "International Latex, best known as the makers of Playtex bras and girdles, was one of eight companies that submitted a proposal."

Helen retrieves what she knows about the history of spacesuit design, decides there is a high-percentage chance that it is less than what Boone knows, and says, with PIG, "Mmhmm. Yes."

"I just find this a fascinating moment." Boone is about to tell a story he has told many times, she can tell: his voice takes on the confidence of one who has whole paragraphs ready for delivery. Helen puts herself into a good listening posture.

"No one knew exactly what kind of spacesuit would be needed for walking on the moon," Boone says. "They knew it had to be a sort of portable spacecraft, that it needed to contain a total life support system, but the rest was mostly guessing. The other vendors competing for the contract all had experience making military equipment, but only International Latex had worked with fabric and seamstresses and making something a person can lie down and then get up in. Their design won. My grandmother was making girdles until one day her supervisor pulled her aside and told her she needed to start working on another project."

Helen loves these stories, like they all do. The early years of NASA: slide rules and pocket protectors and "Failure is not an option." How little they had known; how much they had dared.

Boone picks up his narrative. "The tension was high. Everyone was racing against the clock, trying to get a working suit together but also adhering to the most rigorous safety standards ever. Seamstresses were assigned a different color pin, and their worktables were inspected to make sure that every single pin came out. The sewing machines paused after every stitch. My grandmother worked on the lining of the gloves." Boone holds up his hands, more callused than you might expect from a person who made his first billion in networking routers, and is wearing a cardigan. "A new fabric," he says. "Woven chromium steel. Two thousand dollars a yard. Not an easy thing to stitch. Even decades later, my grandmother still had calluses on her fingertips."

Helen, despite her distraction, or dehydration, or sadness, feels a rush of genuine liking for this man, this respecter of calluses.

In the third month of her longest mission aboard the International Space Station, Helen had removed her socks and seen the calluses from the soles of her feet come completely off with them and float up in front of her face. She then had to chase them down-flying, since she could not chase her feet on foot-and secure them in a trash bag because otherwise someone else might have had to vacuum her calluses out of a vent and that wasn't fair. Boone would probably enjoy this anecdote. When Helen had told it to her daughter, Meeps had laughed, but also said, in one of her funny-angry voices, "Okay, I won't ever have a story as cool as that in my entire life."

"Incredible," says Helen. "My daughter studied acting and I remember her telling me that there are no small roles. That's absolutely true, I think. Your grandmother's contribution could not have been more vital."

Boone executes a double thumbs-up in agreement, or perhaps that's what he always does when he reaches this point in the story. "She and her coworkers took their jobs very seriously. They knew what was at risk. Later, my grandmother watched the Apollo 14 crew bouncing around on the moon, being silly, having the time of their lives, and her heart was in her throat. She said she kept whispering, 'Get back inside, get back inside, stop horsing around.' Because of course the astronauts were enjoying themselves. But people like my grandmother knew the truth. They knew the truth about how fragile everything is, because they had stitched every stitch of that fragile truth."

"Indeed," agrees Helen, but in the gently repressive tone of someone who would like to dial down the emotional level of the conversation a notch or two. Possible imminent death was her business, and not a subject for poetry, even if it's only the whimsy of Boone's speechwriter. "What a lovely tribute to your grandmother." Helen takes a few steps back and makes a show of surveying some of the other artwork. "This is all just great."

They begin touring the lobby. The white and gray paint scheme, the sprung floor that swallows the sound of their feet, the curved lines, all contribute to a sense of the space as a kind of airlock: a place to transition from one world to the next. Boone points out that one of the other tributes is a small screen running video loop of Helen herself, giving a demonstration meant for schoolchildren of brushing her teeth in microgravity.

Her first trip to space, the hair floating around her face not yet gray. Helen's daughter had been six at the time, Helen's husband still alive.

She'd worn an ILC-designed suit on that mission. And fourteen years later, Helen had been giving a commendatory address at ILC headquarters in Delaware on the day her husband died. NASA had sent her: it was important for the makers of spacesuits to connect their work to an actual human who was capable through human error-possibly theirs-of dying. So at the moment when she had been thanking men and women for their heroic efforts to keep her, a hero, alive, her husband had expired in the parking lot of a Houston hospital for want of an aspirin. Helen's best guess was that Eric had felt some sort of chest pain, but had not wanted to call an ambulance for some reason, and had driven himself. No one knew for sure. Five years ago, now.

Helen's daughter believes that her mother has not adequately dealt with the death of her husband, and further believes that the reason for this has to do with Helen's unresolved feelings about the death of Helen's father. Helen does not know exactly what Meeps means when she says this, does not know exactly what sort of statement or act on her part would indicate resolution, and suspects that what her daughter wants is to manifest in Helen an emotional life closer to her daughter's own dizzyingly intense ability to feel many things at once.

Boone continues the tour. More than a few of the images in Prime Space's lobby of dreams seemed to be drawn from science fiction rather than actual space exploration milestones. For Helen, the initial flame had been a book. Men on the Moon. But it wasn't Neil or Buzz that had interested her, or even the moon itself. She had been attracted to the mission's most unsung hero: Michael Collins, alone in Columbia, drifting around the moon in exquisite solitary splendor while Buzz and Neil had gone about the terrestrial work of putting down a plaque, erecting a flag, and gathering rocks. Every two hours Michael Collins had gone out of radio contact for forty-eight minutes when the moon stood between himself and Earth, and during those minutes he was the most alone person in the history of people. Helen still liked to think about that. That had always been her dream: space, not a location within it, just space.

