Starfire by Paul Preuss

I was most disappointed by this book. The first chapter of this was published in Interzone years ago as a stand-alone short story. It’s a near-future space story about an astronaut who makes the first ever successful emergency re-entry without a ship, and it excited me so much that when the full novel appeared, I bought it. It then sat in my ‘to read’ pile for longer than it ought, and only now has it come to the top. Oh dear.

If you like novels of political manouevering, this is great. Roughly half the book is taken up with this after the main character’s initial thrilling bit. This is great if you like that sort of thing, or if you know the political system involved. As it’s not the one I’m familiar with, I just kept muttering darkly about capitalism and Washington and wishing the story would get a move on. Then there’s big chunks of NASA procedurals in it. I don’t need to know what makes the big spaceship go very fast from its instruction manual. And the characters – well, the characterisation is very good. Shame they’re all such boring people. The novel is being sold as a space disaster story; I’m nearly two-thirds of the way through and the disaster hasn’t happened yet (unless you count my buying the book in the first place).

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