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Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite
Outland Exile by W. Clark Boutwell is set in a dystopian future where the Democratic Unity rules, and the United States have been fractured. Within the Unity, Malila Chiu is a veteran lieutenant officer who seems to have it all: great friends, a successful job, and the perfect life. That is until she's demoted, and has to go to the outlands to handle a vandalism situation for herself. At first the repairs at the vandalized station go well, then everything goes horribly wrong. When Malila is captured, and her platoon is murdered, she's sure her life is over, but everything she knows is about to change. The more time she spends with her captor, the more she learns that the outlands may not be what she thought. She learns the truth of family, strength, honor, survival, friendship, and kindness as she and her captor make their way through hostile lands.
W. Clark Boutwell excels at style and language. The Democratic Unity and the outlands chapters contain jargon for that region, as well as a subtle change in writing style from one setting to the other. The Democratic Unity has a more experimental style while the chapters on the outlands have a tighter structure. Boutwell says a lot with very little, using details like “eyes open to the skies … and the crows” to express so much more than just a death. His descriptions for Malila's friends are simple and clever: “well-tailored,” “governmental gray,” Lucy sweeps in with a “dramatic dark-red cloak,” and Tiffany trots “with her head down, her long white coat fluttering behind her, always came last.” Every word, every detail, like the color of their clothes, reflects their personalities. The most intense part of the novel is when Malila has been captured, and she's in the cold in an unfamiliar environment, being held hostage. I had to keep reading, because every detail is intense. When Bear and his men found her, every word made me nervous and I had to keep reading. A story of survival, human nature, and friendship, Outland Exile is a well-written dystopian adventure.