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Reviewed by Stefan Vucak for Readers' Favorite
The Russian economy is on the brink of collapse, and the only thing that could save it is an increase in world oil prices for its exports. To bring that about, the Saudis need to drastically reduce production, which they refuse. In retaliation, the Russians cripple a major Saudi processing complex using one of their kinetic weapon satellites blanketing Earth. The plant is obliterated and everyone pretends it was done by a meteor shower. This was not enough for Russia, and they destroy a Chinese gas distribution hub. The American Space Force seeks to neutralize this threat by Russia, but the weapon satellites have defenses, which the Space Force and the British suborbital fighter find out the hard way. Russia does not want an all-out war with America, but China and the physically and emotionally scarred Chief Scientist, designer of the Russian weapon satellites, have agendas of their own. War threatens the world when Cape Canaveral is obliterated, forcing America to unveil its own secret space weapon. Will the ICBMs fly? And what has China to gain from an exchange?
With Orbital, FX Holden plunges the reader into his superbly written techno-thriller from the first page. Blinded by a meteor strike as a child, Anastasia Grahkovsky becomes the designer and Chief Scientist of the Russian kinetic weapon satellites. It is her creation, her baby, and nothing will stand in her way to protect it, even her superiors. The Russian Energy Minister entices the lovely Italian-born Roberta D’Antonia to be his personal strategic advisor and help him become the Defense Minister. However, Roberta has another master, and it does not take the Russian secret service long to uncover that she is a Western spy. FX Holden handles the interplay between his characters with deft skill, but the focus of his novel is unmistakably on military action sprinkled with a wealth of acronyms techno-thriller readers will devour with relish. Tom Clancy and Dan Brown stand aside. Orbital is a gripping story of possible warfare in space that forces readers to keep turning the pages. The ending is somewhat forced and rushed, but lovers of this type of genre will hardly notice this with their eyes focused on space.