Abandon In Place
(Tor, hardcover, $24.95, 365 pages; November 2000; cover art by Vincent
Were you a child of the Apollo space program years? Did you ever look
up into the night sky back then and dream dreams of
day being able to walk in space like the then new astronauts: look up
and imagine the places that humankind could go to? Did you mourn the
loss of the deep space and moonshot programs when the US public lost
interest in the dream, the vision, and the hope for the future back
then? Do you sometimes imagine what might have been if we'd just kept
going ... maybe even reached Mars?
Then this is the book for you!
Imagine. The morning after famed astronaut Neil Armstrong dies and
is buried at Arlington, a Saturn V rocket launches itself from Pad 34
at Cape Canaveral. Witnesses are stunned. They feel the thunder of the
engines, smell the rocket fuel, are buffeted by the jet backwash and
watch in awe as a 363ft shining white rocket soars into the morning
But there hasn't been a Saturn V rocket launched from American soil
in 30 years: the technological know-how has been lost, and Pad 34 is
a broken rusted derelict with the sign "Abandon in Place" posted there
as its epitaph. However, one did lift off that day, and it even
sent back telemetry from lunar orbit before vanishing as suddenly as
it had appeared. Astronaut Rick Spencer was an eyewitness standing atop
of Pad 39A who, as a child, lived, breathed, and consumed the Apollo
This must have been a ghost ... or was it?
The story follows how Rick is trained to fly the Saturn V's Apollo
command module and how he actually climbs aboard the third vehicle to
appear from nowhere on Pad 34, and flies it to the Moon accompanied
by two fellow astronauts picked up by EVA from the space shuttle in
orbit around the Earth. Read the breathtaking account of the flight
to the Moon, the world's perception of it, and unravel the mystery of
how the rocket, etc., came into being. There is a nicely entwined infrastructure
of science and the supernatural that really comes down to one thing:
massive willpower and a single point to focus it through.
I won't spoil the story for you, but the ups and downs of our heroes
as they struggle with beliefs, emotions, sheer will, personal responsibility,
media circuses, real dangers, and the reshaping of the world in a newly
awakened image offer a nonstop ride of heart-warming exhilaration --
a breathtaking, tense, funny, scary "what if we could?" Far-fetched
events are made plausible by the author in his successful attempt to
meld science with the human will, dreams and hope.
In one instance, in an effort to stop a vicious European war, our heroes
try to "build" a weapon that won't be knocked out of the sky by a foe
of equal power. Unfortunately they just can't get it right and end up
dropping a stream of perfectly formed Lunar Landing Modules on the foe
instead. Laugh or cry, it's a brilliant moment -- right up to what happened
In its original form, this story was published in The Magazine of
Fantasy and Science Fiction as a 7000-word short story. The author
was enthusiastically encouraged to expand the story into a novella which
then went on to win a Nebula Award. This is the tale in its final incarnation
as a novel. Personally, I loved it. Some might not -- but don't pass
up the chance to read it and find out. This novel is definitely the
Field of Dreams of the Space Program.
Review by Marianne Plumridge.