Space Station Down by Ben Bova & Doug Beason
Kimberly Hasid-Robinson, a physicist, is overseeing her projects on the International Space Station as a Kazakhstani astronaut and a wealthy Russian tourist arrive. As they are boarding, she can’t leave her experiment, which is why she doesn’t get murdered by the Kazakhstani astronaut, who turns out to be a terrorist. Now Kimberly will spend the rest of her time on the ISS trying to neutralize the terrorist and prevent him from crashing the ISS into Manhattan while spilling plutonium across the country on its way down.
Time is short because Americans are panicking and the President of the United States knows that the best way to stop the rioting and looting is to shoot down the space station, especially since nobody knows if Kimberly is dead or alive. The Chinese government, which has its own motivations, is threatening to shoot down the ISS, too.
Fortunately, Kimberly has an advocate — someone who really believes in her. It’s her ex-husband Scott, a lieutenant colonel and former fighter pilot who recognizes his culpability in the divorce and is determined to do whatever he can to help Kimberly survive and succeed. Scott knows that Kimberly is not the type of person to wait around to be rescued, so he’s worried that she’ll be killed in her attempt to wrest control from the terrorist.
Ben Bova and Doug Beason’s Space Station Down (2020) is an exciting, fast-moving thriller with plenty of twists and turns. The ISS makes a great setting for this type of story and it was interesting to learn more about the blueprint of the station and how it functions. The SpaceX Dragon plays a major role, too.
Kimberly doesn’t always make the best decisions, but she’s a smart, resourceful, and mostly appealing heroine. A mixed-race Muslim woman, she spends time thinking about how her triple-minority status influenced her childhood, education, and career. She also ruminates on what went wrong in her marriage. I felt that these issues were only shallowly explored, but I give the authors (two older white men) credit for trying and, anyway, it’s a thriller, so how much introspection do we really want?
Space Station Down would make a great movie. I listened to the audiobook version produced by Tantor Audio and narrated by Samantha Desz. Desz mispronounces a couple of words (“cached,” “gaped”) but other than that, her performance was terrific. I recommend this version. It’s nine hours long.