Disaster threatens the survival of an asteroid colony in Locke’s part thriller, part survival epic (as Laura J. Mixon, she wrote Burning the Ice, 2002, etc.).
In Phocaea's unforgiving environment, survival itself is a relentless struggle. The asteroid needs a steady supply of volatiles, especially water and methane ice, to survive. But while processing a huge ice shipment, something goes wrong with the nanotechnology disassemblers, resulting in an explosion and partial meltdown; only the quick and heroic actions of four teenagers, Geoff, Ian, Amaya and Kamal, prevent an even worse disaster, though Geoff's brother Carl dies. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, the one ice shipment close enough to Phocaea to be of help is owned by Ogilvie & Sons—better known as the Martian mafia. Commissioner Jane Navio knows all about the Ogilvies—she was on Vesta when they engineered a coup and enslaved the colony—so she immediately suspects that the explosion was no accident. Ex-marine Sean Moriarty soon finds evidence of Ogilvie meddling, though Phocaea's political bigwigs don't believe it and insist that Jane accept Ogilvie's ruinous terms. Even worse, Phocaea's sophisticated computer systems have spawned a rogue Artificial Intelligence that must be contained before it wreaks dreadful damage. And the secretive Viridian cult, bioengineering whizzes shunned by ordinary humans, may have struck their own bargain with the Ogilvies. Locke's precariously wild frontier is inventive and intensely realized; her characters do dirty-hands jobs and aren't afraid of making difficult decisions.
Gripping, well-rounded hard sci-fi, satisfyingly concluded while nicely poised for sequels.