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Book Review - Dale Brown's "Starfire"

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided of Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the far right sidebar.

9780062262394_p0_v3_s260x420Dale Brown’s latest book Starfire is a thriller that combines technology with military strategies.  The technology definitely takes over the plot and is a character in itself.  He explores the issues of militarizing space that will start an arms race and how space can be used for industrial purposes.

Since this plot is heavy on science and technology readers will be presented with many realistic advances of space exploration.  “Starfire” is the invention of Bradley McLanahan and his team of engineers. They hope it will become the world’s first orbiting solar power plant to deliver unlimited and inexpensive electricity anywhere on planet Earth, to the moon, and even to spacecraft and asteroids. It’s a crucial first step in the exploration of the solar system, and Bradley and his team are on the cutting edge. There is also CID, a robotic suit a la Darth Vader, which is able to keep a character alive and self-sufficient.  In addition the story includes space weapons and vehicles that will result in a new “space cold war.”

Brown told he thought of Starfire after thinking how space can be used as the next energy source.  “PG&E has a patent and received permission to launch a satellite that collects sunlight, converts it to electricity, stores it, and beams it down to earth using microwaves.”

The theme of the book involves a new “Space Cold War” where Brown wants to show the importance of space domination.  The plot shows the need for the US to maintain its super power status by aggressively accessing space.  Readers are able to gain insight on the dangers the US is facing by downsizing and basically eliminating the space program. Currently the only way the US can get into space is through its dependency on Russia: American Astronauts must hitch a ride. A great analogy in the book compares the WWII Pacific Seas battlefield to the next battlefield of space.

Brown noted, “Russia charges us $100 million a road trip to travel to the International Space Station.  We need to become self-sufficient by claiming an earth orbit.  If another country’s spacecraft enters our orbit it should be considered an act of war where upon we will destroy that threat.  This will not go against the treaty signed to prevent WMDs in space but says nothing about other types of weapons that can be placed in orbit.”

One of the most interesting issues explored in the book is having his President Kenneth Phoenix travel into space, essentially becoming an astronaut. The book shows the two points of view.  Those who think it is cool to have a US President travel into space and respect his extraordinary courage.  This is contrasted with those who think it is a stupid and reckless move that is only done for grandstanding purposes.  The author writes how he saw it as a necessary step to drive home the point that having a space program is important for America’s national security.  Brown compares it in the book to a sitting President who took “the first ocean-liner voyage, or the first ride in a locomotive, or a car, or an airplane. We’ve been flying in space for decades…”

His next book will also involve robotic machines that can be used as flying machines.  He gave a heads-up that he wants to explore the issue of unmanned aircraft and how the human element will eventually be taken out of war.  Questions he hopes his readers will ask: will using robots increase the risk of going to war? And should these weapons be banned since they will become so deadly, accurate and unfeeling?

He gave his email address ([email protected], because he wants readers to let him know what they thought of the plot and the characters in Starfire.  He hopes to hear from them regarding the technology presented in this book.  What readers will definitely be able to tell him is that he presents a very good point for renewing the space program.