Scott Blackstone, former shuttle astronaut, is now CEO of ShareSpace, a private corporation devoted to marketing space travel. The first "Citizen Observer" flights are a success, but when celebrity basketball player Michael James is killed in a freak accident in space, Scott is fired and subjected to a lawsuit filed by the victim's family, and the future of the U.S. space program is in jeopardy. Complicating matters is a war between Pakistan and India (how plausible is THAT?) during which Pakistan explodes a proton bomb that releases unexpected amounts of radiation into orbit and disables all orbiting craft, from television- and cell phone-assisting satellites to the International Space Station with its hapless crew aboard. Scott's ex-wife Thalia -- an activist attorney -- takes on his case while his brother Nick, an executive engineer with Republic Wright corporation, positions his company both to pick up the pieces of the space program in general and mount a rescue mission for the astronauts in the space station (with Scott as pilot). This is a smart, workmanlike novel that gives a good glimpse into the technology and politics of the space program. It blows most of its big plot twists in the first half and coasts to a satisfying if predictable finish, but the character development is of a higher quality than the average book of this type, partly because the story is told in first person by the several principals in turn. This is the second novel coauthored by Barnes and the second man to walk on the moon.
This report prepared by David Loftus