Satellite

Satellite was written by Nick Lake and first published in 2017. It is a science-fiction novel that focuses on a teenager who was born on a space station as he prepares for his first journey to Earth. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Leo finds it odd that people refer to Earth as being his home. He and his friends – Libra and Orion – have never known anything but the confines of Moon 2. They were born on the space station and have been unable to travel down to Earth as their frail bodies could not withstand the gravitational pull of the planet. However, now that his sixteenth birthday is approaching, everything changes.

Tests have shown that Leo and his friends are now potentially strong enough to survive on Earth. Leo is thrilled by the news. Although he loves his life in space, he’s keen to experience everything that he’s missed out on. He knows that getting used to gravity won’t be easy, but he longs to meet his Grandfather for the first time and help out on his ranch.

However, Leo is not prepared for what lies before him. Earth is not the utopia that he has imagined and he quickly realises that the Company who control Moon 2 have been hiding many things from him. When Leo came down to Earth, he thought he would be free. He soon realises that nothing could be further from the truth…

I think that it’s safe to say that Satellite is not a novel that will appeal to everyone. However, the thing that struck me most while reading this was that it’s also not much like The Martian. While this may seem like a strange thing to say, this book’s blurb recommends the novel to fans of Andy Weir’s famous novel. This is a bit of a weird comparison, as the two stories are aimed at totally different demographics and the only true thing that connects them is that they are set in space.

Anyhow, with that out of the way, lets take a look at the novel itself. As you read the very first paragraph of Satellite, you will immediately understand why I say that it’s not going to appeal to all readers:

the sun is rising for the 14th time today, firing the Saharan landmass like a match flame in darkness. i am sitting in the cupola, watching the earth spin below me, desert rolling past the window of the Moon 2 space station, dunes like waves, sunlight flooding westward. i don’t move. soon, we’re over the coast of Africa. sketches of towns. u don’t c them so well in the daytime, which means that they almost extinguish in front of my eyes, the tracery of light blinking off as the wall of sun advances.

As you can see, the most jarring thing about the novel is the style of its prose. The book almost feels as though it is written in text speech at times, with an inconsistent use of capitalisation, words shortened to single letters and sparse punctuation. Yet there is no good reason for this.

Leo is evidently intelligent and literate as he peppers his narrative with long and complex words. There is also nothing to suggest that text speech is the norm in the future. I can’t even begin to guess why Lake chose to write in this style as it does not add anything to the story. It’s the kind of thing that some readers will be able to overlook, but others will be driven to despair by the end of the first chapter.

The other issue that I had with the story was that I found it very difficult to get into. The first hundred pages or so felt like a real chore to plough through. It was incredibly technical and completely threw the reader in at the deep end, rarely pausing to explain the dozens of acronyms and hard science terms that it uses. However, it is worth sticking with the novel. Once Leo and his friends reach Earth, the story becomes a lot lighter and plot really takes off.

For me, this was the point where Satellite became compelling. It is a novel that takes its readers incredibly seriously, which can be seen in the way that it subtly hints at the state of the world. Although a lot of the bigger picture is initially missed by Leo, as he is so in awe at the beauty of the planet, it rapidly becomes clear to the reader that something is not right. It’s this mystery that really carries the first two thirds of the story, as Leo slowly begins to cotton on the fact that certain secrets are being kept from him.

By the time that the story entered its second half, I found that I just could not put it down. By this point, I was totally invested in Leo’s story and could sense that the ending would be, at best, bittersweet. Yet, as the climax drew near, I was disappointed to find that everything just felt a bit too rushed and far easier than it should have been.

In a story that initially seemed painfully realistic, Leo’s actions over the last hundred pages just stretched my ability to suspend my disbelief a tad too far. I’m not going to spoil it for you here as it contains a couple of unexpected twists, but if you read this novel yourself I would be curious to hear what you think.

However, the strongest thing about Satellite was its characters. While Leo is a somewhat self-centred and (and occasionally unreliable) narrator, it’s difficult not to empathise with him. You really do feel his joy as he experiences the smell and feel of Earth for the first time, and I was certainly rooting for him as he attempted to take control of his life. His strained relationship with his mother was also wonderfully presented. While I hated her in the beginning, the reason for her aloofness becomes clearer as the story progresses.

Orion and Libra are also complex characters and I liked the way that their feelings about what constituted a home differed so wildly to Leo’s. The choices that they make towards the end of the novel felt very in-keeping with their personal beliefs. My only disappointment with their character arcs was that Lake didn’t devote enough space in the epilogue to them. After a certain point of the story, the two of them just kind of fade from the plot and aren’t really mentioned again.

Anyhow, I think that about covers everything. Satellite is certainly a very strange novel and I think its safe to say that it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. It contains some wonderfully complex characters, but the style in which it is written is a bit odd and its opening chapters are a slog to get through. Still, if you’re a fan of science fiction novels that are heavy on the science, I would certainly recommend giving it a try.

Satellite can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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