The trajectory of Rick Luban, 16, from high school washout to interplanetary space miner. In the near future, rampant unemployment and an impotent education system produce millions of punks like Rick, who are barely literate. Expulsion from school could mean the skids for Rick, but a kindly teacher tips him off to the advantages of employment with Vanguard Mining, and soon Rick is sweating hard, grateful for corporate redemption. Although the novel opens as a dead-on satire on public education, it time-warps into a kind of 1950s B-movie sensibility once Rick's training shifts to outer space: The male cadets are nose-to-the-grindstone types while the female cadets are either girlfriend material (Deedee Mao), corporate saboteurs (Alice Klein), or space sluts (Monkey Cruse, ``rumored to have run a professional sex service''). Those stereotypical characterizations, the melodramatic plot, and the dialogue turn the adventure into a space soap opera. To their credit, Sheffield (for adults, The Ganymede Club, 1995, etc.) and Pournelle (also for adults, King David's Spaceship, 1981, etc.) slip in copious doses of science facts among the apprentices' lessons, and the depiction of daily life in cramped, zero-gee environments seems accurate. Fans of the authors' previous works will be glad to know of this first entry in the Jupiter series, but those readers searching for a more expansive role for female space cadets will have to enroll elsewhere. (Fiction. 13+) Read full book review >
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