The Far Reaches Reviews: “Just Out of Jupiter’s Reach” by Nnedi Okorafor


The Far Reaches Reviews: “Just Out of Jupiter’s Reach” by Nnedi Okorafor

Somewhat recently, Amazon got together six writers you’ve likely heard of and tasked them with writing science fiction stories. It’s called “The Far Reaches.” And, with how fun it was reviewing the similar series, “Creature Feature,” it seemed like a good idea to continue the trend.

So, we’ll be seeing which one is the best, and going over them in the order they are presented. Starting with…

“Just Out of Jupiter’s Reach” by Nnedi Okorafor

Just Out of Jupiter’s Reach” is a fascinating, humanist piece of science fiction. Despite having almost no conflicts, barely anything that counts as a propelled plot, it’s intriguing all the way through. Reading it instills so many emotions: sadness, joy, wistful nostalgia, and the exact type of curiosity that incredible concepts have all the power to invoke.

Let’s start with the premise of “Just Out of Jupiter’s Reach,” because the title doesn’t tell you the biggest draw. Jupiter does play an important tonal function, but the planet itself isn’t all that much of the plot. Instead, the main focus is on organic, intelligent, shape-shifting ships that will only ever let one human aboard, with a few exceptions. There are seven in total—and after transporting their (sometimes) lonely humans for five years, it’s time for those humans to meet up and talk.

What follows is an extremely efficient—but effective—conveyance of what it means to be a part of a community, what it means to find connection in that community, and the conflicts that can arise from personality clashes. If you’ve ever lived with anyone, ever, you’ll recognize some of the scenes in “Just Out of Jupiter’s Reach” emotionally.

And yeah, those two things—organic ships and complicated people—are the whole plot. And, again, it’s incredible. The ships’ designs, the ways they mold to the personalities of each person, are the stuff of dreams. Imagine a house literally made for you, that formed to suit exactly the environment you like, and is big enough to recreate caves or fields or buildings—just for you. Now imagine getting to know someone who shares that experience with you, instantly making them family, and getting to see what their ship is like.

The only thing about this, though, is that these seven characters are hard to keep track of. Scenes have so many names in such a short amount of time. If this story wasn’t in first person, it would’ve been almost impossible to follow the narrative. The characters themselves are great: well written, with fascinating ships—but “Just Out of Jupiter’s Reach” needed to be more than a short story for what it was trying to do. I’d gladly read a seven-person, multi-POV book to learn more about each of them, but it’s confusing as is.

I also need to warn—though this is not a critique—that this story has some devastating moments. I said it was sad as well as happy, and I meant it. There is a gut punch of a plot point that some may find triggering. And, besides that, there’s an ambient sense of existential loneliness that’ll stick with you.

Really, the whole story of “Just Out of Jupiter’s Reach” will stick with you. Its ending has one trope I really don’t think needed to be there—you’ll know what I mean—but the majority of the story is a fascinating and deeply emotional look at friendship, love, and community.

Possibly Related Posts:

Leave a Comment