by Stephen Robinett
Reviewed date: 2019 Feb 5
Rating: 3
186 pages
cover art

Robinett's writing reminds me of Heinlein, in a good way.

I noticed that Robinett's characters talk. A lot. It's almost like Robinett lost a bet and had to write a book where the plot is advanced entirely in dialog. It's not bad per se, but it's sometimes overwhelming.

Robert Collins takes a job at Merryweather Enterprises building their giant Jenson Gate. With the gate, Merryweather will reach across interstellar space and grab asteroids and chunks of planets from faraway solar systems. Interstellar mining.

Interstellar mining
Most of the real action centers around corporate shenanigans, because Merryweather's main competitor, Spieler, is trying to sabotage the stargate project. See, Spieler operates a fleet of automated drone starships that collect mineral-rich chunks of asteroids from faraway star systems and bring them back to Earth. A working interstellar Jenson Gate would put Spieler's interstellar mining business into bankruptcy.

To boldly stay home
Let me repeat all that, in case you missed it. They are building a stargate that reaches faraway solar systems--but they are not going to explore the universe, they're just going to grab some rocks and melt them down for the valuable ore.

And, the real action is not traveling to other solar systems, but corporate espionage and sabotage.

Grizzled Heinleinian hero
Collins is a young whippersnapper, so he teams up with a grizzled super-competent man named Scarlyn Smith. Smith is a true Heinleinian hero. He's brave, self-made, answers to nobody but himself (and especially not to his lazy freeloading daughter and son-in-law). Where Collins is hesitant, unsure of himself and his abilities, Smith is supremely confident because he is supremely capable.

Not the Heinlein woman
Collins has a love interest, Dolores, but she's not a Heinleinian woman. For instance, she frets that when Collins is away building the stargate he may be led astray by other women. Very un-Heinleinian, but realistic.

Collins manages to complete the Jenson Gate, and Spieler's true colors show. He's a madman. With his business ruined, Spieler hijacks the gate and points it at a pulsar. He intends to pull the pulsar into the solar system, destroying the sun and all life in the solar system. If Spieler loses, everybody loses.

In a truly exciting action sequence, Collins and Smith fight their way toward Spieler. There's a showdown in the Gate control room. Smith is shot and is down for the count, so it's left to Collins. If Collins can shoot Spieler before he throws the final switch, he can stop the stargate from activating.

Failed hero
Collins can't do it. Even with the entire human race hanging in the balance, Collins can't gun down another human being. Spieler throws the switch and dashes through the gate.

...and it doesn't matter
Oops, Spieler miscalculated. The solar system is fine, Earth is unharmed.

The end.

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