Jerry Oltion, Author . Tor $26.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-312-87777-4

This follow-up to Oltion's Abandon in Place (2000) borrows the character of self-proclaimed mad scientist Allen Meisner to initiate an enjoyable tale of interstellar exploration. What makes Allen "mad" is humanity's failure to avoid the threat of nuclear extermination by spreading throughout the universe, so when he invents a cheap, easy-to-build hyperdrive for spaceships, he makes sure everyone has access to the plans. Within a few days, people are heading for the stars in anything that will hold air; Allen and his lover, Judy, an adventurous ex–space shuttle pilot, take off in a plastic septic tank. The story could become merely zany at this point, but Oltion has a more serious purpose. Alan and Judy keep having to improvise solutions to serious problems. They succeed not just because they're smart but because they're confident that solutions can be found. If humanity seems trapped in a rut at the novel's beginning, the real problem is that too many people would rather avoid responsibility and let others do the thinking. While Alan and Judy don't discover a simple or safe universe, the challenges stimulate them, make them more fully human. So the author is returning to SF's roots. The novel's headlong pace calls to mind Doc Smith's breezy 1928 space opera, The Skylark of Space, and it's startling that after all this time people still are timidly waiting for personal, unrestricted space travel. Oltion makes an entertaining but forceful argument for seeking personal fulfillment through escape. (Dec. 20)

FYI: Abandon in Place in its prior novella form won a Nebula award.

Reviewed on: 10/15/2001
Release date: 12/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-312-87778-1
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