Conspiracy Aboard an L5 Space City in THE Trojan Orbit

An investigator is sent to Island One, an L5 space habitat, to analyze operations and make sure everything is going right. He discovers things are seriously not going right.

TROJAN ORBIT, Mack Reynolds, Dean Ing, 1985, Tor,374pp

An American investigator is sent to Island One, an L5 habitat in orbit over the earth, to look into possible irregularities. Bruce Carter does find some troubling problems, but doesn’t get the full picture. In this Cold War scenario, the Russians may have a hand in whatever is going on, or it may be Arabs, or it may be any of a number of other possibilities. It turns out there is a serious problem with Island One, and it’s no one ever remotely considered.

Decades ago, long after the Apollo lunar landing program had become history, Gerard K. O’Neill  proposed  a city in space, inside a huge craft tumbling around a centerpoint for gravity. The habitat would be built by materials sligshot into space from the moon where unlimited solar energy could be used to smelt the needed metals — slag would be used to provide a shield against solar radiation. The central idea was it could be built with current technology — no breakthroughs needed. A $500 grant from the foundation funded by Mother Earth News led to the first conference examining the idea, and from there it took off, capturing the imagination of the public for many years to come. Reynolds, in fact, wrote several books with an L5 setting and certainly was not alone. The concept has regrettably faded away over time, perhaps doomed by a disappointing American space presence.

Reynolds and Ing offer an interesting look at the reasons L5 shouldn’t work, especially as blithely dealt with by academics. Not that they’re against the idea, but one character mentions that the L5 habitat in the story was an idea that needed 50 years of study before doing it.

An accomplished science fiction and tech thriller author in his own right, Dean Ing finished Mack Reynolds book, sublimating his own writing style to complete the book in Reynolds’ voice. Reynolds possessed his own future history in which a Negative Income Tax ruled the land and the United States was in decline. His stories were always entertaining and this is no exception.

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