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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.
I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Review by Travis Starnes
Orbital Decay is a mixture of classic science fiction and cold war era fiction. Construction workers on a space instillation learn that the bases real purpose is to spy on Americans and they decide to take matters into their own hands.
Overall this isn’t a bad story and reading it as someone living 20+ years after it was written it is easy to see parts of the book that are almost prescient. It shows how the public consciousness concerned about government surveillance is not limited to recent events and has been a concern for a very long time.
While the moral of the story does hold up the rest of the book feels highly dated. This is definitely a work from a Cold War mindset and you can feel that throughout the story. There are also many references that were topical at the time but no longer hold the same relevance. This is the issue of trying to look forward to what the future will be like, if it is later being read around the time the “future” story is set the reader cannot help but compare it to their actual lives. Since it was written a while ago you can’t really hold the anachronisms against the book, but it is something you notice.
There are moments later portions of the book where the story really picks up as events come to a head, but those seem to take a long time to get to. The first half of the book reads very slowly and much of the character interaction is not all that interesting. Anything dealing with the surveillance system on the station holds the reader’s attention but pretty much every other part of the book drags. This is unfortunate since the first chapter starts the book off with an interesting setup only to have nearly all of the rest of the book set in flashbacks that bring you back to the point in the first chapter. I can see what the author was going for but it just did not work for me.
The characters themselves are also not terribly interesting. You get essentially two types of characters, either widely over the top or totally bland. The main group of characters all feel like they were jotted down as a brief description and then never really evolved past that. They seem more like tools for telling the story rather then something to change and adapt as you read.
While those are all small complaints that do not really hurt the story I did have an issue with the continuous shifting of the point of view for the book. Jumping between first and third person was distracting every time it happened. I can see that the author was using it as a tool to distinguish between real time and flashback settings, but it just did not work for me.
To be clear, this isn’t a bad book. The 1984 elements work well, it is written in a way that flows naturally, and the sci-fi elements are not altogether uninteresting. If I read this in the late 80s when it was published I might have liked it a lot more, but the overall style felt to dated for me to truly enjoy the book.