I really liked Allen Steele's "Coyote" series and spin-offs. However, I was disappointed in "Orbital Decay". Even though there was plenty of technical detail and character development this book was fairly boring and did not engage my interest like his "Coyote" series did.
I approached this book with a bit of trepidation, as I had just finished MacBride Allen's book The Ring of Charon and my mind was still buzzing with wormholes, gravitic influences and Dyson Spheres. Orbital Decay is, indeed, quite different from Charon, but it was in NO WAY a disappointment!
Orbital Decay is set in the not too distant future and involves technology that is almost, but not quite, within our grasp. Steele's premise in this book is that the "third generation" of space travelers/inhabitants will be so-called "average Joe's," or blue-collar workers. (The first generation begin astronauts and the second the scientists/technologists who inhabit the ISS today.) Most of his characters are called "beamjacks," which is a term for a contruction worker who happens to be working building satellites, etc., in cislunar space.
The plot itself doesn't really begin until quite a bit into the book - but it isn't the plot that makes this book great. Steele has the ability in this book to portray to a quite precise detail day-to-day life working and living inside and outside a space station. And not the type of space station you'd think of when you imagine the ISS. THIS space station, christened the Olympus Station by Skycorp, a private contracting corporation, is not run for the sake of scientific inquiry - it is run for profit. With all of the lack of focus upon the human element quite in the quest for more and more money.
What makes this book so very enjoyable are the characters, what they may be running from on Earth, what ulterior or idealistic motives they may have for coming to live in the "Tin Can," how they do or do not entertain themselves when not working and what they use for such entertainment. Further, all of these elements, plus the plot line itself (which would be absolutely nothing if not for these characters), provide moments of hysterical comedy.
After reading Orbital Decay I have ordered more of Steele's books and am anxiously waiting their delivery!
A quick-paced and realistic story combining the attributes of building and mining in space with a corporation run amuck with greed and power. I found the story a joy to read and easy to follow. Great tension, action, and even believibility.
This book is one of my five top Science Fiction books.
Another good one by Steele.