But she had made, as they all had, public statements of support for every Prime Space success in the MarsNOW timeline announced fifteen years ago. As one of Helen's astronaut colleagues had put it, "You never know. At least it's not another fucking rover." One by one, Prime had been knocking down every serious obstacle, eliminating every "show-stopper." Even the notoriously cautious Office of Planetary Protection had cleared Prime's proposed landing site as being acceptable for human presence. And the last achievement-Red Dawn, Prime Space's Earth Return Vehicle-was currently on Mars making its own propellant from Martian resources, a ride back to Earth for the first humans who could make it there.

Prime Space had been good for all of them, keeping the dream of human space exploration alive during NASA's Congressional de-pantsing and subsequent morale depletion. Everyone assumed that Prime was working toward developing an independent astronaut corps.

Helen told herself that she would consider any offer carefully. This conversation might have nothing to do with MarsNOW. Prime might want her to advise on its astronaut program. They might want her expertise on inflatable graphene habitats. They might want her as a figurehead, a photograph, a status symbol. It is these scenarios Helen thinks of, because she needs to avoid any awareness of hoping to be rescued.

Rescued! It is an embarrassing word for Helen, and nearly as foreign to her as irrelevant. As a child she had imagined workarounds for stories where maidens needed rescue, had never understood why Rapunzel, for instance, didn't engineer her own escape. If Rapunzel's hair was capable of sustaining a man on the ascent, then surely she could have cut herself free from her hair with utensils or sewing implements or broken-off bedroom furniture and then used it to rappel herself down from the tower. Helen had even drawn up several viable contingency options for Rapunzel, should things not go as planned.

Rescued was the wrong word, surely.

Except she cannot escape this feeling of containment, of hindrance, and this is not a rational feeling, since the tower she has been shut in is only all of Earth. It is not anyone's fault, or responsibility, that the best of her exists in space, that she knows she's at the height of her powers, that if she doesn't go back up, then she has run out of road before she has run out of breath.
Revue de presse :
"Phenomenal. A transcendent, cross-cultural and cross-planetary journey into the mysteries of space and self. . . . Howrey's expansive vision left me awestruck.”—Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being

"Straddling the fine line between outer space and the world we know, The Wanderers is a breathtakingly honest and incredibly beautiful examination of the heart and soul of humankind. . . .This is a book that isn’t like anything you’ve ever read before."  —Newsweek

"Howrey subtly explores the tensions between our inner and projected selves. Thanks to her wry sense of humor, it totally works. . . .  [A]n often funny story that grows poignant in its final chapters." —The Washington Post

"Fascinating . . . a masterful psychological novel, full of rich characterization and a surprisingly gripping narrative." —Los Angeles Times

“Every single character in The Wanderers feels distinct and vivid, a planet in his or her own right.” —Slate

"Engrossing. . . . Although the contours of a space drama may seem familiar to a 21st-century readership, Howrey, through the poetry of her writing and the richness of her characters, makes it all seem new. A lyrical and subtle space opera." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"With believably fragile and idealistic characters at the helm, Howrey’s insightful novel will take readers to a place where they too can 'lift their heads and wonder.'" —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Add Howrey's novel, which centers on astronauts exploring both outer and inner space, to the list of must-consume, intergalatic art." —Nylon

“Play[s] with notions of counterfeits and authenticity. . . . Is the Eidolon mission all it appears to be? Or more? The unfolding of that mystery launches this plausible space tale into higher realms of enjoyment.” —The Associated Press

"[I]nventive, lyrical and immersive." —BBC.com

"[C]onfronts ageless questions of why humans explore, what they are looking for, and what happens when they find it. Evoking the authenticity of Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves with the literary sensitivity of Ann Patchett, Howrey has made the mission-to-Mars motif an exquisite exploration of human space, inner and outer." —Booklist

“Howrey’s exquisite novel demonstrates that the final frontier may not be space after all.” —J. Ryan Stradal, author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest

“A distinct, shimmering vision of who we are and where we think we want to go.—Peter Nichols, author of The Rocks and A Voyage for Madmen

“Elegant, thoughtful, gorgeously written. A meditation on solitude, connection, aspiration, imagination and reality, which builds effortlessly to moments of immense power and honesty. There are passages near the end of this book that I will never forget.” —Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe and Sorry Please Thank You

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  • ÉditeurThorndike Pr
  • Date d'édition2017
  • ISBN 10 1432838261
  • ISBN 13 9781432838263
  • ReliureRelié
  • Nombre de pages545
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Hardcover. Etat : Good. Large Print. <i>In an age of space exploration, we search to find ourselves.</i><br /><br />In four years, aerospace giant Prime Space will put the first humans on Mars. Helen Kane, Yoshihiro Tanaka, and Sergei Kuznetsov must prove they re the crew for the historic voyage by spending seventeen months in the most realistic simulation ever created. Constantly observed by Prime Space s team of "Obbers," Helen, Yoshi, and Sergei must appear ever in control. But as their surreal pantomime progresses, each soon realizes that the complications of inner space are no less fraught than those of outer space. The borders between what is real and unreal begin to blur, and each astronaut is forced to confront demons past and present, even as they struggle to navigate their increasingly claustrophobic quarters and each other. <br /><br />Astonishingly imaginative, tenderly comedic, and unerringly wise, <i>The Wanderers</i> explores the differences between those who go and those who stay, telling a story about the desire behind all exploration: the longing for discovery and the great search to understand the human heart. N° de réf. du vendeur SONG1432838261

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