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More farcical adventures in time and space with Allen Meisner, the “card-carrying mad” scientist from Abandon in Place (2000). In orbit above the Earth on the space shuttle Discovery, Meisner quietly tests what turns out to be an inexpensive hyperdrive device that can transport the shuttle at faster-than-light speeds. Shuttle pilot Judy Gallagher is shocked at first but then delighted to find it so easy to hop about the solar system. In an entire novel based on variations of the law of Unintended Consequences (i.e., no good deed can go unpunished), the blithe, optimistic, ditsy Meisner and the resourceful, heroic Gallagher leap from one cliffhanger to another, beginning with a hostile particle-beam blast that cripples the shuttle and makes reentry impossible, while, on board, a spy tries to capture the device for Mother Russia. Meisner outfoxes both the spy and the US military’s attempt to grab the device for its own nefarious uses by disseminating the plans over the Internet and then broadcasting them to the world via a communications satellite in the shuttle’s bay. Informed that she and Meisner have been tried as traitors and sentenced to death in absentia, Gallagher helps Meisner steal an escape pod from the space station. The two come down in Wyoming, where they are aided by construction worker Trent, his charming wife Donna, and even more charming Dale, a bank robber who helps them get the money to build a faster-than-light starship out of septic tank and other easily available parts and take off to make first contact with a species of intelligent butterflies, who grudgingly permit the humans to join the galactic Federation—provided they can resolve the idiotic conflicts on their own planet.

Another cute but cloying novel-length inflation of a story. Oltion’s picaresque send-up of homemade spaceship stories from the 1940s, like Meisner’s flip inventions, lacks substance and sense enough to fill these 400 pages.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-312-87777-3
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Tor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2001