This is a workman-like, entertaining, technology-based thriller. It contains all of the highs and lows of the heroine’s progress, the road blocks and the ways around them. There is a generous sprinkling of violence, greed, jealousy and politics, with some nicely drawn characters. The pace is good and the plot line solid. It is a cracking read, enjoyed by this reviewer.
NAME: Project Odyssey
CATEGORY: Book Reviews
AUTHOR: Lynda Chervil
BINDING: soft back, also eBook
DESCRIPTION: This is a workman-like, entertaining, technology-based thriller. It contains all of the highs and lows of the heroine’s progress, the road blocks and the ways around them. There is a generous sprinkling of violence, greed, jealousy and politics, with some nicely drawn characters. The pace is good and the plot line solid. It is a cracking read, enjoyed by this reviewer.
The author’s approach is interesting. Every author has something that he or she wants to say. When the writing starts, there may be hopes for riches, but many authors do not have money as their main objective. Almost every author wants to see if their great idea translates to pen and paper successfully and says what the author wanted to say. If the work is completed and published, the author has created an environment into which the reader is invited. It can therefore be argued that the reader is also creating a variation on the environment by interpreting the authors thoughts and words against the reader’s pre-conceptions. That is one of the constraints on the reviewer of a book. As people will spend good money on something that the reviewer likes, an attempt at fairness to the reader and author must be made.
The author clearly has a personal and business interest in what have sometimes been described as ‘green’ issues and in part this book is advocacy of the broad spread of these issues. Some readers may not agree with this view of the world today and the numbers have been growing, following a series of exposures of the climate fraudsters who form the Global Warming fraternity, and the climate deniers who refuse to accept the overwhelming evidence that global warming halted nineteen years ago. The difference in belief should not destroy the enjoyment of a good story. Given the very poor knowledge of climate cycles and related matters, either camp could be correct to some degree and the debate should take place with open-mindedness and good humour. The most valid complaint about climate fraudsters is that they not only suppressed information that countered their basic case, but that they did this in full knowledge under the justification that, ‘we don’t want to confuse the simple people with facts’. The climate fraudsters have also been trying to surround themselves with a mixture of things that deserve to be followed up and may hold considerable merit. Then in a final fraud, they have replaced ‘global warming’ with ‘climate change’ since global warming has become discredited, but still mean global warming – a deceit that dare not speak its name.
In the same way that personal beliefs in climate issues should not spoil a good story, the reader should perhaps not pay much attention to the use of real people and real companies in the story. The author starts by saying that she hopes the reader will be entertained and the names of some of the key players in the story and their companies could as easily have been replaced by completely fictional people and entities. It is always a matter of debate by an author as to how a fiction should relate to real people. With historical fiction it is much less an issue because the path of the real characters is known and cannot develop further because they have lived and died. With the use of real contemporary individuals, they may be subject to major variations in fortune or behaviour after the author has completed writing. In this respect, the author is unfortunate that some individuals and corporations are being seen in a different light as a result of events that have taken place since the book was completed.
The commercial space industry has achieved amazing things since being freed from many controls by a US Administration that has performed very poorly and wants to cut public spending but is afraid to simply close down the space industry. However, there are people who will seize on any vulnerability of this industry. When the author wrote this fictional story, Virgin Galactic was already more than five years behind schedule in being able to take passengers on a very short trip into space, but it had made much progress and every pioneering enterprise takes risks for the simple reason that there is no manual to work to. Through history, the first to attempt something take great risks that do not always pay off, but the first to achieve that thing usually makes great profits. To attempt and fail is better than to fail to attempt. Progress always runs over the pain of failure. It was therefore virtually inevitable that Virgin Galactic would suffer some painful episode and sad that in the crash of the spaceship a life would be lost. Equally inevitably, there has been no shortage of people denigrating the company and its plans. Describing the flights Virgin hopes to offer as ‘bungy jumping for billionaires’ is not entirely inaccurate, but it is denigrating and unnecessary comment. Thus far, no commercial company has offered a flight into the edge of space. The first to succeed will carve a place in history and be able to go on to offer longer flights and orbital flight, hotels in orbit around the Earth, and trips to the moon and beyond. How quickly that is to be achieved is yet to be seen, but the starting point has to be more modest. A fatal crash does not help, neither does the rush to condemn and accuse. Sir Richard Branson is a marmite businessman loved and hated in equal measure. It would not be a surprise that corners may have been cut, but the inquiries following the crash may not find anything untoward, other than a failure of industry knowledge or a human mistake, or an unpredictable component failure.
