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Orbital Decay

(Near Space #1)

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  579 ratings  ·  64 reviews
The award-winning, bestselling author's first novel.

The beamjacks work in zero-gravity constructing satellites in the vacuum of deepest space. And they're not going to let the military control them anymore.
Paperback, 324 pages
Published November 1st 1989 by Ace (first published 1989)
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3.67  · 
Rating details
 ·  579 ratings  ·  64 reviews

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-Más “realista” que estrictamente Hard.-

Género. Ciencia-Ficción.

Lo que nos cuenta. Samuel K. Sloane es un trabajador especializado en la construcción y mantenimiento en gravedad cero que tras un accidente cerca del cráter Rayo Sur en la Luna comienza a recordar (y a grabar para la posteridad por si no consigue ser rescatado) sus recuerdos sobre lo que ocurrió en una estación espacial en la que trabajaba y que tenía un módulo secreto controlado por la NSA para labores de espionaje.

¿Quiere saber m
Jun 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Steele's debut novel was a wonderfully-written, wonderfully-realistic portrayal of near-future space exploration when it appeared in 1989. It's the blue-collar side of how the future should have been. The ending makes you pump your fist and say; "Yeah, they don't write 'em like -that- anymore!" (Best with a Greatful Dead CD playing as background.)
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this book many years ago in 1989 when it first came out. It is part of a series and I had meant to read the other books but life interfered and while waiting for the other books to come out I forgot about the series and never read them. I am now going to read the series after all these years. I re-read this book having forgotten many of the details and I once again enjoyed it greatly. This book is set in the year 2016 and is about mankind's future in near space. Unfortunately many of the ...more
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is basically about construction workers in Earth orbit. Character development is deep and entertaining. Some of the technology is old (such as music cassettes in space), and the idea of the NSA monitoring our phone calls is passe'. Nonetheless, the book relates a fine adventure.
Sep 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
When my friend loaned me his copy of The Eternal Champion by Michael Moorcock, I effectively stopped reading hard SF. Where I once read Heinlein, Clarke, Benford, Bear, etcetera, I starting reading more esoteric, less fact based SF where technological is so advanced it is often indistinguishable from magic, following the literary inspiration genealogy stemming from British New Wave authors. It's been a while I've experience the vacuum of hard SF, and Allen Steele's Orbital Decay was a good place ...more
Travis Starnes
Oct 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Overall this isn’t a bad story and reading it as someone living 20+ years after it was written it is easy to see parts of the book that are almost prescient. It shows how the public consciousness concerned about government surveillance is not limited to recent events and has been a concern for a very long time.

While the moral of the story does hold up the rest of the book feels highly dated. This is definitely a work from a Cold War mindset and you can feel that throughout the story. There are a
Jeff Soyer
Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Originally published in 1989, Orbital Decay was Allen Steele’s first published science fiction novel. Why it took so long to bring out the Kindle edition is beyond me but I’m glad that Open Road Media has just done so.

For anyone who has NOT had the pleasure of reading Steele’s work: If you enjoy ‘hard’ science fiction, you’re missing out on something. I first discovered him via his Coyote series, which definitely influenced my own SF blog novel, Colony: Alchibah.

Even in his first book, Orbital D
Oct 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: you-need-to-read
Great near future story.

I appreciate the real world setting of this story. Having real people working in space, not engineers or rocket scientists, but normal blue collar construction workers.

Allen Steele is a great author at using the Science in the background and having the story be about people. His science always feels right, and the interactions help show what we could and perhaps should be like.
Wayne McCoy
Oct 24, 2016 rated it liked it
'Orbital Decay' by Allen Steele is a SF romp on a space station. It was written in the late 1980s and can feel a bit dated.

Beanjacks are the nickname given to the team of people working in space building satellites. Most of them have a pretty blue collar feel to how they interact. One of the main characters is a botanist brought on board. He meets the rest of the crew. People with nicknames like Popeye and Virgin Bruce. They seem to work hard, but tend to party even harder with illegal contraban
Jul 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rated at 3 stars for the audiobook version. I would have rated higher but there was a few things that bugged me. With the book set in 2016, the proliferation of cassettes seemed a bit off. Compact discs (cds) being introduced in 1982 seems to have been overlooked. The prediction of future tech was a bit off, wrist phones was a better guess but there was no digital video which seems a logitical progression given that digital audio cds were already available. Also the part that dealt with hacking ...more
Philippe Morin
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Definitely a winning concept: Blue-collar construction workers in space. The idea is a fun twist on Star Trek or others: Instead of the world's best and brightest on some noble quest, the people working in space are there to escape earth and work shifts.

However: The book drags on. I think this needed significant editing.

Why couldn't the whole thing start with the hydroponics scientist coming up to the station? That's about two thirds of the way in, and the entire 'plot' seems to happen from th
Dec 20, 2017 rated it liked it
A fun but dated exploration of what space construction would be like when the Heroic Dream runs up against human reality. Even though set in 2016 (our past!) it's very connected to the technology of the 80's, but that usually doesn't detract from its main point, which is that the people likely building anything substantial in space are going to be More rough-and-tumble and less clean cut than our astronauts have been. Especially when you consider what a space construction environment really is l ...more
John Benschoter
Feb 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Although this book is is quite dated--CRT monitors, Soviet Union, cassette tapes--the plot holds, particularly as an example of those books addressing government overreach and civilian paranoia. Writers like Andy Weir and the two who write as James S.A. Corey owe a debt to Steele's irreverent humor and working class protagonists. A decent read, not great, probably something special when it was published back 1989.
Jun 12, 2017 rated it liked it
This took me a while to get through. It's not because it's bad, more like it just feels a bit dated.

