It's rare to find a science fiction novel whose author has a deep knowledge of the science that molds his world. Most mainstream sci-fi these days disregard the technical and scientific details that would give readers a better understanding of the future's society and technology. Scientists who consume these works end up spitting them back out because their minds cannot digest the pseudo-science that dissipate suspension of disbelief. But if it's a novel written by an author who has accumulated sufficient knowledge from his 7-year experience at NASA, you'd know that the experience would feel more realistic, the science more credible, and the social implications more dynamic. I'm talking about Ejner Fulsang and the first book of his Galactican Series, SpaceCorp, a hard social science fiction novel that takes us to a dystopian future when the density of space debris is a growing concern, and NASA becomes more like a risk-reduction agency than space explorers. More astronauts are dying in space.
In response to the Kessler Syndrome, the satellite company SpaceCorp initiates construction of space stations that could withstand the hostile forces in Low Earth Orbit, where humans are trying to establish a permanent human presence. But there are obstacles more detrimental than space junk: The Supreme leader of Iran wants to destroy American space stations while the nation is struggling; America is trying to recover its strength while the rise of assassinations in the country has taken control of political battles: This turmoil in Earth or as Fulsang describes,in the interview, as the "ignorance that is ruining the world", is more complicated than mankind's quest to create a path away from the chaos of its pit, and like the gravity that pulls us down, the outcomes of battles could crash our hopes before they could reach space.
Although the plot isn't character-driven, we meet a few characters who seem to be integral from the start: Logan MacGregor "Mack" and the Gina Caraso-inspired character, Monica Carvalho. They give readers someone to care about, but they're not the nucleus of the story. Their laid-back scene of building rapport during a weekend getaway adds a touch of humanity and lightheartedness over Spacecorp's dense prose of scientific details and political tensions, all of which are intricately detailed, expertly described. You'd know that Fulsang really knows what he's talking about as he extrapolates physics, space ships, exotic weapons, and the limited resources necessary to establish a society in space and replenish the resources that are depleting. Fulsang has developed some fascinating concepts like the power of the Anti-satellite satellite or the efficiency of nanocellulose in constructing space stations. There are also some fine details about architecture, weaponry, and global warming. Humans constantly compete for resources, trapped in status quo, striving for power more than the survival of mankind, feeding individual needs more than the community. But achievement does not always equal progress or innovation as Fulsang elaborates:
"But the irony is that the path to the stars is not blazed with achievement, but with change. There is a limit to how far any given achievement can take us. Then that achievement has to yield to change or progress stops."
SpaceCorp's latter half becomes more political than scientific, more philosophical than adventurous. Fulsang's ideas are intelligent and impressively rich, but if you're looking for the exhilarating adventures of Star Wars or Star Trek, you might be disappointed. While Fulsang excels in explaining the nitty-gritty of science and technology, he falters when it comes to showing these concepts in action. Heavy exposition and political intrigue weigh down SpaceCorp's potential to launch. I grew tired of reading about tactical discussions, how weapons function, or how space stations are built while I was craving to see these fascinating elements move, cause a bang, do something that would at least, change something. I couldn't wait to see lasers pew-pew or assassins assassinate, but instead the most eventful events are shared through various accounts that I think most of us would rather see actually happen. This narrative weakness echoes the final act of the Life of Pi movie, when "Pi" Patel was verbally describing his experience to the Japanese when the film could have shown his accounts in a more cinematic way. It could be mistaken as a lazy shortcut to storytelling, and it somewhat contradicts Fulsang's them of valuing experience over money --"You go to the stars for the fuck of it!".
Despite its lack of dramatic action, Fulsang's touch of realism is astonishing, more journalistic or immersive than most popular sci-fi these days, and if you love hard science fiction with political and scientific depth that many mainstream speculative works dismiss, then you'd probably enjoy reading SpaceCorps.