Former astronaut Scott Blackstone's dream of opening outer space to visits from everyday people is under attack. His pilot program has been marred by a fatal accident, he's out of a job, and he's being sued for a billions dollars. And it's beginning to seem that the "accident" wasn't at all accidental.
Then the endless conflict between India and Pakistan heats up...and Pakistan explodes a nuclear device in the upper atmosphere, frying electronics on earth and in space, and putting the crew of the international Space Station at risk. With the Shuttle fleet grounded, only a secret skunkworks project known to Scott and his old friends can save the space station's stranded crew.
The Return is a tale about the kind of space adventure that could happen today--and that will happen tomorrow. As told by Buzz Aldrin, who's been there...and who's already helped change the world.
Old-school moonwalker Buzz Aldrin teams up again with former Hugo and Nebula Awards nominee John Barnes to pen another near-future SF tale focused on the fate of the U.S. space program. But as with the duo's previous effort, 1996's Encounter with Tiber, Aldrin's ideas can take center stage a little too conspicuously, which, regardless of your own views on the subject, doesn't always make for the best story. Part thriller, part infomercial for the Aldrin space manifesto, The Return fumbles only in its lack of subtlety: The book's protagonist, Scott Blackstone, is a technically accomplished and charismatic retired astronaut who runs a foundation called ShareSpace, whose mission is to send everyday citizens into outer space. And what do you know--in real life Aldrin is a technically accomplished and charismatic retired astronaut who runs a foundation called ShareSpace, whose mission is to send everyday citizens into outer space. (Talk about your expert author.)
Of course you read Aldrin not because you think he's the next Ben Bova but because he's a space-race winner, a bright man with inspiring ideas. And Barnes, who's already proven himself with topnotch titles like Mother of Storms, helps Aldrin get his point across admirably, spinning a tale that begins with ShareSpace's third Citizen Observer to accompany a space shuttle mission: a legendary, recently retired basketball hero known around the globe as simply "MJ." Disaster strikes, though, while the beloved MJ is airborne, and Blackstone soon finds himself relying on his lawyer ex-wife to come to ShareSpace's defense. Was the disaster an accident? Don't count on it. --Paul Hughes