Abandon In Place
by Jerry Oltion
Review by James Walton

The novel Abandon In Place is based on the Nebula award winning novella of the same name. I think it suffers from the expansion. I enjoyed the first part of the book, the original novella, very much and it is deserving of all the praise it has garnered. It is after that when things turn downright silly.

While a very confused world watches a phantom Saturn V rocket mysteriously materializes on a long abandoned launch pad and rises majestically on a column of fire toward a rendezvous with the Moon. It sends telemetry to Earth stations during the entire flight only to disappear when the command module reaches the point where a human would take control during a real mission.

Mystery rockets continue to appear and fly at regular intervals while NASA decides how to deal with the phenomenon. It is determined that astronaut Rick Spencer is the focus of the manifestations so he is the natural choice when NASA decides to place an astronaut aboard one of the phantom rockets. While in orbit Spencer decides to ignore his orders and take the Apollo command module to the Moon instead of shutting it down. Rick is joined in the Apollo by Tessa and Yoshiko and with some help from Russia they head off to the Moon. The result, while predictable at many points, is an entertaining story. It is after Spencer and his crew return to Earth that things bog down.

Abandon in Place suddenly becomes an odd mix of hard science with New Age mysticism and fantasy. Rick, Tessa and Yoshiko have somehow developed psychic abilities and Oltion gives us the obligatory paranoid government officials who want to enslave Rick and Tessa and force them to use their powers to make weapons.

And of course, just as with The Force, the power Rick and Tessa have learned to tap into has its dark side. When it is revealed that everyone has the potential to use the power, people use it to do such questionable things as kill their neighbors and start wars.

Despite the New Age version of technobabble, Abandon In Place has a positive message, definitely in favor of human space exploration. I just wish Oltion had left his original novella untouched and explored other uses for his ideas.

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