Abandon In Place...a book review
“ABANDON IN PLACE”
by Jerry Oltion
TOR; Hardcover; ISBN 0-312-87264-X; $24.95 US; 365 pages; November 2000; Cover Art – Vincent Di Fate. Paperback Edition reportedly due in February 2003
Reviewed by Marianne Plumridge – November 2002
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 one 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 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 363-foot shining white rocket soars into the morning sky. 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 even sent back telemetry from Moon orbit before disappearing as suddenly as it had begun. Astronaut Rick Spencer was an eyewitness standing atop of Pad 39A during that first phantom launch. As a child, he lived, breathed, and consumed the Apollo flights. This was 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 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 it for you, but the ups and downs of our heroes as they struggle with beliefs, emotions, sheer will, personal responsibility, media circus’, real dangers, and the reshaping of the world in a newly awakened image is a non-stop ride of heart warming exhilaration. A breathtaking, tense, funny, scary ‘what if we could?’ Far-fetched events made plausible by the author in his attempt to meld science with the human will, dreams and hope.
In one instance, in an attempt 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 Luna Landing Modules on him instead. Laugh or cry it’s a brilliant moment – right up to what happened next.
In it’s original form, this story was published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction as a 7,000-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 story 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.