The Return

Posted by : atcampbell | On : November 20, 2001

The Return by Buzz Aldrin and John Barnes

Thirteen people attended this meeting, and one submitted comments by email. This is a near-future thriller about the space program. Former astronaut Scott Blackstone is the CEO of a private space company dedicated to getting normal people into space. For publicity his company gets a famous athlete to go on a shuttle flight, but the flight turns into a disaster. In the aftermath America’s confidence in the space program goes way down, Blackstone loses his job, and he must defend himself in an expensive lawsuit. And then terrorists in the Middle East start messing around with nuclear weapons. This book was written by former astronaut Buzz Aldrin in collaboration with John Barnes, author of several novels including Mother of Storms and One for the Morning Glory. Nine people at the meeting had read the book.

We enjoyed reading a hard SF novel for the first time in a while. The plot started with a bang and kept us interested to the end. We had complete confidence that the technical details of spacecraft and space flight were correct. We liked reading an insider’s view of the politics and inner workings of the corporate aerospace industry. Blackstone and his family were engaging and believable, and we enjoyed the flashbacks that showed them getting interested in space as teenagers. Obviously Aldrin was using the book as a vehicle to present his personal space agenda, but since we generally agreed with his ideas we did not mind.

We did have some complaints about the book, all concerning the writing style. Several people found the plot was too predictable, and one person said it was ‘corny’. The book was too talky, with much of the interesting action happening offstage. The writing was sometimes clumsy in handling transitions between viewpoint characters.

Overall we liked The Return. We enjoyed reading an astronaut’s view of the present and future of the space program. After the meeting we had dinner at Ninfa’s.

— A. T. Campbell, III