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The Return
Buzz Aldrin and John Barnes
Forge Books, 301 pages

The Return
John Barnes
John Barnes was born in 1957. He received his BA and MA in political science from Washington University, then worked as a systems analyst and in various kinds of computer consulting, mostly reliability math and human interfaces. He received a dual Master's degree (MFA English (Writing), MA Theatre (Directing) from the University of Montana in 1988. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh (Theatre Arts) in 1995; his specialties were performance semiotics and design/tech. From 1994 to 2001 he taught theatre, rhetoric, and communications at Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado. He now lives in downtown Denver, writing and consulting fulltime; he may be the only paid consulting semiotician in the world, since he has not met or heard of any others. He has been married and divorced twice, which is quite enough for anybody.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Finity
SF Site Review: Finity
SF Site Review: Apostrophes & Apocalypses

Buzz Aldrin
Buzz Aldrin was born in Montclair, New Jersey, in 1930. He was educated at West Point, graduating with honours in 1951. After receiving his wings, he flew Sabre Jets in 66 combat missions in the Korean Conflict. Returning to his education, he earned a Doctorate in Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Manned Space Rendezvous. In October 1963, he was selected by NASA as one of the early astronauts and, in November 1966, he established a new record for Extra-Vehicular Activity in space on the Gemini XII orbital flight mission. He was the backup command module pilot for Apollo VIII -- the first flight around the moon. On July 20, 1969, Buzz and Neil Armstrong made their historic Apollo XI moon walk, thus becoming the first two humans to set foot on another world.

Buzz Aldrin Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

Like many people who care about the future of space exploration, Buzz Aldrin and John Barnes realize that the current system has problems.

Their second collaborative novel, The Return, spotlights many of the problems which are endemic to the system NASA has in place which relies heavily on a few major aerospace companies who may have come to see their role in the program as an entitlement. While they advocate an overhaul of the current system, they do not promote scrapping it completely.

The possible murder of a popular athlete, MJ, during a "Civilian in Space" flight of the shuttle Columbia spells the end of ex-astronaut Scott Blackstone's career and his hopes to help mankind eventually reach Mars. In the aftermath and reprisals, Scott finds himself out of a job and faced with a multi-million dollar lawsuit. His former company, NASA, and the other defendants in the case recommend settling, but Scott, his ex-wife/attorney, Thallia, and his brother, Nick, choose to fight the lawsuit in an attempt to keep the space program alive.

As the novel continues, it becomes clear that there is a shadowy conspiracy with the goal of ending space flight and returning mankind to a pre-space-age society. Scott and his comrades becomes mankind's best hope for averting that future. Their interest in promoting space exploration originated in July 1969, when they followed the first manned lunar mission. They, and their friend Eddie Killeret, made a pledge to eventually make it to Mars. Over the years, childhood pledges have been left behind for more grown-up pursuits, which have, in a few cases, focused on the aerospace industry.

The three major characters in The Return are likeable and the story is presented with a good pace, although at times The Return seems a throwback to the "Let's build a spaceship" school of science fiction plotting. For all that, the novel is neither simplistic nor archaic. The technology the characters discuss and use is state of the art. Rather than building a spaceship in their own backyard, they work for companies which have the mission to build spacecraft.

In an editorial I wrote, which appeared at SF Site in August, 1999, I commented that "space will not be explored by Lewis and Clark, sent out by their government, but by the Hudson Bay Company, private companies trying to make a profit on the frontier." The Return appears to support this view by depicting companies which are developing their own spin-off technologies to achieve spaceflight while working to build the designs designated by NASA and the government.

Buzz Aldrin has a lot to say about the future of man in space and he seems to have decided that writing science fiction is a good way to make his opinion known and, perhaps, to influence policy. In John Barnes, Aldrin has found an able collaborator to help him bring his vision to the printed page.

Copyright © 2000 by Steven H Silver

Steven H. Silver is one of the founders and judges for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He sits on concoms for Windycon, Chicon 2000, and Clavius in 2001, and is co-chair of Picnicon 1998. Steven will be serving as the Programming Chairman for Chicon 2000. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is trying to get his short stories published and has recently finished his first novel. He lives at home with his wife and 3200 books. He is available for convention panels.

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