High crimes call for high punishment.
It is the 21st century. Convicts are sentenced to asteroids that move in ever-widening solar orbits, timed to return when their terms run out. But a few ambitious administrators discover that small "errors" in velocity can rid them of selected groups altogether: the hardcore violent, the mentally defective, and especially the political dissidents.
Enduring the black vise of interstellar space-time, these human rejects - men and women mixed together - create their own Darwinian societies, struggling to survive. Back on Earth, a handful of sympathetic and curious scientists have not forgotten these lost citizens.
When a technological breakthrough makes it possible to overtake these scattered asteroids, a courageous team sets out to go where none has willingly gone before. What they discover in these "brute orbits" is both provocative and moving - a startling vision of humanity you will never forget.
"Like his previous tales of technocratically engineered futures (Macrolife, Stranger Suns, etc.), Zebrowski's latest evokes the pioneering SF of social philosopher Olaf Stapledon." (Publishers Weekly)
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Alcatraz in Orbit
Earth dumps its prison population in space in hollow asteroids without guards and eventually without hope. Initial premise is that the asteroid would return after the sentence is served. After consideration, why bring them back?