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Orbital Decay (Near-Space) by Allen Steele
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Orbital Decay (Near-Space) (original 1989; edition 1989)

by Allen Steele

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366829,640 (3.37)8
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Title:Orbital Decay (Near-Space)
Authors:Allen Steele
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Orbital Decay by Allen Steele (1989)

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Overall this isn’t a bad story and reading it as someone living 20+ years after it was written it is easy to see parts of the book that are almost prescient. It shows how the public consciousness concerned about government surveillance is not limited to recent events and has been a concern for a very long time.

While the moral of the story does hold up the rest of the book feels highly dated. This is definitely a work from a Cold War mindset and you can feel that throughout the story. There are also many references that were topical at the time but no longer hold the same relevance. This is the issue of trying to look forward to what the future will be like, if it is later being read around the time the “future” story is set the reader cannot help but compare it to their actual lives. Since it was written a while ago you can’t really hold the anachronisms against the book, but it is something you notice.

There are moments later portions of the book where the story really picks up as events come to a head, but those seem to take a long time to get to. The first half of the book reads very slowly and much of the character interaction is not all that interesting. Anything dealing with the surveillance system on the station holds the reader’s attention but pretty much every other part of the book drags. This is unfortunate since the first chapter starts the book off with an interesting setup only to have nearly all of the rest of the book set in flashbacks that bring you back to the point in the first chapter. I can see what the author was going for but it just did not work for me.

The characters themselves are also not terribly interesting. You get essentially two types of characters, either widely over the top or totally bland. The main group of characters all feel like they were jotted down as a brief description and then never really evolved past that. They seem more like tools for telling the story rather then something to change and adapt as you read.

http://homeofreading.com/orbital-decay/ ( )
  TStarnes | Oct 30, 2013 |
Good Si-Fi, space station construction tales of workers' reasons for leaving earth for the hardship of the construction of orbital platforms, the boredom and dangers inherent in the projects. Also a timely plot of government intrigue and spying on it's own citizens using an Orwell-esque spy satellite which is of course thwarted by the Contruction Joes whom we've come to know from the earlier parts of the book. All nicely done, seemingly good science, and a fun, though long read. ( )
  dmclane | Sep 14, 2013 |
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 arround 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! ( )
  yarriofultramar | Aug 5, 2012 |
I first read this book when I was in college. Gotta admit that it really was the first science fiction book that I had read that wasn't Star Trek or Doctor Who based. We didn't really have a decent selection at our local paperback bookstore (I lived in Maine and it pretty much catered to tourists and their love of trashy paperbacks) and most of the novels we had in our local library were twenty plus years old. Back then I loved it. I thought it had a decent plot, interesting characters and had a "This is what outer space is really going to be like in 20-30 years" feel to it, much unlike Star Trek.

Now that I reread it, I can't believe that I liked it that much. It jumps around a lot, rambles a bit with unrelated stories and explanations that seem to be thrown in for padding or word count, and just seems to be confusing to me. Almost like a series of short stories tied together into a single work. Still seems plausible in the short term (although with the current situation, it's still going to be at least 20-30 years off) but as a novel, it doesn't hold up well.

I give it two stars only because of my previous enjoyment of the novel so many years ago. ( )
  theapparatus | Jul 18, 2011 |
Much Better than, 'Clarke County, Space!, though this was the earlier book.

Set against the background of Near Future space construction of Solar Power Sats. Blue Collar workers in space!

The characters are the main strength here. I will likely move on and read 'Lunar Descent' the third in the sequence.

4 Stars. ( )
  cosmicdolphin | May 2, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0441498515, Mass Market Paperback)

The beamjacks are the builders of the future: the zero-G workers who are assembling satellites in the vacuum of space. Management and the military think they have the beamjacks under control -- but they're wrong.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:01:44 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Olympus Station, affectionately known as Skycan, orbits the Earth and is home to 130 beamjacks. These are the people who are building the future, the space-stations that will open up the new territory. But frontier life can be dangerous and Skycan holds a secret that could threaten world stability.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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