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13 December 2012

hardcover, Ace, November 2012,

I love Jack McDevitt’s books, so I grabbed the chance of reading this one although I wasn’t initially certain I’d like it. It is a departure from his ‘SF, well into the future” novels, and seemed to be along the lines of a conspiracy theory-type plot. However the mail arrived in the morning, I had to go out soon after and got back late that afternoon – to pick up the book around 5pm. The 6pm news started, I glanced up, punched in the video to record and kept reading. At 8.30pm a TV programme that I really like started, I punched in the video to record and kept reading. I finished the book around ten o’clock and I can say that it’s good, better than that even… it’s very very good and I enjoyed it immensely.

And it has something that may already be showing the first indications of a trend in reality. That private enterprise may end further out and more effectively in Space than NASA and Governments. Jerry Culpepper is the front man for a NASA that in 2019 has been trimmed back to where they have no space programme and they’re mostly left with PR, speaking engagements, displays of past glories, and awards to past staff members. Until something happens and Jerry starts to wonder about the original moon landing. No, not that it was a hoax on a sound-stage, but if it was possible than it actually happened earlier than the world has ever known. And while Jerry asks questions and finds that he doesn’t like some of the answers, Bucky Blackstone, self-made billionaire with an eye to space exploration for profit, is asking some of the same questions and getting distinctly odd answers that send him in a similar direction to Jerry. A direction that indicates an ancient and well-hidden mystery, an American/Russian conspiracy – and something that if uncovered and made public might be utterly disastrous.

I’m not giving away anything more, go and buy the book, but I recommend it, it’s a beautifully blended mix of very-near-future-SF, conspiracy theory, politics (interesting, believable) and NASA background mixed with what may well happen with private space flights/travel, in the next decade or three. This is near-future writing at its best. Even if it doesn’t happen that way and when we reach 2019 we may know it, still we read Clarke’s, The Deep Range, or The Sands of Mars, knowing that they didn’t happen as and when he wrote either, but many of us still re-read the books and enjoy them for the fine writing they are. So in 2020, even if none of The Cassandra Project‘s events have occurred in reality, I still expect to be reading and enjoying the book on which both authors have done a great job, and I can’t say fairer than that.


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