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Author Daniel Suarez has slowly gotten quite a reputation as a master of high-tech, sci-fi thrillers. Not only is DELTA-V no exception, it very well may be his finest work to date. It all begins with a dedication to the late, great Carl Sagan --- and I will revisit that in a bit. Our hero is James Tighe, an American who has made a name for himself in the area of cave-diving. In fact, the novel opens with a deadly cave expedition in which Tighe steps up as a hero when he is able to lead most of his party to rescue following a quake that had trapped them underground.

We soon realize that this story is set in the near future, beginning in the year 2032. There are some marked differences between this future point and our present. Specifically, the planet's need for more resources to support all life on it is never more apparent. Secondly and more worrisome is that all the major banks on the planet are on the verge of being crushed by enormous debt that would bring about a complete collapse --- a  financial tragedy that would make the Great Depression of 1929 look like a missed mortgage payment. It is the belief of multi-billionaire entrepreneur and business owner Nathan Joyce that commercial exploration of the solar system would expand the human economy beyond Earth to address the accumulated debt in our economic system and would be the only sure way to avoid imminent, global economic collapse.

"Daniel Suarez has combined cutting-edge sci-fi with all the components of a great thriller, leading to spectacular results."

Joyce shares these thoughts with Tighe when he calls him in for a meeting to share his vision. He needs someone with Tighe's specific skill set, along with a number of other specialists, to make his vision of space-mining a reality. One of Joyce's companies, Catalyst Corporation, is set to put together the first manned asteroid-mining expedition. It is during their discussion that Joyce spells out for Tighe that while the Greek letter Delta stands for change, the term Delta-v speaks to a change in velocity. In the world of asteroid-mining, Delta-v means everything.

A veritable United Nations of highly skilled individuals are put together by Joyce for this mission. However, before they can take to outer space, they all must submit to several months at a top-secret underground training center beneath the Arctic Circle to determine which of them will be named to the first manned expedition. Helping out Joyce with the legalities is Lukas Rochat, a young and hungry Swedish attorney. Rochat reminds his new employer that they must adhere to the Luxembourg legislation of 2017 that clearly outlined specifics regarding any form of space-driven revenue. Joyce listens, up to a point, and keeps Rochat busy filing various forms and other paperwork as a smoke screen before he is ready to announce to the world his intentions for saving the planet via his asteroid-mining scheme.

Joyce feels confident that this is the only way and even quotes the late Stephen Hawking, who in 2017 said that humanity would face extinction unless they found some way to colonize outer space. Joyce's expedition would be bypassing the whole colonization suggestion and going directly to mining natural resources to save the Earth. After several months of grueling tests, a team of eight is selected for the expedition. Their target is the asteroid Ryugu, which was initially discovered back in 1999. Japan had sent a probe to Ryugu for a year, the results of which indicated that the resources contained there were for real. Thus our mission is set.

Of course, Tighe is on the team along with seven others to whom he has drawn very close and who represent different nations on our globe. They go into the mission knowing it will be a four-year commitment away from Earth, where they will be using optimal-mining that utilizes sunlight to harvest and process material. After a brief stay at an outer space hotel, the Hotel LEO, the team is ready to go. Their craft is the spaceship Konstantin, and with Joyce's financial resources and political subterfuge, they will operate clandestinely until they have proven that Ryugu is harvestable. Only at that point will the rest of the world know about the expedition. The eight are able to successfully validate that Ryugu will provide what Joyce is expecting, and they cast a vote to see the full four-year mission through. However, all is not what it appears to be on the surface.

I return to my mention of the Carl Sagan dedication as I drew comparisons to his classic novel, CONTACT, at many points while reading. Instead of intelligent alien life at the center of this story, DELTA-V focuses on another outer space first, which is no less dangerous a proposition.

Daniel Suarez has combined cutting-edge sci-fi with all the components of a great thriller, leading to spectacular results. He utilizes both aerospace and political themes, each rife with all the pitfalls and surprises that come with them. Throughout his career, Suarez has found consistent comparison to the late, great Michael Crichton. I can assuredly support that he is in a very small group of current writers who can carry that weighty mantle forward.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on May 3, 2019

by Daniel Suarez