Winner of the Locus Award: Space-station workers discover a shocking global surveillance plot in this novel from “the master of science-fiction intrigue” (The Washington Post).
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.
Timely—and with Orwellian undertones, Allen Steele’s debut won the Locus Award for Best First Novel. Perfect for fans of Robert Heinlein, Robert J. Sawyer, and Greg Bear, Orbital Decay blends fantasy and science fiction with a prescient attention paid to the dangers of government surveillance.
Steele's debut is an ambitious science fiction thriller somewhat marred by amateurish technique. The central story is skillfully plotted and written with gusto: narrator Sam Sloane and a group of 21st-century hard hats called ``beamjacks'' foil an Orwellian venture into global wiretapping by the U.S. National Security Agency. The author uses a familiar device effectively by setting his story in the near future, 2016, with the culture of the 1980s serving as a believable past. But his straightforward adventure tale is encumbered by two unconvincing and poorly integrated complications: a clumsy narrative framework consisting of memoirs dictated by Sloane, stranded in space without the likelihood of rescue; and a series of flashbacks recounting a crime of passion committed by Sloane's buddy, who eventually becomes part of the space-station work crew. In addition, the narration alternates confusingly between the first and third person.