cover image The Return

The Return

Buzz Aldrin. Forge, $25.95 (301pp) ISBN 978-0-312-87424-7

Reunited with award-winning SF writer Barnes (Encounter with Tiber), Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, imagines a near future when the space program is in the hands of competing private corporations. In association with ShareSpace, headed by ex-astronaut CEO Scott Blackstone, NASA is offering privileged civilians the opportunity to ride as ""Citizen Observers"" on space shuttle missions. The third such celebrity in space, basketball legend MJ (Michael James), has scarcely reached orbit when he and a crew member are killed in what appears to be a bizarre accident. Culminating in an emergency crash landing on Easter Island, this tragedy puts the future of the entire space program in jeopardy. Overnight, Blackstone becomes the scapegoat and--sued by MJ's mother for over $1 billion--is fired. When, mysteriously, Blackstone finds that no lawyer will take his case, his brother, Nick, v-p of rocket builder Republic Wright, revives the childhood bond of the Mars Four (Nick; Scott; Scott's ex-wife, celebrity attorney Thalia, mother of their 10-year-old son; and Eddie Killeret, Nick's counterpart at rival Curtiss Aerospace)--and persuades Thalia to represent Scott. Despite anonymous threats, the case turns in their favor when the media focus on the explosion of a Pakistani proton bomb that turns the entire ionosphere into a super Van Allen belt, knocking out all existing satellites. Enter an enigmatic figure from a secret agency tying everything to a Chinese conspiracy. After three of the Mars Four go into space on a mission to rescue the crew of a disabled space station, fade to sunset as they reunite at the beach cottage of their youth. In made-for-Disney prose, this facile effort makes a fast read. $150,000 marketing campaign; 20-city author tour. (May) FYI: Aldrin is the head of a foundation called ShareSpace, which advocates civilian space travel.