cover image Phantom Orbit

Phantom Orbit

David Ignatius. Norton, $29.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-3240-5091-9

Journalist and novelist Ignatius (The Paladin) delivers an engrossing, character-driven spy thriller about space warfare. In 1995, 24-year-old Russian scientist Ivan Volkov accepts a scholarship in astronomy at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. After solving a notoriously tricky problem proposed by a 17th-century astronomer, Ivan is taken under the wing of professor Cao Lin, who convinces him to study satellites. During Ivan’s schooling, he meets American student Edith Ryan, with whom he shares a brief romance. He then returns to Moscow, marries, fathers a son who grows up to become a Russian prosecutor, and draws on his research with professor Lin to become a major figure in Russia’s satellite warfare program. Decades later, Ivan reconnects with Edith—now a CIA analyst—to warn the U.S. of dangerous tactics being utilized by Russian forces that could pose a threat to the human race, which he unwittingly helped develop. Ignatius alternates chapters between Ivan, professor Lin, Edith, and Ivan’s son, Dmitry, patiently knitting together their storylines until the high-stakes espionage plot achieves liftoff. This is contemporary cloak-and-dagger intrigue at its finest. (May)