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Publisher's Summary

Geoff and his friends live in Phocaea, a distant asteroid colony on the Solar System's frontier. They're your basic high-spirited young adults, enjoying such pastimes as hacking matter compilers to produce dancing skeletons that prance through the low-gee communal areas, using their rocket-bikes to salvage methane ice shrapnel that flies away when the colony brings in a big (and vital) rock of the stuff, and figuring out how to avoid the ubiquitous surveillance motes that are the million eyes of 'Stroiders, a reality-TV show whose Earthside producers have paid handsomely for the privilege of spying on every detail of the Phocaeans' lives.
Life isn't as good as it seems, though. A mysterious act of sabotage kills Geoff's brother, Carl, and puts the entire colony at risk. And in short order, we discover that the whole thing may have been cooked up by the Martian mafia, as a means of executing a coup and turning Phocaea into a client-state. As if that wasn't bad enough, there's a rogue AI that was spawned during the industrial emergency and slipped through the distracted safeguards, and a giant X-factor in the form of the Viridians, a transhumanist cult that lives in Phocaea's bowels.
In addition to Geoff, our story revolves around Jane, the colony's resource manager - a bureaucrat engineer in charge of keeping the plumbing running on an artificial island of humanity poised on the knife-edge of hard vacuum and unforgiving space. She's more than a century old, and good at her job, but she is torn between the technical demands of the colony and the political realities of her situation, in which the fishbowl effect of 'Stroiders is compounded by a reputation economy that turns every person into a beauty-contest competitor. Her maneuverings to keep politics and engineering in harmony are the heart of the book.
©2011 Laura J. Mixon-Gould (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"Compulsively readable and packed with challenging ideas.... Locke has created a believable ecosystem of struggling, competing, sometimes uncomfortably interacting components, where trust is betrayed painfully, but allies appear unexpectedly. Most of all, this smart, satisfying hard SF adventure celebrates human resilience." (Publishers Weekly)
"Rigorous extrapolation with an imaginative flair, characters you can care about, and clean, lean, muscular prose are some of the hallmarks of M. L. Locke, a bright light on the science fiction scene. Fans of hard SF will eat this up and shout for more.” (George R. R. Martin)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Ethan M. on 06-19-12

Very old school SF, in ways good and bad

This book was a bit of an odd pastiche of various classic science fiction elements that was never bad, but never kept me on the edge of my seat. The novel is told from two perspectives during a crisis in an asteroid colony: an administrator and a young "rocket biker." The teenager sections feel like classic YA science fiction (Heinlein, perhaps), where a kid (whose parents obviously don't understand him) and his gang of friends keep being in the right (or wrong) place, and therefore have a chance to be heroes repeatedly. The administrator is written with some interesting nuance, but never becomes emotionally engaging.

The same problems with the characters - obviousness mixed good, but not compelling, ideas - color all the other parts of the novel. There is some very detailed technical world building, but also lots of hand-wavy bits. There is some interesting future sociology, mixed in with SF cliches, like the US devolving into the "Christian States of America." There are some nice action scenes, but the pieces are put in place in ways that make the novel seem forced.

This isn't a failure of a novel, but it is less satisfying then, say, Levianthan Wakes, which has a lot of similarities (near future, near Earth space opera). If you are looking for a long classically-inspired science fiction novel, this might work for you, but I don't think it is worth the time. The reader, however, is excellent.

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9 of 9 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Alex Levine on 09-09-11

Splendid Baroque Space-Opera

This book has all the elements of a great old-school baroque space-opera (including young adults saving the universe, emergent digital intelligences, and fun with orbital mechanics), with some new twists (ubiquitous reality TV fishbowling). There are occasional very minor continuity problems, but they don't get in the way. Ms. Cambpell is versatile, and each of the many characters has a unique voice. Highly recommended!

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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