Sunday, July 21, 2013

Stephen Baxter, Jack McDevitt and Mike Resnick

Bronze Summer
Stephen Baxter
Roc, $26.95
ISBN: 9780451464798

Millennia have passed since the Year of the Great Sea led to teenagers Ana and Novu leading the construction of the Great Wall. By the Year of the Fire Mountain, Northland has become a prosperous pat of the continent rather than being under the North Sea or conquered by the kingdoms to the east. The impoverished Greeks look at Northland and its trading partner the thriving Hittites for conquest during devastating drought.

In the Northland capital Etxelur, the head of the ruling order dies in what appears to be an accident at a time her daughter Milaqa has failed to choose which Order to join. Milaqa’s Uncle Teel believes his sister was murdered and demands his grieving niece join him and the secret Order of the Crow in investigating the death. At the same time Qirum and dethroned queen Kilushepa team up to take advantage of the chaos engulfing much of the continent including Northland.

The second Northland alternate prehistoric thriller (see Stone Spring) has moved the people from a stone age into a bronze age at a time when an Icelandic volcanic eruption has led to climate change and famine. The action-filled storyline is filled with too much blood and gore distracting from the engaging political and social upheaval started by that volcano erupting; violence is a way of life in Stephen Baxter’s Bonze Age tale. Harriet Klausner

The Cassandra Project
Jack McDevitt and Mike Resnick
Ace, $25.95
ISBN: 9781937008710

In 2019, the United States remains in the throes of the Great Recession. Federal agencies are cut to the bone so that there is little strategic planning when surviving daily operations has become the norm. In that environs, NASA press director agent Jerry Culpepper is a long term thinker grounded in reality.

Jerry releases material from the 1960s Apollo mission that contains a shocking recording between Houston and Sydney Myshko, captain of the first test mission to circle the moon on which the astronaut says he is landing. In the second test mission, astronaut Aaron Walker wrote in his diary that he walked on the moon. Two now deceased men and apparently a few others claim to have taken that “… giant leap for mankind” before Armstrong did. Jerry seeks the truth while trying to contain what seems to be a scandalous cover-up that capitalist Bucky Blackstone plans to exploit for his private enterprise moon landings. President George Cunningham realizes he loses credibility no matter what happens.

This is a superb NASA thriller that works because the key players seem genuine especially in how they react to the information as it is found. With a nod to the movie Capricorn One but with realistic people and critically no odious villains, fans will want to know if Armstrong was fifth in the batting order and why the four astronauts to precede him were not acknowledged as walking on the moon.
Harriet Klausner

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