Delta-V by Daniel Suarez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
There’s gold in them thar asteroids!
In the near future commercial space exploration is growing, but not fast enough to suit billionaire Nathan Joyce who believes that humanity’s only chance of long-term survival is to immediately start mining asteroids. This will not only provide critical resources and advance the technologies to let people start living in space, but it also could create an entirely new and sustainable economy. Joyce is recruiting an multinational group of risk-takers like cave diver James Tighe who have the skills necessary to be the first asteroid miners. The mission will be unprecedented and dangerous, but not all the threats come from being in space.
I love Daniel Suarez’s books because he’s great at looking at where we’re at both technologically and as a society and then coming up with very plausible stories about what comes next. Here, he’s selling the idea that humanity’s future hinges not on colonizing the moon or Mars, but instead on coming up with ways of living in space using the resources we could get from the hunks of rock floating around out there. He’s very persuasive on this point, and his conclusions make a lot of sense. (I kept finding myself thinking that this could be the prequel to The Expanse series which finds humanity spread out through the solar system.)
It helps that this isn’t a tale filled with wide-eyed optimism, and there’s a lot of cynical pragmatism in how the plot unfolds. Suarez creates a world in which it’s greed as much as anything that would make this happen, and that getting this going would take the resources of the mega-rich. That certainly fits the direction we seem to be heading with guys like Elon Musk and Richard Branson putting big money into space. But when you get people driven by profit margins and massive egos involved you can’t really trust them to do the right thing for the greater good or even their own employees either. Throw in a bunch of murky laws related to this and competing national interests, and it’s probably inevitable that mining asteroids will be just as cutthroat and messy as business on Earth.
If you’re into space stuff, especially near future hard sci-fi, then there’s a lot to like here. Suarez is better at coming up with cool ideas and tech then he is writing about people, but he does an adequate job of creating a cast of characters and putting them in interesting and sometimes hazardous situations. While a lot is wrapped up here the book also ends on what seems to be a pure sequel set-up so I don’t think we got the whole story, but I’ll be happy to check out the next one, too. 3.5 stars.
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