ARC Review: Orbital Decay

Orbital Decay

Author: Allen Steele
Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media

OrbitalWinner of the Locus Award for Best First Novel: At work aboard a battered space station, a team of blue-collar laborers stumbles upon a surveillance plot of unprecedented scope

Popeye Hooker knows that space isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A former fisherman who takes a job building low orbital stations to escape a failed relationship, he finds that in space, construction work is still a grind. And when they aren’t building the space stations that will usher humanity into the stars, Sam Sloane and the rest of the beamjacks get high, blast the Grateful Dead, and stare through telescopes at the world they left behind. But life in orbit is about to get much more interesting.

Nestled among the life support equipment that keeps them alive and the entertainment systems that keep them happy, the beamjacks find something astonishing. Turns out, their home isn’t just a space station—it’s a giant antenna designed to spy on every inhabitant of Earth. It’s the greatest privacy invasion ever perpetrated, and the beamjacks won’t stand for it. They may not be pioneers, but these roughnecks are about to become revolutionaries.

My Thoughts:

Wowee. Those are my thoughts. Let me add two disclaimers before I go into a discussion of why this book was great for me. First – I did not finish it (more on that below). Second – This was originally published in like 1989, so this is a reprint.

Now, as to my “not finished” status. I’m still reviewing it and still giving it a 4-star rating even though I haven’t as-yet finished it. This is a very dense book, and it definitely doesn’t read like a book written in today’s publishing market which demands fast-pace, remaining in only a couple of points-of-view, and/or ever-ratcheting tension. It’s utterly worth it because of the primary topic involved, and because the story was just that good. Unfortunately, I read very quickly and this book won’t let me do that because it’s so detailed and so many things are thrown in the mix.

As it indicates, the beamjacks are about to discover that the NSA has launched a super-secret spying program. Sound familiar anyone? Yup, you got it. As far as the topic, it absolutely could have been written today, but unlike the modern NSA scandal which involved using the internet to spy, the NSA uses a satelitte and space station to perform its spying.

Having been writting when it was, the Cold War was still a very real issue and there are tensions with Russia/the Soviet Union mentioned. Mr. Steele indicated that we occupied space by 2016 (when the book is set), and while we technically do, it’s not anywhere near the extent imagined in Orbital Decay. Still, it’s very eerie that he hit on the spying issue, given what came out earlier this year when Snowden released the NSA records.

I like so much of this book, I just wish I had time to finish it. I’m definitely keeping it on my Kindle because it deserves to be finished. Unfortunately, my schedule just got ramped up, so I just can’t devote enough time to properly finish this book.

But don’t let my failure scare you off. Absolutely get this book, read it, love it. Just don’t expect it to be a fast read. I don’t think it can, or should, be. (And, as to why it’s a four-star instead of a 5, given how much I liked what I did read, there’s simply too many POV switches. I honestly am marking it down because there are simply too many instances, and too many telegraphing of what’s going to happen – you know, he’ll say something like…Popeye had no clue that doing X would literally save his life only a few minutes later.)

So, thanks to the publisher and NetGalley!

This book provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


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