The Sky Suspended by Laura Montgomery
This book is unlike most others I’ve ever read. Humanity’s one and only starship returns after 30 years, but before we can spread to other worlds, ownership of the patent for the star drive must be nailed down. This is science fiction about the not-often-considered details and behind-the-scenes maneuverings that could keep us Earthbound, not the swashbuckling heroism of early colonizers on a new world.
This is also the great joy of the book for me. Montgomery creates a future Washington, DC, that’s all too plausible along with a cast of smart characters who also screw up in very human and individual ways. The prose is well-written and readable, the pacing sound, and the descriptions memorable without being overblown. Even better, when the dialog does sometimes turn intentionally witty, it always rings natural and specific to the character speaking and the actual conversation rather than feeling like an excuse to show off.
If science fiction is about showing us something new, this book not only does that but does it in a way I’ve never seen before. It’s an original story by an author with a unique voice, and it has me looking forward to what she writes next.
A novel of asteroids past, crowds, lawyers and a starship.
It is the 22nd century and a generation has passed since asteroid scares led to the creation and launch of a single interstellar starship. The ship has returned, and brings with it video, data, statistics and visions of the blue and green world it has found. People are star-struck, and three in particular are immediately affected.
Calvin Tondini, a new enforcement attorney with the Solar Power Administration, is far too easily swept up in the mania that grips the United States. Although Calvin has a perfectly fine job ensuring that solar power satellite operators don’t radiate Nevada while supplying the grid with energy, he finds himself fiercely envious of his friend Sean. Sean works for the U.S. Administration for Colonial Development, the agency that sent out the starship before forgetting all about it.
Tri Marlin, who has just finished high school, learns of the starship and travels to Washington, D.C. to stand in line for a lottery to get a ticket on the next starship. There is no lottery, but he is not the only willing victim of the rumor. He and all the others who man the lottery line form the nucleus for the mass movements that build over the summer.
Sara Seastrom, a young lawyer in private practice, must ferret out proof as to who the real creators of the starship’s drive were. Was it Baldur, the holder of the patent and the company that built and flew the ship for the government? Or, was it the upstart MarsCorp, the client of Sara’s firm? MarsCorp may be right to claim that it should hold the patent, but it can offer no evidence.
When Calvin intervenes in an incident at the lottery line, he meets one of the ring-leaders of the crowds pushing for emigration to the stars. This meeting, and the demands of litigation, lead Calvin on a labyrinthine path into the past. There he finds an alien mindset, that of a generation that thought it would share the fate of the dinosaurs: extinction by asteroid. Facing that, there were those who took steps to ensure that humanity would do what it had to in order to survive. Meanwhile, Calvin and Sara find themselves on the opposite sides of a case, and both have their own reasons to find an engineer who has taken himself off the grid. Others seek him as well, for the engineer may hold the key to whether ordinary citizens will be able to emigrate to the stars or not.