||Twilight Times Books
||Jan 11, 2009
How do you react when you discover the next shuttle disaster has happened… right on schedule?
Burnout is a SF mystery about a Space Shuttle disaster that turns out to be no accident.
Twilight Times Books
Burnout by Stephanie Osborn
As the true scope of the disaster is gradually uncovered by the principal investigators, "Crash" Murphy and Dr. Mike Anders, they find themselves running for their lives, as lovers, friends and coworkers involved in the investigation perish around them.
What happened to the Shuttle? Who is responsible and why? Why is the government calling it an accident? Why is someone willing to kill to keep it a secret? And how big is the conspiracy?
An exciting action techno-thriller, Burnout will leave you on the edge of your seat, not wanting to put it down.
BURNOUT -- A Review
This is an ambitious, impressive first novel, from a veteran of the US space program. It is pure fiction, as the author is careful to point out, yet it seamlessly weaves together typical operations of NASA with much of the UFOlogy that made The X-Files and similar creations so successful. And the theme is very similar to X-Files: a small group of dedicated heroes commit themselves to a dangerous journey to discover truths which the powers-that-be don’t want discovered.
The story starts with the burnout of Space Shuttle STS-281 over Texas, viewed from the ground by a crew of off-shift NASA staff and contractors. It is reminiscent of the Columbia entry accident, although in a postscript the author notes her book was drafted well before that awful disaster. Emmett “Crash” Murphy is an ex-fighter jockey, an F-4 pilot in Vietnam, and an ex-NASA entry control specialist. He’s called in as part of the accident reconstruction team. But, there’s a discrepancy with two versions of the flight recorder data. Then a recovered piece of the shuttle hatch has marks indicating it was cut from within, not burned in atmosphere entry. And when the astronauts’ bodies are recovered from the Gulf of Mexico, they don’t match with medical records. Evidence starts disappearing. Investigators around Crash start having memory lapses or fatal accidents. As Holmes famously remarked, “I fear, Watson... that there is some mischief afoot”.
Meanwhile, in a parallel plotline, Mike Anders, an Australian astronomer and an old friend of Crash is on his way to America to tend his radiotelescope research project in the southwest US. Two agents of the Australian government intercept Mike and provide some provocative data suggesting a stealthed alien spacecraft is in low-earth orbit. They solicit his assistance, hint at a conspiracy and appeal to his patriotism to help them out. As Mike arrives in the US and begins to study the data, he not only confirms the presence of an alien spacecraft but also begins to uncover seemingly unrelated anomalies. Anomalies related to the Shuttle burnout. More mischief afoot.
These plotlines come together neatly as Crash and Mike hook up and discern that there is a shadowy organization at the root of the mischief. At this point, though, it’s more than mischief: with eleven bodies and counting, our two heroes clearly are in danger for what they know or suspect. Since the conspiracy obviously involves the government -- and likely more than just one government -- they go it alone, sneaking into a buried enclave in the infamous Area 51 in search of the truth. These developments are laced with the humor of a group of UFO abductees (recruited by our heroes to provide diversion and cover) and with the mysticism of a native American protective medallion. I won’t spoil it by saying any more, but the plot continues to thicken based on what the two discover while navigating through the tunnels and ductwork of the enclave.
Underlying this story is the old philosophical question of the appropriate use of power and when the end justifies the means. The author leaves the ending ambiguous. Crash survives to tell the tale, but Mike sacrifices his own life to make that happen. Or does he? Enough evidence has been gathered to let the truth come out. But will it? A massive government coverup is spinning an entirely different tale, involving no aliens. At this point, why? I like this ambiguity -- in the real world, after all, the end-vs-means question frequently runs up against situational morality. But of course such an ending demands a sequel... about power gone awry and the underdog heroes fighting it. Let’s hope one is well underway by this talented new writer of mystery science fiction.
Author of Monkey Trap and Hiding Hand
January 24, 2009
Impossible To Put Down
"Burnout is a compelling, impossible to put down, first novel in the class of Skylark of Space or 'Lifeline.' ... It may perhaps be the most realistic view ever published in fiction about what happens behind the scenes at NASA."
~ Jim Woosley, Ph.D. physicist and Heinlein essayist
Hard-Edged SF Mystery
"Hard-edged SF that wraps a compelling mystery around "this is the real thing" space science. BURNOUT is tight, tense, and gripping--- Osborn tells a damn good story, and tells it well."
~ Holly Lisle, author of The Ruby Key: Moon & Sun I.
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