Audiobook Review: Orbital by Andrew Mayne
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller
Series: Book 2 of Station Breaker/Space Ops
Publisher: Tantor Audio (July 4, 2017)
Length:8 hrs and 43 mins
Narrator: Kyle McCarley
After Station Breaker closed on such an open-ended cliffhanger (*shakes fist*) I picked up Orbital immediately afterwards to continue following the action-packed adventures of former-pilot-turned-space-ops-astronaut David Dixon.
If you thought the first book was too extreme and ridiculous with its over-the-top antics, the good news is that this sequel takes a more laid-back tone. Thankfully though, it’s no less intense. While Station Breaker was your equivalent of a summer action blockbuster, Orbital reads more like a slick spy thriller. Picking up directly from the previous novel, the story sees David back on Earth, hailed as a hero for averting a global disaster. Unfortunately, the damage caused by the media circus has been done. David is let go by his employers at the aerospace company, and even though he was exonerated of all charges, the stigma of being labeled as a terrorist at one point means that no other agencies are willing to touch him with a ten-foot pole. The chances of David being able to fly again are looking quite bleak indeed.
Then one day, David is contacted by a covert government intelligence agency through one of his new connections. As it turns out, some of the enemy technology he encountered in the last book was actually stolen or leaked from a top-secret lab originating on an orbiting science space platform. While David is no spy, his experiences with these types of clandestine operations in space make him the most qualified to infiltrate the platform and sniff out the one responsible for the theft and leaks. Finding the culprit will also hopefully lead them to discover the identity of the shadowy agent known as Silverback, a highly placed mole in the US government.
After the rollercoaster ride that was Station Breaker, the beginning of Orbital was a nice chance at a little breather. Granted, the story was a little slower to take off this time, and in a lot of ways, the way things started reminded me a lot of another Andrew Mayne sequel. In his Naturalist series, the protagonist Theo Cray becomes anathema to the academic community after his involvement in a high-profile case to help catch a serial killer. Likewise, David Dixon manages to save the world but the fallout from the highly-publicized incident immediately kills his chances at ever being hired again by a legitimate aerospace company. In both cases, the characters are forced to take on any kind of soul-sucking work they could find. But because Orbital also needed to tie up a lot loose threads left by the non-ending of the previous book, the intro section was further protracted (which is another good reason why authors should just end a book properly.)
The good news is, once the story gets going, it gets REALLY going, and after the first third, the book gets hard to put down. Most of it takes place primarily aboard the orbital space platform where David must pretend to be a fellow researcher while trying to root out the traitor without arousing suspicions. David’s not the world’s best secret agent, but he does a relatively good job blending in, poking his nose discreetly into everyone’s work while schmoozing his way into the commanders’ good graces and politely holding off advances from lusty astronauts. A lot of the interactions are entertaining as you would expect, given our protagonist’s sense of humor. There are some amazing characters in Orbital—and also some great technology. This one’s a bit heavier on the science and jargon compared to the first book, but astronautics doesn’t have to be in your wheelhouse for you to appreciate this series. All of it is fascinating stuff that should be easy to take in and digest, and my favorite parts all involve David trying to MacGyver his way out life and death situations.
For fans of mysteries set in space, it doesn’t get much better than Orbital. It’s also a very clever and funny, and yet that humor does not come at the expense of the suspense and thrills. While the book sets a different tone than its predecessor, it’s no less addictive and fast-paced. Highly recommended.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Station Breaker (Book 1)