05.08.2012

Orbital Decay by Allen Steele - a review

This is the first novel of Allen Steele I have read. Previously I enjoyed his short stories - like "Emperor of Mars" presented in Starship sofa. Orbital Decay is an older book, written in the eighties, when space exploration steel held a promise. There are some lovely anachronisms here and there but not too much. Yet, the MacGuffin - the centerpiece around which plot was constructed has a very current resonance. Orbital Decay is a good, simple story of simple men working in space. It sets up a a theme of rising conflict between new frontier that has to confront the big brother state. What is so unique about the book is that heroes are no Astronauts but everyday Joe's - space plumbers (really a construction workers called beamjacks). This is somewhat uncommon, and I respect and admire an author who can put a perspective on what is so common in SF - Great men doing great deeds. Here they are the bad guys, and a common man prevails.
Orbital decay is a work of someone who clearly loves the SF genre, so references to books, authors and whole SF culture are abound.
The story develops rather slowly, focusing on different aspects of life in space (mostly boredom). This is shown through the eyes of few people living in the "Olympus" space station. The conclusion was well worth going through the slow parts. A hard SF with a bit of poetic ending and a story of redemption. I certainly am glad I picked this book up.
And a little spoiler - the most awesome reentry ever!

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