Basically, it's a circa 1990 story about just how boring life as a glorified construction worker in space could be. Basically, if you're into hard science fiction that doesn't glamorize space and all that involves, this could be your book.

On the other hand, I'd personally recommend the Coyote Trilogy over this.

That's really about all I have to say about Orbital Decay. So it goes.
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: y2018
A believable story of the first "beamjacks", the construction workers in orbit.
Charlie Schluting
Jul 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Some weird references to God and religion in general. Religious author :( minus 1 star. Story was pretty good.
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Really enjoyed this, reminding me of some early Heinlein novels I read as a kid.
7/10. Pues parece, por la nota, que me gustó allá por el 99…pero no me acuerdo de nada.
Leo W.
Dec 06, 2016 rated it did not like it

I just couldn't make it past the first fifty pages, which sucks because I LOVED the fifth book so much. I might pick this one back up at a later date, but life is too short to waste time on books that just aren't grabbing you.
Neil Harmon
Jan 07, 2017 rated it liked it
This review is of the audio version of the book. All-in-all, a good read. The story was almost dated by references to cassette tapes for music in space but this quaint detail didn't take away from the story. The characters were especially interesting, through flashbacks, they were well developed and very three dimensional. Many of the issues are very relevant and, one main theme seems especially timely today as people consider privacy and government's proper role. On the audible version, the nar ...more
Tory Michaels
Wowee. Those are my thoughts. Let me add two disclaimers before I go into a discussion of why this book was great for me. First – I did not finish it (more on that below). Second – This was originally published in like 1989, so this is a reprint.

Now, as to my “not finished” status. I’m still reviewing it and still giving it a 4-star rating even though I haven’t as-yet finished it. This is a very dense book, and it definitely doesn’t read like a book written in today’s publishing market which dem
Nov 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: _own
Overall Assessment: Good Read

Published in 1989, Orbital Decay is an example of what I consider the riskiest of all science fiction types - the near future story. In setting a story in the near future, the author inevitably invites the reader's focus to divert from the story towards what the author got right and wrong. If the author gets it really, really wrong - typically by having the story rely on a technology that in the "real world" has been utterly disproven or even worse - compl
Steve Walker
Aug 03, 2011 rated it liked it
This was a quick, fun read in the tradition of the best sci-fi from the 1940s and 50s. This could have been classic Heinlein or Asimov, but it is Steele and I enjoyed this book. A large solar array is being constructed in earth's orbit that will supply electricity for parts of the United States. Blue collar construction workers, called "beamjacks", live on Olympus Space Station working in shifts on the solar array. It is a joint effort between private company and NASA. It opens with Sam Sloane s ...more
Alicia Nordwell
Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to read this book because the description is so relevant to today. Set in 2016, we aren’t stuck with things like stone washed jeans and bulky cell phones that could double as exercise weights. Of course there are a lot of things that haven’t become as advanced as we are currently, but then again, authors don’t own crystal balls. Yet, this is a classic genre feeling book that drew me back to my first love of science-fiction with all its detail and actual science. Back in the 80s this sto ...more
Scott Holstad
Jan 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a decent "hard" sci fi novel written in the near future where private companies have created orbiting space stations and are making profits doing so. NASA helps, but the government pretty much stays out of it. Except for the NSA. Yep, the spooks make an appearance. They're spying on US citizens via recorded phone calls and they're doing it from outer space. This is really the main issue in the book. Everything else is merely fluff. Some of the characters, though, are well written (while ...more
Douglass Gaking
This book's organization could be better, the writing is not spectacular, and the science could have been more imaginative, but it is still worth the attention of the avid science fiction reader. The plot takes place in 2016. Steele's vision 30 years ago of where human space travel would be today is very interesting to consider. In reality, humans haven't reached Mars, returned to the moon, or taken full advantage of the economic and scientific advantages that space has to offer, not because Ste ...more
Jan 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audible
I reread this because it has stuck with me since I read it when I was younger. Not sure exactly why it stuck with me, though. It is an interesting book and timely to read right now since it foils an NSA plot to eavesdrop on all communications around the world. This is especially salient given the revelation that a NSA (I think) has a back door into all (well not all, but like 90%) sim chips being made now, although I don't think the actions the characters in the book took would work to foil that ...more
John Haake
Jul 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
Okay, I've got to admit that there was some pretty good prognostication in this story concerning the direction the NSA would be taking in the future. For a book written in 1985 and long before Mr. Snowden, this book makes it clear that we ALL should have seen the writing on the wall -- a long long LONG time ago, and done something about it !!!!

This book is a tragedy only in that it is a story of people who cared and took action -- unlike reality, and now when we find ourselves in almost a police
Jan 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a pretty entertaining book. I always enjoy reading older science fiction, this was written in the late eighties, to see what the guessed right and how wrong they could be at times. In this book the author got plenty wrong, cold war still going on in early 21st century, but he also got a lot right. For example, working class joe's building space stations find out that the NSA is starting a new program called "Big Ear" with equipment are building. "Big Ear" is a satellite based tracking s ...more
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Before becoming a science fiction writer, Allen Steele was a journalist for newspapers and magazines in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Missouri, and his home state of Tennessee. But science fiction was his first love, so he eventually ditched journalism and began producing that which had made him decide to become a writer in the first place.

Since then, Steele has published eighteen novels and nearl

Other books in the series

Near Space (5 books)
  • Clarke County, Space (Near Space, #2)
  • Lunar Descent (Near Space, #3)
  • Labyrinth of Night (Near Space, #4)
  • A King of Infinite Space (Near Space, #5)