Satellite by Nick Lake

The Blurb On The Back:

Leo’s going to a place he’s never been before: home

Leo has never set foot on Earth.

Born and raised with twins Orion and Libra on the Moon 2 Space Station, they have grown up together in the most extraordinary of ways.

Now, they are preparing to make their first trip home – their first journey to Earth.

But Leo, Orion and Libra cannot possibly imagine the irreversible consequences that their return will set into motion …

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s the late 21st century. 15-year-old Leo Freeman has spent his whole life on the Moon 2 Space Station orbiting the Earth with his friends, the twins Orion and Libra. Their respective mothers still visit from time to time (although Leo’s mother is much less emotionally engaged than the twins’) but they’ve mostly been looked after by astronauts such as Virginia Duncan who provides emotional care in addition to performing her normal, scientific duties on the station.

As the teenagers approach their 16th birthdays, the Company (an amalgamation of NASA, the Indian space agency and private space interests) announces that it’s going to bring them back to Earth for the first time. Leo’s mum and another astronaut, Flight Officer Brown, are launch as part of a planned mission to resupply the station and the plan is for the kids to go with them when they return to Earth. Leo’s excited at the prospect of finally meeting his grandfather (a famous astronaut and one of the last men to visit the moon who’s retired to his own cattle ranch) but he has to survive the journey back first and that’s not looking likely when something goes drastically wrong with his mother’s mission …

Nick Lake’s YA SF novel is like GRAVITY meets AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH as the story basically hinges on Leo’s experiences in having to adjust both to gravity and to life with his mother and grandfather for the first time but while the science research is great, the use of a text speak-style narration will alienate some while I felt that some of the plot was a little underdeveloped so while it’s an interesting read, I don’t think it’s a classic.

Lake does well in showing Leo’s life in the space station, both in terms of the science and the practicalities of living up there and the psychological effects on him as he deals with the remote relationship with his mother (whose coldness is explained away as her being on the autistic spectrum – which I thought was a bit of a cop out) and his friendship with Orion and Libra (which I wish I’d seen more of in the Earth sections as it falls by the wayside for a while for plot reasons). I enjoyed his reaction to life on Earth, particularly the scenes between him and his grandfather as they really start to get to know each other for the first time without a screen between them.

However the plot meanders somewhat and the introduction of a potential conspiracy element (later abandoned) wasn’t particularly fulfilling in part because Lake doesn’t go to great lengths in his world building – hinting at a planet in crisis due to overpopulation and climate change but not tying this into why campaigners would want to speak to (let alone go to extreme measures to meet) Leo. I actually thought at one point that the events that dog the mission to recover the teenagers were going to be part of a wider conspiracy and was a little disappointed that it wasn’t. This disappointment was made worse by the events of the last quarter, which I felt jumped the shark a little and avoided some obvious questions and practicalities, with some of the events making me roll my eyes at times.

Mention should be made of Leo’s narrative style, which does use text-speak devices. I found this a little difficult to get into but once I did I thought it worked well in the context as it fit his character well and I could believe in language developing in this way over the next few decades but I can equally see that it could alienate some readers and so if this is an issue for you, bear it in mind when picking up this book.

Ultimately, Lake’s research on space and the science of survival within it kept me turning the pages of this book and is why I think it’s worth a look but it’s not a perfect SF novel by any means and in some ways, I think it’s going to be one of those YA novels that’ll be an acquired taste.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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