RogerBW's Blog

The Getaway Special, Jerry Oltion 22 January 2015

2001 SF, expansion of 1985 short story. A scientist invents a hyperspace drive that's easy to build and use, and tells the world. Things don't go as smoothly as he expects.

I have dim but positive memories of the original short story, but I was quite a different person then. So, I think, was Oltion: there's lots of the usual distaste and distrust for anything to do with governments that I associate with Baen authors (though the story came out in Analog and the book was published by Tor), but plenty of the doomsaying by pro-government opponents of the hero turns out in this extended version to be entirely valid. Having debate with anything other than strawmen is a sadly unexpected, but quite effective, move. Giving cheap access to space to all of humanity would be a hugely disruptive effect: which may be obvious, but all too many writers with libertarian tendencies shrug their shoulders and say "ah, well, rugged individualists will cope". The eventual resolution to a variety of problems is a surprisingly grown-up one.

The story progresses in several distinct phases: the initial experiments on board a space shuttle, the return to Earth and attempts to build a usable spacecraft while hiding from government agents angry at the widespread dissemination of instructions for building a hyperdrive, initial exploration, a longer exploration sequence, and the (very) early stages of an interstellar alliance. There are plenty of rivets for people who like that sort of thing, mostly practical explorations of how to build and equip a serviceable spacecraft on a micro-budget given the technical constraints of the hyperdrive.

The characters, frankly, aren't up to much; Dr Allen Meisner and shuttle pilot Judy Gallagher have some consistency about them, but never really develop much as people, and that's even more true of the other humans. The aliens are somewhat more interesting, but again fairly slight. The assumption that spreading humans out across the galaxy is a good thing is almost entirely unquestioned.

But it's "almost". And for me that, along with the genuine arguments rather than working to a political orthodoxy, makes the book distinctly more complex and rewarding than one might have expected.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog.

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Search
Archive
Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio tech base commerce battletech beer boardgaming bookmonth chain of command children chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 existential risk falklands war fandom fantasy film firefly first world war flash point food garmin drive gazebo geodata gurps gurps 101 harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life kickstarter learn to play leaving earth linux mecha museum mystery naval non-fiction one for the brow opera perl photography podcast politics powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha quantum rail ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1