But when he and two others survive their entry, the 16 year old suddenly finds himself free and on the run, in a universe of brutal empires, pirates, and slave traders. He can trust only his mysterious and seemingly intelligent new ship, the Wanderer, and maybe—or maybe not—his few friends. What follows is a frantic race to understand and utilize the new ship, while others try to take it from Jess and his small group.
Wanderer’s Escape is the first of a series, and introduces us to a boy and his ship: a ship which, like Doctor Who’s TARDIS, has seemingly unlimited capabilities in the right hands, and a sentient dedication to its owner. Jess makes mistakes--he's a teenager, after all—but like the ship he's a fast learner, and watching him learn is half the fun. Unfortunately, this is a place where learning from your mistakes isn’t as likely as dying from them.
I did feel a little lost at first, not knowing much about the universe Jess inhabits, but getting to know it was a fun ride (although I wouldn't want to live there!) The story reminded me of some of Heinlein’s “juvenile” SF—or rather, my memory of them—which is a compliment. Sometimes the Wanderer seems a bit too good to be true, but there are plenty of other problems along the way to make up for it.