The recent explosion on launch of another commercial space product is also attracting clams and counter claims. The company did reduce costs by buying unwanted rocket motors from Russia and it may prove an economy too far, but that is as yet unproven as the cause of the incident. The real cause of the explosion may prove very different and a rocket is a complex piece of engineering with many parts. Some failures will be completely unavoidable and provide knowledge that allows them to be avoided in the future.
While the author may have been unlucky in with some incidents occurring after she had completed her story, SpaceX has turned in a solid performance and has a list of successful space launches to its credit, with its Dragon spacecraft having successfully flown in space and docked with the International Space Station, before returning to Earth and being successfully recovered. That compares with a lavishly funded ATV program from the European Space Agency that may have flown successfully, but the spacecraft has to be discarded, to burn up in the upper atmosphere. ESA has also lost launchers to explosions, and managed to place two very expensive Galileo GPS satellites in the wrong orbit. Against those sorts of failures, the commercial space industry has been doing pretty well.
So the author has backed one runner that came up lame, and one runner that is thus far doing well. The basis of the story is a power station in orbit and that may not yet have been achieved but the idea was first mooted by the engineer and science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke who also postulated the geostationary satellite, without which modern global communications and broadcast entertainment would not have been possible. Before that brilliant and innovative new concept, satellite communications was a challenging activity. Communications were only possible as the satellite passed over the ground station and the ground station had to position itself to find the next satellite as it came up over the horizon and then follow it until it disappeared over the opposite horizon. Achieving that was initially very crude, with a 360 degree photograph being made of the site to site above a 360 degree radio image inside the control room. A hole was then cut in the dish antenna and a CCTV camera positioned behind the cut out. The control staff then moved the dish, disk and control room weighing in at 50 tons, on its axis until the CCTV image sat over a graduation on the 360 degree photograph. Crude but effective, and happily replaced by constellations of geostationary satellites.
Laser and microwave tests have been conducted now for many years to enable power to be beamed up or down from Earth to satellite, and to provide effective data links. The basis of the story is therefore assured because the elements described do exist and have been proven effective, so that Clarke’ extraordinary concept of four decades ago could move from science fact to operational capability.
Why attempts have not already been made to build an orbiting power station is something of a mystery, but then the carbon fuel producers and the climate fraudsters combine against this form of exciting development, with the climate fraudsters heavily backing technologies that have already been proven to be marginal at best and unable to exist without massive subsidies and political pressure. Britain and Europe have committed to a savage program of ‘carbon cuts’ based on a claim that although these cuts will not save the planet, they will provide a shining example for other countries, and continue to fund huge wind farms to further cut, literally, the numbers of migrating swans. Just in that one small example the numbers of migrating swans have halved and look set to halve again this year. Radio pollution from off-shore wind farms has already caused marine accidents by blinding radar. Against the many serious disadvantages, wind turbines have failed to delivery the promised power output, but have become part of the blind policy of climate fraudsters and inadequate politicians.
The author has advocated a technology with a greater ability to deliver and it follows along with the plot line to produce a credible story.
Whatever your beliefs and prejudices, read this story and enjoy it as a story. If you really believe strongly in saving the planer, buy the eBook version which won’t denude the Brazilian rain forest even if the technology it depends on may have some very ungreen characteristics – but then there is no such thing as a free lunch.