cover image Orbital Resonance

Orbital Resonance

John Barnes. Tor Books, $19.95 (214pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85206-1

Thirteen-year-old Melpomene Murray lives on the Flying Dutchman , an asteroid set into an Earth-Mars orbit, for use in shipping resources back to a devastated Earth. Its Planners devised a scheme for psychological conditioning in order to keep the new generation dedicated to the asteroid; but these adolescents--bright, motivated and exceptionally well educated--end up being even more rebellious than usual. Melpomene, assigned to write a book about her life in space, describes the tumult that begins when a student transfers in from Earth. His arrival highlights what is unique about the artificial society of the asteroid. Barnes ( Sin of Origin ) offers up Melpomene's first draft, which makes for an occasionally rough read but allows him to vary the chronology. The action is limited, but what does occur is well motivated, perfectly in keeping with the characters involved. Barnes's concentration on personal interactions allows him to hold up a polished mirror to our own society, reflecting a less than flattering image but resulting in a thought-provoking book. (Dec.)