Synopses & Reviews
Geoff and his friends live in Phocaea, a distant asteroid colony on the Solar System's frontier. They're your basic high-spirited young adults, enjoying such pastimes as hacking matter compilers to produce dancing skeletons that prance through the low-gee communal areas, using their rocket-bikes to salvage methane ice shrapnel that flies away when the colony brings in a big (and vital) rock of the stuff, and figuring out how to avoid the ubiquitous surveillance motes that are the million eyes of 'Stroiders, a reality-TV show whose Earthside producers have paid handsomely for the privilege of spying on every detail of the Phocaeans' lives.
Life isnt as good as it seems, though. A mysterious act of sabotage kills Geoff's brother Carl and puts the entire colony at risk. And in short order, we discover that the whole thing may have been cooked up by the Martian mafia, as a means of executing a coup and turning Phocaea into a client-state. As if that wasn't bad enough, there's a rogue AI that was spawned during the industrial emergency and slipped through the distracted safeguards, and a giant x-factor in the form of the Viridians, a transhumanist cult that lives in Phocaea's bowels.
In addition to Geoff, our story revolves around Jane, the colony's resource manager -- a bureaucrat engineer in charge of keeping the plumbing running on an artificial island of humanity poised on the knife-edge of hard vacuum and unforgiving space. She's more than a century old, and good at her job, but she is torn between the technical demands of the colony and the political realities of her situation, in which the fishbowl effect of 'Stroiders is compounded by a reputation economy that turns every person into a beauty contest competitor. Her manoeuverings to keep politics and engineering in harmony are the heart of the book.
Compulsively readable and packed with challenging ideas this hefty debut is set in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Asteroid colony Phoecea survives by using nanotech to process huge chunks of methane ice until sabotage by the Martian crime syndicate throws everything into jeopardy. Meanwhile a feral AI is evolving within the colony's computer net intending to spread throughout the solar system. The humans who have to cope with these threats are competent endearing and believably frazzled: Resource Commissioner Jane Navio has to make life and death decisions while watching her public approval rating fluctuate and teen Geoff Agre and his rocketbike riding friends make heroic choices while squabbling with their families and each other. Locke has created a believable ecosystem of struggling competing sometimes uncomfortably interacting components where trust is betrayed painfully but allies appear unexpectedly. Most of all this smart satisfying hard SF adventure celebrates human resilience. (Mar.) " Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
"Compulsively readable and packed with challenging ideas, this hefty debut is set in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Asteroid colony Phoecea survives by using nanotech to process huge chunks of methane ice, until sabotage by the Martian crime syndicate throws everything into jeopardy. Meanwhile, a feral AI is evolving within the colony's computer net, intending to spread throughout the solar system. The humans who have to cope with these threats are competent, endearing, and believably frazzled: Resource Commissioner Jane Navio has to make life and death decisions while watching her public approval rating fluctuate, and teen Geoff Agre and his rocketbike-riding friends make heroic choices while squabbling with their families and each other. Locke has created a believable ecosystem of struggling, competing, sometimes uncomfortably interacting components, where trust is betrayed painfully, but allies appear unexpectedly. Most of all, this smart, satisfying hard SF adventure celebrates human resilience. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
“Rigorous extrapolation with an imaginative flair, characters you can care about, and clean, lean, muscular prose are some of the hallmarks of M. J. Locke, a bright light on the science fiction scene. Fans of hard SF will eat this up and shout for more.”--George R. R. Martin
“Both original--full of smart new ways of looking at science fiction ideas--and old fashioned --full of the kind of whiz-bang action-adventure that made so many of us fall in love with SF in the first place."--Cory Doctorow
“Starts with a bang and only gets more intense in the pages that follow. M.J. Locke fills the novel with the exciting, mindbending combination of action and wild ideas that makes for the best SF."--Jane Lindskold
“Compulsively readable and packed with challenging ideas…smart, satisfying hard SF adventure.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Fans of hard SF will eat this up and shout for more.” —George R. R. Martin
“Manages to be both original, full of smart new ways of looking at science fiction ideas—and old-fashioned, full of the kind of whiz-bang action-adventure that made so many of us fall in love with the field in the first place.” —Cory Doctorow
“Thrills, action, real characters you come to care about, and a true sense of what it would be like to live in a space colony—Locke has given us all of these.” —Booklist
“Smart, fast, and with engineering to die for…Lockes extravagantly detailed future never loses sight of the human cost of the choices people make and the brutal political games they play. There are no easy outcomes, but there are heroes.” —Kate Elliott, author of Spirit Gate
“Gripping, well-rounded hard sci-fi, satisfyingly concluded… Locke's precariously wild frontier is inventive and intensely realized; her characters do dirty-hands jobs and aren't afraid of making difficult decisions.” —Kirkus Reviews
"An action-packed coming-of-age story set on a grittily realistic asteroid mining station. Locke delivers state-of-the-art SF." —Chris Moriarty, author of Spin Control
“Locke has created a nuanced, interesting world and a spectacular heroine. The characters are well-developed; especially noteworthy are the very realistically drawn teenagers. The engrossing plot and expertly woven narrative will keep readers engaged until the final page.”
—RT Book Reviews (“Top Pick”)
“Starts with a bang and only gets more intense in the pages that follow. M. J. Locke fills this novel with the exciting, mind-bending combination of action and wild ideas that makes for the best SF."
—Jane Lindskold, author of Through Wolfs Eyes
"Crisp prose and actual, believable characters—M. J. Locke is a strong new voice in hard science fiction." —Katherine Kerr, author of Daggerspell
“A fast-paced, gripping story, with strong, memorable characters fighting for the survival of their city and facing hard choices.” —Martha Wells, author of The Element of Fire
“This is a world where four coming-of-age teenagers—in love, in lust, or just trying to get along—come face-to face with death, political intrigue, weird science, and characters pushing the biologic and social norms to the limits. This is 21st century YA SF writ large, and I can only hope for more like it.” —Steve Miller, co-author of Fledgling, Saltation, and Ghost Ship
Rogue artificial intelligence and a lethal resource crisis threaten an asteroid colony—with an organized crime syndicate pulling the strings
Jane Navio is the resource manager of Phoecea, an asteroid colony poised on the knife-edge of hard vacuum and unforgiving space. A mishap has dumped megatons of water and methane out the colonys air lock, putting the entire human population at risk.
Jane discovers that the crisis may have been engineered by the Martian crime syndicate, as a means of executing a coup that will turn Phocaea into a client-state. And if that wasn't bad enough, an AI that spawned during the emergency has gone rogue…and theres a giant x-factor in the form of the transhumanist Viridian cult that lives in Phocaea's bowels.
Janes in the prime of her career—shes only a bit over a century old—but the conflict between politics and life-support is tearing her apart. To save her colony and her career, shes going to have to solve several mysteries at once—a challenge that will put her up against all the difficulties, contradictions, and awkward compromises entailed in the human colonization of outer space.
About the Author
M. J. LOCKE is an engineer in the American Southwest with a background in the energy industry. This is Lockes first novel.