Top critical review
"Hard Science Fiction" - Yup, it was hard alright, hard not to throw the book across the room.
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on March 30, 2019
I'll be honest, I didn't get past the 2% point in this book because it was so completely absurd. Right away the reader can see that the author thinks he understands how things work in a micro-gravity environment because he is constantly explaining the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of everything the characters do. Unfortunately, nearly everything the author describes is wrong. And much of what Doug (the main character) does is absolutely impossible in the environment described in the book. But that doesn’t stop the author from giving us "technical" explanations for it all.
The situation (no real spoilers here as this takes place in the first couple pages) – Three people live on a tiny (as in really tiny) asteroid in order to mine the metals. Good so far. The gravity is so weak that when Doug is sitting on the ground and picks up some gravel and drops it, we’re told that it will take “several days, maybe several weeks” to drop the one or two feet to the ground. If we split the difference and assume 1 week is correct, that makes gravity on the asteroid less than one millionth of earth’s gravity. OK, we're still good with that.
However, after Doug drops the gravel he then “stands up” and walks back to the habitat. Hold on here. Standing up in that light gravity, even if you took 10 minutes to do it, would immediately launch you off the asteroid. A force of only .0024 ounces would lift a 250lb earth-man off the surface. But somehow, that doesn’t happen to Doug.
And he seems to have no trouble walking across the asteroid either, maybe because he knows how to “float walk”, whatever that is. If you lift your leg 6 inches and lean forward it would take a day for your foot to fall to the ground. I don’t know where he gets the traction to move at all, since he only weighs .000015 lbs.
When he gets back to the underground habitat he has to go down some stairs to the entrance door, and the author takes the time to explain to us science-challenged readers that Doug has to use the handrail to pull himself down the stairs, as well as use it to pull himself up when leaving the habitat. Why? Not "why use the rail", I understand that. Why are there stairs? Doug has no weight, he can’t fall, he doesn’t need steps to make it easy to gradually push his .01 grams of dead weight up a hill. Heck, if all he did was flex his big toe he would fly out of the hole even if it was a hundred feet deep. Digging steps into an asteroid is a complete waste of time and effort.
Now Doug steps through the airlock door, which we’re told he’s done thousands of times before, and just like those thousands of times he is suddenly startled by the automated voice recording that says “Welcome to the airlock”. Apparently Doug has a memory as long as, well, less than a day obviously. Once inside he has to clean his boots, but I’m going to skip that insanity because there’s something even better just around the corner. They are going to have coffee for breakfast.
Yup, hot liquid coffee in cups, but they’re special cups, which the author again goes into detail describing how they have a lip on the rim to contain the coffee when it’s thrown (literally) into the cup. The coffee swirls around the cup, goes up the sides, meets the other swirl of coffee and they cancel out each other’s momentum. Wow, that’s fantastic! But how do you drink the coffee? Even if you ignore the problem with the lip at the rim, how do you pour the coffee into your mouth? If you put the cup to your lips and tilt it you’ll have to wait a couple hours for it to fall into your mouth. And once you do get it flowing you better drink it all because you obviously can’t put the coffee cup on the table without the liquid staying where it is – up by your face. Remember, it takes a week for gravity to pull something down even a foot or two.
That was as far as I got before giving up. This book might have been tolerable if the author didn't pretend he knows what "Hard SF" is and didn't try to explain things he doesn't understand. Hard Science Fiction has a basis in KNOWN SCIENCE, and that science has to apply in all situations. You can't accurately describe one situation (gravel falling in micro-gravity) and then ignore the micro-gravity the rest of the time.