Got a special interest in this book – see, I’m working on a computer game, Solar Trader, and so I’m very hyped on solar system mechanics. With all this door-to-door hyperspace nonsense out there, it’s easy to overlook just how much space there is between the sun and Pluto (yes, it’s still a milepost by my standards).
The Aftermath is rather like The Real Story, a tale where a simple event in the begriming snowballs into system-wide repercussions and a growing cast of characters. Here, the Zacharius family (mom, dad, and two bickering kids) are just hoving in on a belt habitat when a intra-corporate raider storms in, demanding information on a political/economic fugitive. When the base doesn’t cough him up (they don’t have him), the ship destroys it. Then it turns its attention on the family’s fleeing ore hauler. Desperate to draw them off, dad ejects in the control pod, leaving his family and their disabled ship on a long lonely arch to nowhere.
And this starts a number of storylines. Dad getting rescued and then being forced to work on the reconstruction of the destroyed habitat, desperate about his marooned family. And those samesaid, sailing out into nowhere, trying to keep the ship functioning as they coax it about. Meanwhile, the murderous raider has become a priest, an alien artifact has been discovered, the CEO of the system-spanning corporation is putting prices on various heads, and a shipload of grinning thugs are committing piracy wherever they can find it. Yes, things are busy.
I did like this story. Ben Bova does a great job (as always) making the solar system seem so big and cold and lonely. Ships take a while to get anywhere, the Earth is a fundamentalist backwater, and people are neither better (or worse) than they are now. While it doesn’t groundbreak, it goes down easy and was an enjoyable read.
If I had one problem with it (don’t I always say this) it would be with the idea of piracy in such a closed system. Really, humans have only expanded out to Jupiter. Everything inside this is pretty much under control. It’s hard to think that piracy could even pay. In the end skirmish (which goes on perhaps a tad too long), when the pirates are at their most villainous, they are within an easy radio hail from Ceres. You’d think that if you still held your bridge and the pirates are investing your ship, you’d at least put out a call identifying their ship and their identities. Let’s see you try to sell your swag now, once you’ve been fingered from one end of the system to the other. In that, it was like one of those movies where everyone is operating isolated, and nobody is using a cellphone. It just doesn’t work.
But otherwise, it was a great book, evidently part of a set-piece universe. I think I’ll have to check the rest of them out.