Sunday, October 31, 2010

REVIEW: "Verdant Skies" by Steven Lyle Jordan

Space-- the final frontier. It's 2229, and humans have recklessly used up many of Earth's precious resources. They have been forced to think of other options to relieve the negative impacts of overcrowding and limited resources. Many people now live aboard four different space satellites. Each satellite has its own leader and population, tourism is alive and well, and life goes on.

The satellite Verdant is a sovereign nation, yet it is dependent on Earth for necessary resources and as an outlet for waste products. It's not Earth, but for most people it's a comfortable life. They have recreated some of the amenities of Earth, and daily life goes along much the same as it always has on Earth, with some minor adjustments. Verdant is a great place to visit, and a comfortable place to live. Until Yellowstone explodes.

Suddenly, the satellites are inundated with immigration requests from Earth. The satellites are already filled to capacity, but the humans on Earth are not willing to accept that fact, and will go to great lengths to get where they think they'll be safe. Suddenly the satellites become the most attractive options, and each has its share of tragedy as they struggle to remain sustainable amidst an attempted influx of people. The citizens of Verdant are unwittingly thrown into turmoil as Verdant becomes a pawn in the plans of several factions, including that of the US President. As the desperation of the residents of Earth grows, people are forced to make some very difficult decisions that test the relationships in their lives, as well as challenge their sense of right and wrong. These decisions may change the way humans think about Earth, space, and what is truly needed to sustain life.

Steven Lyle Jordan has written a page-turning adventure that, unfortunately, doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility.  His characters are pretty well-defined, and the science is thought-provoking. (For readers who are interested in the basis of the science included in the book, there is a nice explanation at the end of the book.) It was a difficult book to put down. As I read, I found myself thinking about how easily this truly could be our reality in 2229, or even sooner. I think that connection to what is going on in our world right now is what makes this book so fascinating. It's the kind of science fiction that could truly become our reality down the road. The people are recognizable, even if the situation seems a few years out. Although the storyline seems to lead you to an inevitable ending, you realize that even amongst the despair, hope is born. The story points to the resourcefulness of mankind, and the strength and integrity that is needed for humanity to move forward in difficult times.

Some characters are referred to by their last names in the narration, while most are referred to by their first names. The inconsistency seemed a bit unusual to me, but not a problem. Perhaps it helps denote those characters with which we form stronger attachments in the story; the characters we connect with most are called by first names. At one point, however, during a scene between the President and his girlfriend, she calls him by his first name, as does all the corresponding narration. This is the only place in the book where the narration uses his first name. I had to really think about who was in that scene, as I had long since forgotten his whole name since he was always referred to by his last name. It was a very minor inconsistency that didn't detract from the story, overall, but left me momentarily confused.

This is a great read. The story is captivating, and you find yourself thinking "what if?" What if satellites are the frontier of the future? What if Yellowstone erupts and forces humans to look into other options? What if desperate times result in equally desperate measures? As I turned the last page, I was left to wonder what happens next, for the Earth, and for Verdant. I think the riveting storyline and the fascinating physics push this story into a 5 star read. Strongly recommended.

5 /5 stars

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