From the Cairngorms of Scotland to the fire-watching huts of Washington State, from Iceland's Houses of Joy to the desert of New Mexico, and from the frozen beauty of Svalbard to the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, Richards visits remote getaways and asks: Why are we drawn to wilderness? And how do wild places become a space for inspiration and creativity?
These isolated, precarious refuges, at once exposed and welcoming, allow Richards to interrogate ideas of home and escape, of safety and adventure, all in a narrative whose principal pleasure is the time the reader gets to spend in the author’s amiable, erudite, Tiggerish company ... Richards’s prose is by turns beautiful, funny, evocative and learned, the pages illuminated by lovely, warming footnotes ... While Richards writes winningly of his doomed attempts to elevate himself in his isolated redoubts, the real pleasure of this book lies in its diversions, its divagations, its asides ... his voice is...vivid, self-deprecating, literary and very, very funny.
... [a] delightfully haphazard narrative ... From lighthouses to a writers’ retreat in Switzerland (an austere 'machine for writing'), Richards has penned a thoughtful and beautifully written meditation on our quest to find spaces in which we can find something unexpected in ourselves and forge a new relationship with the natural world: 'All outposts are lighthouses—sites of illumination.'
Richards’ new book, Outpost, has clearly been properly proofread (kudos to the team at Canongate) and some of the descriptive writing is wonderfully vivid—cinematic even—but...there’s a niggling sense that the author keeps getting distracted from the main thrust of his story, and the intellectual wandering off and ping-ponging around can get so convoluted that you’re left wondering if there is even a main thrust to return to ... the conclusion that all the outposts in the book are linked by the fact that they 'allow people to engage with the world inside and out in various ways” feels nebulous-verging-on-meaningless.