A maverick company, trying to mine asteroids by remote control, stumbles across an apocalyptic conspiracy when it attempts to cheat an unscrupulous competitor.
Brook’s debut novel, a corporate-conspiracy-cum-disaster adventure, has a persuasive near-future setting and fearfully believable technology. Jovian Resources, a Brooklyn-based company made up of young, cutting-edge engineers and somewhat shady computer-hacker types, seeks profitable revenge on rival Excelsior Launch Systems and its predatory CEO, Ruben St. James. Jovian’s founder unhappily sold his earlier innovative venture to Excelsior because of cash problems. Using long-distance telemetry and crafty artificial intelligence, a secret Jovian unmanned spacecraft hijacks a mineral-rich asteroid belonging to Excelsior—the first-ever act of space piracy. But Jovian’s malfeasance unexpectedly draws the company into the much bigger, incipient financial (and nonmetaphorical) killings that the ruthless St. James plans. An elite agency code-named STETSON (Strategic Emerging Technology Surveillance and Oversight Network) extracts financial metadata indicating that St. James is banking on a tremendous catastrophe striking the mid-Atlantic Ocean, causing worldwide shortages and social chaos. And remember, his space probes can capture and steer asteroids. That’s no great spoiler; the villain’s scheme is revealed in full in the first act. It is a credit to Brook’s storytelling that the material remains a pretty fair page-turner well after that, with Russian hit teams, heroic space hardware, and even some hints of kinky S&M (St. James doesn’t miss a trick as a caricature of a despicable Silicon Valley ultra-capitalist). Yes, occasionally the borderline-sci-fi narrative succumbs to the Michael Crichton syndrome of being a bit more in love with the gadgets, the science, the physics, and the jargon than readers may be. Lines like “We get one shot at this” or words to that effect are uttered more than once by Jovian’s plucky, slightly ethically tainted good guys. Still, you don’t have to be a member of the MIT crowd to be attracted by the sheer pull of this thriller’s gravity.
A brainy and breezy techno-thriller marks a novelist’s promising launch.