Reviewed by: Peter Spasov
Title: Beltrunner
Author: Sean O’Brien
NSS Amazon link for this book
Format: Paperback/Kindle
Pages: 253
Publisher: EDGE-Lite
Date: July 2017
Retail Price: $19.95/$1.47
ISBN: 978-1770531390

Beltrunner is an adventure yarn where Collier South struggles to succeed in the twenty-third century. It is a time when corporations bully the independents and Ceres Authority fails to maintain the law. The story begins when Collier races an Ad Astra ship chasing him while he is underway to claim an asteroid. Although Ad Astra has more fuel and higher thrust, he wins the race by overshooting the asteroid and jettisoning his main ship with a scouting probe. To assist Collier is his sidekick Sancho, a witty computer. Often they engage in repartee.

Isa of Ad Astra sends an impact probe to steal Collier’s claim. She is also Collier’s ex girlfriend, having left him because of corporate ambitions. Other scenes elaborate the issue of independents selling out to the corporations, including a descriptive low-gravity bar fight with corporate miners inside Ceres, the main base in the asteroid belt. Collier’s ship, the Dulcinea, uses a fusion reactor to run on hydrogen made from water ice using an electrolysis plant. Collier either mines the ice directly or purchases it at Ceres.

At Ceres, Collier manages to convince an acquaintance to fund repairs and supplies for his next expedition. He targets a particular asteroid because of its unusual trajectory. There he finds a strange artefact he names a wand. Through trial and error Collier and Sancho learn how to operate it. The cylinder converts anything to whatever element one chooses, the ultimate Philosopher’s Stone, making this the most speculative part of the book. Even the characters admit this while conversing about moving electrons into valence shells, changing protons into neutrons, energy requirements and so on.

Collier returns to Ceres with platinum to sell. The competition and Ceres Authority are suspicious about Collier’s lucky strike story and question him about his trade-secret recipe for creating one hundred percent pure platinum. After encountering Isa again, Collier carelessly reveals some hints. He departs for a pretend mining expedition, and Ad Astra chases him. Isa ends up helping him escape. Desperate, Collier heads for the Jupiter moon of Ganymede without deceleration. It’s a risky move, depending on rescue at the other end to stop his ship from flying past the outer planets and also to resuscitate him from hibernation.

The conclusion of the story involves a coil gun launcher and a computer that takes friendship and violence personally. Loose ends are tied up neatly.

Athor Sean O’Brien is a former “Educator of the Year” in California and Beltrunner is his third novel. The writing is active with details to give a sense of realism. It is hard science fiction describing astrodynamics, ship operations, commodity prices, laser mining techniques and more. Though the “wand” may seem farfetched, even for advanced extraterrestrials, one can still enjoy the colorful applications of chemistry. This book will appeal to those who enjoy a blend of technology and action adventure.

© 2017 Peter Spasov

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