A team of astronomers wrangles with faulty equipment, scientific conundrums and each other in the face of an imminent comet attack.
In the third decade of the 21st century, maverick doctoral student Luper Beauchamps is on top of his game. He’s just discovered not one but two new comets, and his keen and creative scientific mind is the envy of his colleagues. Luper’s achievements especially needle away at the eminent professor Walter Hally, his boss at Tektite Ridge Observatory. Lately, Walter’s discoveries have been few and far between. He’s not about to let some young gun upstage him during what should be the pinnacle of his career, so he starts plotting deviously to prevent just that. Walter begins a campaign of academic sabotage that soon borders on professional malfeasance to sidetrack Luper’s career, cautioned against but ultimately abetted by his loyal friends and colleagues. Thus commences a tale of scientific sleuthing and petty academic squabbling. In fact, sci-fi fans should be warned that The Oortian Summer reads more like Tenure Wars than Star Wars. The story’s pacing runs slowly at first and much of the scientific detail will be lost on readers who can’t tell a Fourier transformation from a Foucault pendulum. At times, the story suffers slightly from its fishbowl focus. There are barely hints of the larger world outside the novel’s astronomic and scientific communities in Tektite Ridge. This, despite the premise that the planet is on a collision course with the comets Luper and his colleagues are studying and would no doubt be convulsing under the threat. Nevertheless, Rydon has successfully combined plausible scientific detail with a frequently engaging portrait of the professional life of an astronomer and the thrill of scientific discovery.
Readers with a high degree of scientific literacy will find much to appreciate here; others will find the experience less rewarding.