Unhappy with America's moribund space program at a time when the world is desperate for new energy sources and technology, visionary rocket scientist Gunther Rothenberg devises a controversial supertower that stretches up some 23,000 miles.
A one-time cohort of Wernher von Braun, Rothenberg sells his grand scheme to a pair of gifted interns: Gary Morgan, a Navy aviator's son, and Eva Petrenko, a Ukrainian aerospace engineer on exchange from Moscow. Overcoming their mutual antagonism, they fall in love and take charge of the program, convinced the world's economic and environmental futures are at stake. Years later, their daughter, Victoria, becomes an outspoken partner, challenging skeptical purse-controlling senators while striving to reawaken people to the glories of which NASA is still capable. The tower—actually two towers, including a base and a weight-bearing component—becomes reality thanks to a self-starting Silicon Valley billionaire who pours his money into building the structure on the tropical Pacific island of Kiribati, which he controls. The project runs into problems, including militant Russians, competitive Chinese (whose scientists develop the special nano thread the pillar requires) and Parkinson's disease, which affectingly overtakes Gary. There are tense moments, but Forstchen—known for his doomsday thriller, One Second After (2009), and the war novels he's co-written with Newt Gingrich, including Pearl Harbor (2007)—devotes himself less to action spectacle than reflections on America's great tradition of progress. His storytelling is a bit too measured, but his characters are nothing if not passionate. With its various weaknesses and attributes, the pillar becomes a character itself.
Unlike some of the futuristic novels to which it will be compared, Forstchen’s work is as convincingly told as it is diverting.