Originally published in 1989, Orbital Decay (Amazon link) was Allen Steele’s first published science fiction novel. Why it took so long to bring out the Kindle edition is beyond me but I’m glad that Open Road Media has just done so.
For anyone who has NOT had the pleasure of reading Steele’s work: If you enjoy ‘hard’ science fiction, you’re missing out on something. I first discovered him via his Coyote series, which definitely influenced my own SF blog novel, Colony: Alchibah.
Even in his first book, Orbital Decay, the careful development of the characters is evident. You get to know them as if they were friends of yours.
When you consider that the book was written in the 1980’s, you can overlook a few anachronisms (cassette-taped music) because the large plot involves something that is making headlines this very day; a project by the NSA to track and intercept all phone, internet, and other transmissions between all Americans and others, in the name of “national security.” Talk about prescient predictions and an SF story becoming reality!
A few members of a space station construction team discover the real intent of the stations they’re working on or affiliated with. They are the only ones who can sabotage the “Big Ear” to keep the government from spying on all Americans.
That is about all the plot I’ll share with you.
Steele gives the right amount of day-to-day details of life in space, personal interactions, and ‘moving the plot forward’ mechanisms to keep the story moving along. Unlike many science fiction novels, the last section of the book moves at breakneck pace.
A fine read!
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